Effective and Efficient Practices for Successful Inclusion in Public School Settings

Effective and Efficient Practices for Successful Inclusion in Public School Settings

Lara Gentilini (Independent Researcher, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-6816-3.ch003
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Abstract

Given the increasing diversity of students included in general education classrooms in public schools, the field must establish a clearer definition of what successful inclusion entails. This endeavor involves an analysis of best practices for inclusion, taking into account the knowledge and skillset required of teachers in their roles as instructional experts. With limited time and resources, teachers are challenged to maximize opportunities for individualized learning without creating the need for additional teacher-directed instruction. Teachers must therefore enact classroom practices in which students and their peers serve as mediating agents in their own learning. In addition, special and general education teachers must collaborate with one another, as well as with all members of the larger school community, in order to provide students with the least restrictive classroom placement along a continuum of options. All those involved must believe in, and advocate for, successful inclusion practices to support an increasingly diverse and accepting public sector.
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Introduction

Defining Successful Inclusion in the Classroom

Lipsky and Gartner (1994) defined inclusion as “the provision of service to students with disabilities, including those with severe disabilities, in their neighborhood schools, in age-appropriate regular education classes, with the necessary support service and supplementary aids–for both children and teachers” (p. 36). Inclusive pedagogy more broadly involves the meaningful participation of students with a range of individual differences, including race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, language, or socioeconomic status (Polat, 2011), as well as gifted learners (Callahan et al., 2020). That is, inclusive practices are those that address the needs of all learners (Loreman, 2017).

The primary goals of inclusion are (a) merging special and regular education to create one cohesive system; (b) increasing access to general education classrooms for students with diverse learning needs via a full-scale approach; and (c) enhancing the academic achievement of all students (Fuchs & Fuchs, 1994). The aims of inclusion extend to typically-developing students as well: educators within an inclusive model are responsible for supporting children with disabilities in the development of critical social skills, as well as facilitating changes in attitudes amongst nondisabled students (Fuchs & Fuchs, 2000). At least some degree of placement in general education classrooms is necessary for the fulfillment of these goals, primarily due to the presence of age-appropriate, typically-developing peers (Lipsky & Gartner, 1991; Stainback & Stainback, 1992).

However, inclusion must be interpreted in a broader context than the physical placement of a student with disability in a general education setting (Love & Horn, 2021); as proposed in the Regular Education Initiative (REI) of 1985, mere physical presence in the general education classroom is not enough, replacing the 1960s and 1970s push for increased access to the mainstream classroom via a reformed, unified system of inclusion (Davis, 1989; Skrtie, 1987). That is, it is insufficient for students to simply exist in the general education classroom; rather, children in inclusive classrooms must be actively primed for success by the entire school community within a unitary public school system (Fisher & Frey, 2001). Critical elements of meaningful inclusion involve participation in the general education classroom; a sense of belonging in the classroom and school community; and shared responsibility among faculty in educating all students (Stainback & Stainback, 1992; Voltz et al., 2001). School constituents must persistently work to advance the principles of inclusion, and should continuously measure the outcomes of their efforts to ensure that students are both actively participating in and benefitting from their classroom setting (Fisher & Frey, 2001; Fisher et al., 2003).

Special education cannot be distilled to a placement or a room, but should rather be presented as a continuum of services tailored to the developmental, behavioral, emotional, and/or physical needs of each student (Love & Horn, 2021). Likewise, inclusion should not be interpreted as an all-or-nothing approach, but should instead exist along a range of special education placement options, including but not limited to the general education classroom (Fuchs & Fuchs, 2000; Vaughn et al., 2018). Teachers in each of these placements should offer intensive and individualized instruction that is closely aligned to the general education curriculum, and must practice and prioritize inclusion from the outset to maximize positive outcomes for all students (Snyder et al., 2001).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Inclusion: The ongoing act of arranging the environment so that all individuals have the opportunity and the right to reach their full potential.

Self-Management: The application of strategies to regulate one’s own behaviors.

Naming: The ability to learn incidentally, such that one knows the name of a stimulus simply by having been exposed in natural settings on multiple occasions.

Observational Learning: The capability to learn new behaviors by observing the consequences received by another regarding that same behavior.

Accommodation: A change in the process through which the student reaches a goal; often involves some sort of tool or scaffold.

Cybernetic: An interdependent relationship between various members of a community.

Differentiated Instruction: An approach to teaching in which all students’ individual needs are simultaneously met within a cohesive classroom system.

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