As I’ve been reflecting on Teachers’ Day earlier this month, I’ve been thinking about the many different teachers I have worked with over the past 20 years. Teachers with different classrooms, backgrounds, and resources, but so many share the same desire for their learners to reach their full potential. As countries work towards making their education systems more inclusive, especially for learners with disabilities, teachers are crucial in succeeding.
Teachers in large classrooms with insufficient materials are often unsure how to include all learners. To help teachers shift towards more inclusive practices, STS uses the following three principles in our inclusive education work with teachers:
To better include all learners, we need to work with teachers to provide them support to implement strategies from the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) guidelines: reimagine teaching strategies that provide learners more ways to engage and motivate learners; more ways for learners to perceive and understand what is being taught; and more ways for learners to represent and express what they know. This work takes time and requires practical, hands-on, iterative training to allow teachers to see what will work for them and their learners.
Teachers need ways to reflect on a shift in their teaching practices to find what is working and what areas need more focus. This support is best done through coaching, either by a peer or an expert. The coaching experience allows the “coach” to observe the teacher and give timely, targeted feedback. Coaching conversations also provide a space for the teachers to reflect on their own successes and challenges. It is crucial that teachers are supported as they work toward inclusion.
Belief and Attitude Shift
Teachers often must undo some of their biases regarding learners’ abilities. Local education systems and their teacher training experience may have normalized segregation and lowered expectations for students with disabilities. For teachers to really include all learners, they must first believe that all learners can learn. Organizations for People with Disabilities (OPDs) are excellent resources for developing sessions to address these biases and help shift mindsets. This shift must be addressed explicitly, with the onus on the system and schools to adapt, not the learner.
This post is authored by Kristina Solum, STS’s Senior Technical Advisor.