Best Practices for the Inclusive Classroom: Scientifically Based Strategies for Success

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Students who suffer from Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, or EBD, often find it very difficult to control their behavior and focus on their work in the classroom. EBD students also commonly lack the impulse control and the emotional balance that is necessary to handle social interactions with other students effectively.

This can be challenging for you as their teacher, especially in an inclusive classroom where only a portion of the students have EBD—but there are ways to help all students in your classroom feel welcomed and ready to learn. Here are five effective strategies you can use to help EBD kids work well in an inclusive classroom. Your EBD students as well as some of your more focused students will most likely struggle if you impose a long list of complicated rules and demands.

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Try to keep your classroom guidelines broad and simple—no more than 3 to 5 main rules. Let students know about them on the first day of class, and post them in the classroom as well. An example list might be:. Along with simple and clear rules, there should be simple and clear teaching activities. Some activity examples are:. By including clear activities in your classroom, your students will engage and interact with the lesson plan, ensuring that they learn alongside other students.


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While you will, at times, have to discipline children for improper behavior, remember that rewarding positive behavior is ultimately far more effective in the long run. Many students with Emotional and Behavioral Disorder tend to take any discipline as a personal attack, and because of this, they often learn very little from it. Try to celebrate the successes of these students more than you reprimand or punish their mistakes.

When they receive positive feedback and rewards, they start to see that there is a positive benefit to good behavior. They will then start to see you as more of an ally than an adversary, and this will in turn motivate them to want to behave and do well in your classroom. A lot of EBD kids lack the emotional balance and maturity needed to remain focused and on-task for long periods. Nind and Wearmouth present a very interesting and systematic review of studies which were held in mainstream classrooms with the purpose of enabling SEN students to be included in those classrooms.

These elements involve the physical appearance of the classroom, the role of the teacher, the classroom materials, and the classroom environment in general. First, Haver states that posters, pictures, diagrams, charts, etc. Thus, the classroom needs to be a place with enough space to develop different didactic activities and it requires creating a pleasant environment in order to focus and motivate all students.

Second, she points out that the role of the teacher is fundamental; it is necessary to have mutual respect between teacher and students, and among students; they need to feel free to make mistakes without fear of being judged or ridiculed. Third, she mentions that a good English classroom needs to have visual aids to be used in the teaching practice and a set of didactic materials appropriate to the students'ages, such as magazines, pictures, flashcards, puppets, books, and a collection of games, among others.

Finally, she claims that "a successful ESL classroom is one where students are happily immersed in English while participating in activities and projects which will strengthen their language skills. Second, it is important to tailor the environment to each child's strengths and weaknesses and help all children, with special needs or not, to build greater competency. Finally, it is very useful to interact with children in ways that help them to think and problem-solve at their own levels. These interactions need to be a part of ongoing, trusting, intimate relationships that children have with the teacher and with each other.

In an English classroom it is fundamental that students feel free to learn at their own pace and have accommodations and alternative assessment strategies in place to meet their unique needs, if they have any, without being apart or isolated. Since students need to experience success, learning goals need to be clear and attainable but still encompass some challenge to them. National and International policies in regards to Inclusive Education.

This decree declares that the Colombian State, through its public educational institutions, will guarantee access to education and training in primary, secondary, professional, and technical levels to people with disabilities; they are to be provided with integral education within the most appropriate environment to their special needs.

To this end, it is established that the inclusion of population with disabilities in regular classrooms should be promoted, adopting pedagogic actions, means and resources, and special programmes designed to address every individual's educational need: teachers must be provided with specialised materials and trained to deal with the issue of inclusion and agreements must be made between regional administrations, universities and non-governmental institutions to offer special educational programmes, including rehabilitation as a preponderant element. It is stated that the national government will exercise permanent control over the fulfilment of the regulations established in the Decree; should an educational centre deny educational services to disabled people, it will be fined by the Ministry of Education or the Secretary of Education.

Nevertheless, there are not explicit mechanisms to ensure the fulfilment of the necessary conditions to offer true inclusive education: teacher training, support from specialized professionals, academic help for the SEN students'families and appropriate facilities and educational resources, among others. International policies. The research methodology chosen was the case study since this approach allows the researcher to describe a phenomenon as a whole, and offers at the same time the possibility of understanding it without omitting important details or influences of the context.

According to Merriam "a qualitative case study is an intensive, holistic description and analysis of a single instance, phenomenon, or social unit," p. The research was carried out in a school which is part of the public schools of the Localidad Quinta of Usme, located in the south of Bogota.

The school has three different branches with approximately students. It offers education to both girls and boys with low income in three different shifts. This research was developed in the branch called SEDE A, in the high school section, because it is the one which has the biggest amount of students with special education needs. The participants of this study were different members of the educational community of the selected school, who signed an informed consent in which the purpose of the study and their participation in it was explained.

The participants were: the groups in which there was any case of special educational need, regular and SEN students, SEN students' parents, the English Language teachers in charge of the English classes in the groups with cases of special educational needs, the counselor, and the principal. The selection of participants responds to what Patton presents as a "typical case sampling" p.

The participants represented a sample which could have been chosen in a similar way, in any of the schools in the capital in which SEN students are enrolled. Three data collection instruments were designed and piloted, namely class observations, interviews and questionnaires; besides that, it was also planned to analyse the documents the school may have in relation to inclusion.

The first step to start collecting data was to get all the informed consents signed; after that the class observation process was carried out.

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Vicky G. Spencer (Author of College Success for Students with Learning Disabilities)

Three consecutive sessions of English class of 90 minutes were observed in each of the four classrooms where there were SEN students. Some of the sessions were video recorded in order to enrich the data collected with the field notes. This process took about two and a half months, going everyday to the school and observing classes during the complete shift when possible. During these two months in some free hours with the help of the counselors of the school, SEN students'parents were asked to go there in order to respond to the interviews. All the interviews were done and recorded individually.

All of the seven SEN students'parents were interviewed: six mothers and one father. Regular Students'and SEN students'interviews were done individually and during the last week of observations. The teachers'questionnaires were administered at the end of the observations to avoid teachers changing their typical practices in the classrooms to suit the strategies mentioned in this questionnaire.

Students'questionnaires were administered during the observation time in free hours; they were not administered to all the SEN students at the same time, to avoid them to be seen as the ones with "problems" when being sent to the same place, at the same time. The revision of documents started the first day of data collection because this is a procedure which has to be carefully done and may take a lot of time.

The revision of institutional documents was planned to be done after the counselors'and the principal's interviews in order to learn from them what documents were available and in this way save time. The process of identification of the categories featured a series of systematic stages in order to build validity, which Cook and Campbell define as the most accurate approach to the truth or falsity of a statement proposition or conclusion.

In order to respond to this aspect, methodological triangulation was employed, that is, the use of multiple ways to collect information from different participants of the study, ensuring the possibility to corroborate any finding using different pieces of evidence taken from different data collection instruments.

The first stage was the analysis of the field notes taken during 15 ninety-minute sessions of English classes; the second stage was the analysis of the questionnaires applied both to teachers and SEN students, and the last stage was the analysis of the transcriptions of the 15 minute interviews with each participant of the study namely the seven SEN students, the three English teachers, the principal, the counselor and thirty six regular students.

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The field notes and the transcriptions were color coded, using a color to highlight data which may correspond to each one of the questions and another one to highlight pieces of data which could become outliers. The data were kept in folders according to the date of collection and according to the participants.

Inclusive Practice

To do this rigorous analysis, an analytical process was followed. This process implied naming, grouping, finding relations, and finally displaying the data in mind maps; following these steps made it easier to see the data as a whole in order to have a general picture of the situation and the phenomenon being studied, as Freeman suggests.

From the analysis three main categories emerged, each one related to one of the research questions revealing that there are positive and negative aspects in relation to attitudes, perceptions, parameters, resources, parents'involvement and strategies in relation to inclusion. The educational Community's attitudes towards and perceptions about the inclusion process. SEN students' interfering attitudes towards the activities because of their difficulties. It is clear that in some cases these attitudes interfere and do not facilitate the class work and the activities proposed by the teachers, due to the fact that SEN students need to be interested and involved.

Negative attitudes on the part of SEN students become a barrier during the development of some activities; although the positive attitudes from teachers and regular students is fundamental to help SEN students feel free and motivated to participate, they are not enough if SEN students are not open to the others and to the activities.

However, these attitudes take place mostly because of affective factors; in some cases that happens because they are actually rejected by their partners but in other cases because they are not confident enough because of their special educational need. In the following extract taken from the field notes of an English session observed, the SEN student does not show any interest in the activities which are being carried out.

There is a total lack of interest and commitment. SP4 does not volunteer to participate in the contest; he is not paying attention to the instructions. Field Notes, October 21st, Page 1, Lines However, when SEN students were asked in the questionnaires about their class participation, they said that they do not participate because they do not understand what it is said in the classroom; this is something particular since instructions most of the times are given in English and then in Spanish what makes us understand that the problem is not related to the use of English or Spanish but to the way those instructions are given.

In the following excerpt taken from a regular students'interview, they mentioned that their SEN partner preferred to be quiet, and that they thought that this was because when he speaks what he says is not clear and that makes him feel intimidated and insecure due to his fear to become the object of his partners'jokes.

Regular students'encouraging and discouraging attitudes towards SEN students. The data allowed us to understand that the regular students'attitudes toward SEN students become a factor with the power of encouraging or discouraging SEN students'participation and their development of a sense of belonging. Later in the same session students were working on another stage of the activity that was to design a "friso" -a kind of threefold small poster- about a reading previously studied.

In that part although the SEN student made an effort and showed commitment with his group and the activity, this effort was not recognized by his partners who looked down on him because of his disability to speak fluently. SEN students'rejecting attitudes because of lack of attention and exclusion. Rejecting attitudes from SEN students was mentioned by many of the participants of the study as a factor that becomes a barrier for the development of inclusive environments in the institution. On the one hand, regular students expressed that in many cases the ones who make the decision of being isolated and who do not integrate with the group are the SEN students; they considered that there was a negative attitude on the part of those students and that in that case it is difficult to approach them but they did not attempt to analyze the causes of that situation.

On the other hand, the English Language teachers did try to pinpoint some of the causes; they considered that most of SEN students in the school tend to isolate themselves, in some cases because of their own will, but in other cases because their partners isolate them and they recognized that sometimes this happens because teachers do not know the students'difficulties; this is due to the big number of students, which makes it almost impossible for them to detect every student's needs and to offer them appropriate assistance.

Although, according to their words, they know that some students feel neglected or rejected, they do not know how to handle the situation or they do not have the conditions to find the possible solutions, as it is observed in the following excerpt of a teacher's interview.

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According to the members of the school staff, the participation of the parents of SEN students in the process is poor. Due to the fact that these are families with low economic resources, in some cases it is difficult for them to leave their jobs and to commit themselves with the institution, and in other cases according to the principal of the school, they just see the school as a place for their kids to be safe instead of seeing it as a place which could offer their children opportunities to grow intellectually and personally.

In the interview with the counselor of the school, she stated that the school is always interested in supporting the families with SEN members; however, the families'answer to this support is not positive, as can be seen in the following excerpt. The principal and some of the English teachers of the school, as shown in the following examples taken from the transcriptions of the interviews, also manifested that due to the difficult conditions that the parents face every day in relation to money, work, resources and security, for them it is enough with having a place in the institution.

They also expressed that the parents are immersed in a circle of hopelessness which takes them to a total abandonment of their kids'learning processes. Lack of resources, teacher training, specialized attention, and adequate facilities. The members of the educational community who participated in the study expressed that there are many lacks that need to be supplied in order to create a real inclusive environment: resources, teacher training, specialized attention, adequate facilities and solidarity for SEN students.

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