A Guide to Creating an Inclusive Classroom

  • Creating a culturally responsive and inclusive classroom environment for all students is as important today than ever, perhaps even more so given that classrooms are more diverse and multicultural than ever before.

    For teachers, inclusion can be done by reflecting on what impact their own culture has on their instruction and how they approach educating students with vastly different backgrounds. An inclusive classroom requires recognizing stereotypes and prejudice and a focus on incorporation and integration. Putting emotional needs first is paramount to success.

    To accomplish this, schools and teachers need to provide a welcoming experience for all students, not just those who struggle, so that effective classroom strategies can be successfully employed.

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    Students want to feel valued and they want to feel like they are a part of a larger school community. By forming a bond with students teachers can provide a sound educational framework for success. At this point real learning will occur.

    How to create an inclusive classroom

    The most effective way to build an inclusive learning environment comes from forming meaningful connections with students. So what is an inclusive classroom?

    Inclusion is a form of classroom management that requires taking some extra time and effort to view each pupil as an individual. Teachers must truly believe that each student can succeed. If they do that they become partners in success. It’s as simple as learning to pronounce a student’s full name correctly, as a first step. Students should not feel the need to shorten or change their names in order to make it easier for a teacher to pronounce it.

    Putting a student’s emotional needs first is important because without feeling safe and understood, no instructional strategy will be effective. By building relationships in the classroom, students will feel comfortable enough to come out and tell a teacher what is on their minds without having to wait for an opportunity from to do so.

    Students want to feel valued and feel like they are a part of a larger school community. By forming a bond between you and your students and providing a sound educational framework for success, real learning will occur.

    Tactics to consider when creating an inclusive learning environment

    For starters it is important to keep in mind that everyone learns differently. A “one-size-fits-all” approach to education is not the right approach.

    Instead, students should be allowed to engage information from a variety of sources. This includes websites, videos, books and other mediums such as podcasts. Whatever medium one chooses, the key is to tailor content delivery to a student’s needs. This can be accomplished through small group or even individual instruction. Assessment choices represent an opportunity for students to showcase their understanding in various ways.

    When a teacher customizes students’ experiences in an inclusion classroom setting, students can build upon their strengths and develop and improve their understanding of topics with which they are struggling.

    There are several good articles on this subject. As one example, “#IWishMyTeacherKnew shares students’ heartbreak, hopes” provides insight into some of the forces causing students to stumble. One tactic is establishing an inbox for students to privately share their thoughts and struggles.

    An enlightened grading philosophy

    Behaviors like lateness, unpreparedness or talking out of turn should not be punished, but rather managed. While these and other behaviors are important to address, they shouldn’t be used to mask or reflect students’ understanding of a topic. Instead, teachers should focus on what the students do know and reflect that in their grade book.

    The components of an enlightened grading philosophy include regular formative assessments in which quality and descriptive feedback is generated and personalized for each student.

    Maintaining an inclusive and welcoming classroom

    An inclusive classroom requires teachers to focus on equity for all students, which can include race and gender. But it is important to think of them all equally.

    Addressing bias in the classroom and course materials can help students identify and analyze bias critically.

    Teachers can develop self-awareness in students by not hiding from differences, but encouraging students to embrace them. To do this teachers should use inclusive teaching strategies and techniques to actively engage students in the classroom. These strategies can include “flipping the classroom” and varying classroom discussions by size.

    As faculty members and classroom leaders, teachers play a critical role in setting the classroom climate and have the opportunity to set the educational tone. They have the responsibility to balance the free exchange of ideas with maintaining a safe and welcoming environment for all students regardless of their background.