The Home and Community Connections Model: A Strategy for Creating Inclusive Classrooms

The Home and Community Connections Model: A Strategy for Creating Inclusive Classrooms

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-9494-0.ch003
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The need to create inclusive classrooms is well documented in the literature. The use of inclusive pedagogies as a means to respond to the needs of all learners is also well-established. Yet, the definition of “all learners” remains somewhat evasive and inequitable. Historically underserved and systemically marginalized learners continue to be left out of conversations regarding “all learners” in special and general education programs. This chapter examines how inclusive education strategies can be reoriented through a lens of culturally sustaining pedagogies. This chapter proposes a home and community connections model for constructing culturally authentic and sustaining classrooms that truly value the assets and interests of all learners. Classroom activities and examples are provided and serve as a framework for special and general educators to integrate these pedagogies into their own practice.
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Inclusive Education

The concept of inclusion has historically been a hallmark of special education programs and services. Inclusion was first presented as a pedagogical practice in 1994 at the World Conference on Special Needs, and became a globally mandated practice in 2006 by the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Krischler et al., 2019). The National Center in Educational Restructuring and Inclusion (NCERI) defines inclusion as “providing to all students, including those with severe disabilities, equitable opportunities to receive effective educational services, with support services as needed, in age appropriate general education classes” (NCERI, 1995). At its core, inclusive education focuses on recognizing and accommodating the barriers that block participation and access for all students. The methods used to respond to individual differences among learners are defined as inclusive pedagogies (Florian, 2014). Inclusive pedagogies, or teaching practices, philosophically orient the learning environment around the strengths, interests, and needs of the learner. Pragmatically, inclusive learning environments are constructed using a myriad of strategies that extend the access to the content so that every student's “potential for learning is achieved” (Casserly, et al., 2019, p. 618). But what does “all learners” and “every student” really mean?

Contemporary definitions of inclusion have been expanded to highlight the relationship all learners have with the learning environment (Francisco, et al., 2020). Inclusion can no longer respond solely to students with special needs, but must consider the needs and assets of students who have been historically underserved and systemically marginalized. These needs include the recognition of the linguistic and cultural plurality that exists in our classrooms (Yosso, 2005). According to Yoon (2020), authentic instructional strategies must integrate students’ home pedagogies and life experiences into organizational structures that “affirm the personhood” of children of color (p. 3). Under this approach, “authenticity” refers to the degree to which the instructional supports directly align to the needs, interests, cultural, and linguistic diversity of the learners. This expanded definition recognizes the critical and interconnected relationship between inclusive strategies and culturally, relevant, responsive, and sustaining pedagogies (Ladson-Billings, 1995; Gay, 2020; Paris, 2012). The authors of this chapter contend that pedagogy must be built on students’ funds of knowledge to create an instructional experience that is relevant, responsive, and sustainable to be truly inclusive for all learners.

According to Paris and Alim (2014), equity and access in educational experiences can be addressed by “centring pedagogies on the heritage and contemporary practices of students and communities of color” (p. 87). The remainder of this chapter examines the relationship between home learnings and the construction of inclusive classrooms. This approach to inclusion values home pedagogies as the root of the inclusive experience, rather than as an occasional resource embedded within a curriculum anchored by a dominant ideology that does not reflect the classroom learners. The chapter will address the following driving questions:

  • How can teachers use students' home and community pedagogies to place value on their funds of knowledge to create instructional access points in an inclusive classroom?

  • How can teachers reorient instructional strategies so that they are applied with a culturally relevant and sustaining lens?

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