Inclusive Learning: Principles and Practices
Within my role as Advanced Teaching Practitioner, I am responsible for curriculum design, monitoring teaching, staff training and mentoring, quality assurance and learner achievement in addition to my role as a Basic Skills Tutor. Before analysing current practices, I have gained the consent from those directly involved. In order to assess current inclusive learning principles and practices of the organisation, I need to increase my understanding of inclusive learning for my own Continued Professional Development (CPD).
I need to reflect of my own practices and the practices of others and evaluate the service provided. Findings What is Inclusive Learning? Inclusive learning can be defined as ‘the greatest degree of match or fit between the individual learners’ requirements and the provision that is made for them’ (FEFC, 1996, p2). Inclusive teaching means recognising, accommodating and meeting the learning needs of all students and being aware of their individual needs. It is about identifying the reasonable adjustment that can be made without it having a negative impact of the teaching and learning of others.
Open University Press (2006) defines inclusive learning as ‘acknowledging your students have a range of individual needs and are members of diverse communities. Inclusive teaching avoids pigeonholing students into specific groups with predictable and fixed approaches to learning’. It is important to consider the need to be proactive as opposed to being reactive. To practice inclusive learning, actions need to be taken prior to students commencing the process.
The Tomlinson report 1996 states: ‘Re-designing learning, assessment and organisations to fit objectives and learning styles may mean introducing new content to courses, adapting access or both. This approach is quite different from offering courses and then giving students with difficulties some additional human or physical aids to participate. ’ Under the Special Education Needs and Disability Act (SENDA) 2001, all educational establishments must not treat students less favourably than others and make reasonable adjustments to ensure that their learners are not substantially disadvantaged.
Learning Environment An accessible and safe learning environment is vital for inclusive learning to take place. The premises that occupy are located on the second and third floor of a listed building. There are no lifts and there is a staircase leading up to the main reception. Under the Disability Discrimination Act, there is a requirement to make reasonable adjustment to be able to ensure those students with a mobility disability are not excluded. Have made contingency plans whereby they use the premises within a local college as and when required.
SENDA 2001 states that students should be able to access all services provided for other students. In this case, the local college offers all the facilities and services we offer our students. Taking this into consideration, reasonable adjustments have been made. Access for all In order to give strategic direction to inclusive learning, Smith and Armstrong (2005, p1) state ‘providers need to adopt a co-ordinated approach to inclusive learning, working with different groups, genders and levels of learners’. These is achieved ongoing within .
There is no discrimination on the grounds of gender or sexual orientation within and therefore comply with all aspects of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975. Our learners come from mixed race, religion and in order to ensure that we accommodate these learners, all staff receive multifaith calendars to ensure that they can manage their learning over religious or cultural holidays. As we are funded for a 14-19 age provision, we cannot offer learning to anyone outside this age range. This is a limitation by DCELLS.
Should anyone outside this age range require the same type of education and training, there are other training providers where they can be signposted. McGivney (2003) guidelines suggest that people with disabilities, ex-offenders, low paid unqualified workers, male manual workers, unemployed groups, rural residents, women with young children, homeless and those from ethnic minority groups may have problems in participating in organised learning activities. (DCSF, 2008) states ‘9% of young people aged 16-19 are Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET).
As part of the ‘Every Child Matters Agenda’ their aim is to break down the barriers to achievement and provide opportunities for those disengaged from learning. This agenda intends to ensure that programmes have been set up to identify children and young adults at risk and promote early intervention. According to the 14-19 Education and Skills White Paper ‘those with learning difficulties are twice as likely to become NEET’. Have recently established street based youth work teams; across communities in south Wales, working with partner organisations to engage some of the hardest to reach young people; nd to progress them onto positive development opportunities in their own communities. The current teams are a pilot and are hoping to expand the project into other geographic and sector communities. Also establishing links to deliver full and part time extended curriculum services in schools for 14-18 year olds across Wales, providing support for young people in the youth justice system; establishing a youth drop in facilities at many centres and expanding the street based youth work.
Also in community cohesion work particularly in areas with a large European migrant youth communities and those with a migrant non-welsh speaking community within Welsh speaking indigenous communities. Ispiloting development of youth volunteering in under-represented groups. Taking all this into consideration, it shows the effort that is being made in order to provide inclusive learning to those students who are at risk of becoming NEET. Inclusive Learning in Initial Assessment According to Green and Bartram 1998, p7) ‘Early and effective assessment of students’ requirements is critical to the concept of inclusive learning.
There are three stages to the initial assessment process within the organisation. Prior to a learner joining they go through an initial assessment process. This begins with an informal interview following an endorsement from Careers Wales. In this interview, it allows the organisation time to carry out an informal assessment and identify individual learning needs. On entry, basic skills initial assessments and a VARK learning styles questionnaire are completed. From this process, an Individual Learning Plan (ILP) is written that is specific to the needs of the learner which will identify individual goals.
Green and Bartram (1998. p10) outline that in order to achieve best practice; there should be ‘a common and shared understanding of the purpose of initial assessment’. Through discussion with staff and observations of the initial assessment process, it is evident that this there is a thorough initial assessment process which allows many opportunities to identify any individual needs and preferences. Following this process, if a learner is identified as having a literacy or numeracy need, diagnostic assessment is carried out.
Learners have the opportunity to do these either by paper based methods or using Information Technology (IT). The results of this assessment then produce an Individual Learning Plan that is specific to the learners literacy and/or numeracy needs and takes into consideration any special arrangements that may be required. Inclusive learning in the classroom If there has been an individual need identified through initial assessment, it is at this point are reactive as appose to being proactive. For those with physical disabilities, arrangements are made to support them.
As previously discussed there is a lack of facilities within the centres to support learners with a disability affecting mobility and this is taken into consideration when careers signpost learners. Apart from this, Rooms are bright, well ventilated and are small enough to be able to accommodate those with minor hearing or visual impairments. When considering students who are deaf and hard of hearing, do not have a strategy in place for dealing with those who require specialist support including lip speakers, sign language interpreters and speech to text reporters.
Although many learners who require this support often plan their own support requirements. To ensure inclusion in the classroom, it should be considered when planning lessons. Once the aims and objectives have been decided, it is then important to consider the needs and previous experiences of the learners’. At this stage, you can consider if there are any adjustments that can be made to ensure that the lesson is inclusive Open University Press (2006). This could be large print handouts, varied teaching strategies, practical tasks as appose to written, aural or visual methods and where possible, taking into account multi sensory learning.
When carrying out questioning in the classroom, there was very good use of reinforcement techniques to consolidate learning. Although tutors encouraged all members of the group to participate, this was done in such a way that no learners felt uncomfortable. When this was necessary (e. g. a speaking and listening task) it was managed in a positive way to recognise individual needs. If learners need support with basic skills, subject specific tutors (NVQ, Key Skills) liaise with the Basic Skills Tutor to organise extra support in addition to their literacy and/or numeracy classes.
If the learner has a learning difficulty that affects concentration, extra comfort breaks can be given and short activities should also be planned that vary in teaching strategy to keep learners engaged. At present, DCELLS are working towards converged basic and key skills. This initiative should have encourage a more standard approach as qualifications will be delivered in a different training and staff will be required to update their CPD. Practices vary depending on the experience of individual tutors within.
When observing a key skills session, a tutor suggested to her group that it would be advantage to take notes whilst completing practical activities. On her lesson plan, she had shown inclusive practices by suggesting a Basic Skills Tutor could offer support with both reading and note taking if required. In terms of the use of classroom assistants or support workers, this is the only instance that in class support is offered due to staffing levels within the organisation. The majority of tutors promote equal opportunities practices by having notes available at the end of the lesson for all learners.
Others show inclusive learning techniques by issuing gapped handouts at the beginning of the lesson to support those with individual needs. This later method allows those learners who have lack of confidence in groups, those with hearing difficulties or partial sight a greater chance of achieving the objectives set from the lesson. Experienced staff uses assistive technology in the classroom such as coloured acetate, worksheets on coloured paper or magnifying equipment to support learners when reading books, but once again staff training is needed to ensure consistency throughout the organisation.
Smith and Armstrong (2005) suggest providers should make sure that CPD and staff training supports structures and systems implemented to deliver the inclusive learning agenda. Through discussion with staff, it is evident that staff members have little knowledge of how to support learners with Dyslexia, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) and other learning and behavioural needs. Therefore staff CPD needs to be updated and staff training offered. Having observed a selection of basic skills sessions, I have seen differentiation being managed very well within the classroom.
There are isolated cases where worksheets have been the main teaching strategy due to the diverse nature of the group but the main reason for this is the need for staff development and training. Within sessions, individuals show good inclusive learning techniques when giving feedback. They are constructive and give praise for what has been done well and avoid being negative to learners. For those who have physical disabilities, there is IT equipment available such as specialist mouse and the ability to increase the font size on the majority of programmes used.
If there is a need for out of class support, this is also available from the training assessors responsible for the individual learners. Individual training assessors are encouraged to spend time with all learners to build a rapport and encourage them to discuss any individual learning needs. These persons are trained to signpost for guidance and counselling if required. Assessment Once learning has taken place, there are various methods of assessment that are used. Within basic skills, learners are given a choice of completing assignments which are paper based or tests that can be taken using IT.
For those who have to submit a portfolio, they are given the option of using IT to produce their work. There are also dictaphones available to record case studies, professional discussions or oral questioning as appose to written questions. These strategies in place show differentiation for individual needs are being considered. As well as the usual methods of assessment, learners also get a review which is carried out every four weeks. In this review, their progress is monitored and feedback is given on their performance.
The Tomlinson Report (1996) shows us that monitoring progress and providing effective feedback contributes to effective inclusive teaching. Within their basic skills support sessions, further feedback is also given as part of their literacy/numeracy ILP. All learners at the end of their visits are given a Training And Support Log (TASL) which gives them feedback on any work produced. Conclusion Following this investigation, I have reached the conclusion that the organisation is reactive as appose to proactive with regard to inclusive learning.
As a training provider, are genuinely non-selective about the learners who complete a programme. Many of the learners face a number of obstacles to engaging in learning including low educational attainment, a lack of basic and/or personal skills, caring obligations, homelessness, lack of self belief, confidence and self worth. Despite this, over 70% of the young people that are supported leave with a positive outcome. The 14-19 Education and Skills White Paper state that 12. 5% of the NEET group have learning difficulties and/or disabilities.
If training wishes to continue aiming to offer inclusive learning and reduce this NEET cohort, there is a need to train staff by offering CPD in inclusive learning and ways of developing an inclusive learning strategy within the learner process. There are different teaching approaches within the organisation. (Tilstone et al. ,1998, p. 6) states ‘a key issue in promoting inclusive practice must be a reappraisal of the training provided to teachers and other professionals’ From my observations, I feel that this is an accurate assumption to make.
I have been able to observe many sessions over a period of time and have seen that tutors need training on how to incorporate inclusive learning strategies within their lesson plan. Smith and Armstrong (2005) also discuss how providers should establish a strategy for sharing best practice within an organisation. Have meetings for every subject route on a quarterly basis. Although this is an excellent way of sharing best practice, inclusive learning should be listed as an agenda item to ensure that it gets the attention it requires.
Although everything is done during the learner process to ensure that equal opportunities and diversity are managed, have a bullying and harassment procedure in place and also a grievance procedure that prospective, current and past learners can instigate if they wish. From carrying out research into inclusive learning within , it has been shown that on the whole, a lot of work goes in to meeting the individual needs of the learner and offering a positive learner experience.
Having now completed this research, it has made me aware of the financial restraints of the organisation. I feel that I will carry out my role as ATP differently when training staff and mentoring. When working towards curriculum design, I will also ask myself the question “ How can I make it more inclusive? ” and from this, I feel that this has played a big part in my CPD.
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