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Inclusive Practices in Education: Definition & Examples

Instructor: Grace Pisano

Grace has taught high school history in several states with a master's degree in teaching.

In this lesson, learn about why inclusive classrooms are so important to the development of students and simple steps to make your classroom more inclusive. Learn the specific definition of inclusive classrooms and take a look at a few examples that are commonly used.

Definition of Educational Inclusive Practices

The United States is a melting pot of different cultures, races and values. What if there were a way to teach students the value of diversity and give them the skills to accept and embrace people different than themselves beginning at a young age? Fortunately, that is the goal of inclusive education.

According to the Inclusive Schools Network, inclusive education takes place when ''all students are full and accepted members of their school community, in which their educational setting is the same as their non-disabled peers, when appropriate.'' The push for this change came from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a 2004 federal law created by the U.S. Department of Education to ensure that a student with a mental, physical or emotional disability has the same access to education as others.

General Education vs. Exceptional Education

General education is designed for ''average'' students who don't require extra services like a teaching aide to assist with reading, additional testing time or a stress management plan. Exceptional education is for students who need one or more services to meet their mental, physical or emotional needs. These teachers are trained to mesh the accommodations with the content so that the exceptional student learns in his or her best way.

Per the IDEA, students with disabilities and those without should be educated together ''to the maximum extent appropriate'' and that separation of students by ability level should only happen when the child cannot be educated while receiving ''supplementary aids and services.'' Thus, all schools must consider general education classrooms for students with disabilities before placing them into a separate classroom. Legally, students should only be placed in classrooms separated by ability after every attempt has been made to accommodate them in the general education classroom. This begins when students first enter school and continues until they graduate.

All public schools must comply with IDEA, but private schools that don't receive federal funding aren't required to follow the provisions of this law. Private schools will often accommodate students with special needs to the best of their ability, but they may have different resources available than public schools. If a private school is not able to accommodate the needs of a child with disabilities, they'll recommend transferring the student to a public school.

Inclusive classrooms allow teachers and students to embrace the diversity of their community.

Benefits

All members of the school community benefit once this transformation has taken place. Let's look at how different stakeholders benefit from the shift to an inclusive classroom below:

Students are the most impacted by inclusive education, so it should be teachers' primary focus that all students benefit from any new policy that effects the learning environment. The biggest advantage of inclusive education to a student body is that it creates learners who are ready to accept and embrace people different from themselves. This character trait will help students work with other cultures and be open to diversity.

Families benefit from watching their child grow in inclusive classrooms. Whether the parent of a general education or an exceptional education child, parents will see their child getting out of their comfort zone to form friendships and get involved in extracurricular activities. What parent wouldn't be delighted by this?

General education and exceptional education teachers adjust their curriculum when initially transitioning to an inclusive classroom. Teachers incorporate different ideas and sharpen their problem-solving skills in developing ways to address the needs of all students. This allows all students exposure to a type of learning they might otherwise not see. At the end of the day, even though it involves a little extra work and changes, don't all teachers want what is best for their students? That is what inclusive classrooms provide.

Examples and Practical Application

If you are transitioning to an inclusive classroom, here are some examples of accommodations. If you are initially not comfortable making the modifications yourself, collaborate with a more experienced teacher.

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