While the idea of an inclusion classroom is generally considered beneficial, in practice, issues do arise. People are often reluctant to discuss the negatives or challenges of inclusion. It is almost as if it is taboo to even suggest such possibilities. However, as most educators and parents can tell you, there are indeed problems with inclusion in the classroom.
What is an inclusion classroom?
An inclusion classroom is an age-appropriate educational space where all students are brought together to learn the same material, regardless of their skills or abilities. The idea is that children with special physical or cognitive needs, disabilities or impairments learn right along with everyone else. It is a relatively new idea in the history of special education.
The pros and cons of inclusion are still debated. Among the benefits of an inclusion classroom is that it makes the curriculum accessible to all, creating a sense of equity. Students form friendships with many different kinds of people and are supportive of others who are different. Students with special needs may tend to achieve more in such settings.
One parent said, “I am a believer and supporter of inclusive education, but the problem is most people don’t understand what that really means. True inclusive education that supports teachers, parents, students and families elevates everyone.”
On the other hand, when resources are scarce, students with special needs often struggle to keep up with a one-approach-for-all style of teaching. A teacher notes, “Students with disabilities can learn in the General Education setting when given the proper support and with teachers who know how to teacher to a diverse group of learners.” However, without these accommodations, they can quickly fall behind.
Some students with disabilities may bring disruptive behaviors to the classroom. Certain physical disabilities cannot be accommodated in every classroom setting. Depending on the situation, the diversity of disabilities can seem almost impossible to handle.
Problems for classroom teachers
In discussing full inclusion pros and cons, the impact on teachers should be considered. Regular classroom teachers in an inclusion classroom face significant challenges, such as:
- Managing 5 to 7 different classes of disabilities in classes of up to 30 students.
- Selecting an educational methodology to best suit each student’s style of learning.
- Developing expertise to handle kids with numerous or particularly complex issues.
- Maintaining an orderly environment that facilitates learning for all students.
- Having limited help or additional resources.
Problems for special education teachers
Special education teachers play a vital role in inclusive classroom strategies. However, they face a unique set of challenges as well, including:
- Being responsible for too many students, especially given the special education teacher shortage.
- Staying up-to-date on activities in each classroom when rotating through multiple classes.
- Being burdened by non-teaching tasks, like attending meetings and filling out paperwork.
- Lacking the support and understanding of the classroom teacher, administrators, and parents.
Problems for students
A discussion of special education inclusion pros and cons needs to consider the effects on students. Special education and mainstream students both benefit from being in a classroom together. After all, work and life are not segregated by intelligence or ability. Still, students face several challenges of inclusion, such as:
- Difficulty getting individual time and attention from overburdened teachers.
- High-achieving students being overlooked as teachers focus on special needs kids.
- Unchallenged students becoming bored and disinterested in the class as over-challenged students struggle.
- Special education students feeling singled out for their IEP exceptions.
- Potentially feeling more alienated by sharing every class together.
5 inclusion classroom strategies to support meaningful learning
Given the benefits that inclusion in the classroom can offer students of all kinds, it is worth the effort to work through the problems. These strategies can help address the challenges of inclusion and create a positive educational experience for both students and teachers.
1. Provide training program for educators in inclusion classroom
All educators, not just special education teachers, can benefit from additional training in inclusion classroom approaches. Online and on-site professional development training can be invaluable. Workshops that get administrators, educators and paraprofessionals working together can create better learning structures and experiences.
2. Create an inclusive classroom culture
Fostering a classroom climate that is built around mutual respect and a commitment to support others, despite differences, contributes to a positive learning environment that is free of conflict and disruption. With a strong sense of community, academic success and personal growth, educators can create a positive class climate.
3. Design lessons for inclusive learning
Present material using multiple means so that students with different ways of learning can better understand the information. You might create a poster, source a video, ask kids to read about a topic, then also have a discussion about it. Using both verbal and visual communications can help get students engaged with the material. When it comes to showing what they have learned, taking a test or writing an essay may not be possible for disadvantaged students. The key is being flexible, offering options and making learning accessible to all.
4. Collaborate with other professionals and parents
When educators, special education teachers and paraprofessionals, administrators and even parents work together to make the curriculum accessible, students benefit. People with different perspectives and areas of expertise can help focus on and support the specific needs of each student. Teachers do not have to go it alone and be experts on every kind of disability.
5. Have a plan for managing behavior
Get to know the students and their needs to anticipate what behavioral challenges may exist in the classroom. Clearly communicate expectations and goals to students, parents, and other professionals on your team. Tools like posting schedules and rules can help provide clarity and consistency. Reinforce good behaviors and academic achievement with positive feedback whenever possible.
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