Inclusive Education defined…or defining

Defining and operationalizing an inclusive education model in Westwind school division will require everyone, parents, students, staff, and administration to work together over time to expand our understanding.  Over the next few posts I’d like to offer a couple of thoughts and documents from Alberta and the literature that might help us moving forward.

Alberta Education provides the following as a partial definition of an inclusive education system:

An Inclusive Education System
The goal of an inclusive education system is to provide all students with the most appropriate learning environments and opportunities for them to best achieve their potential. Some have said, this is what should already be happening in education, and they’re right. However, some children, youth and their families do not feel that they have the same opportunities as their peers.

In Alberta, inclusion in the education system is about ensuring that each student belongs and receives a quality education no matter their ability, disability, language, cultural background, gender, or age. For some, a provincial move to inclusive education will mean very little change, but for others the change will be more significant. 

An inclusive education system is best realized when leadership is shared between school, home and family.  Schools reflect the attitudes, beliefs and health of the communities they serve and must be equipped to reflect inclusive practice. 

In developing an inclusive education system in Westwind this information serves as part of the discussion as we work toward meeting the needs of each student.  An inclusive system doesn’t mean one size fits all, or all students are in the same class receiving the same instruction, the same readings, the same assignment or even the same assessment. It does mean that there is a culture of belonging, that all students feel safe and supported in our schools and classrooms regardless of their differences emotionally, culturally, and intellectually. In fact I think it’s important to note that students, parents, and families feel safe and supported, they have a sound understanding and shared responsibility in developing the appropriate individual education plan for each of our 4079 students.

Professional Learning Communities are Key!
Our work to develop a truly inclusive education system in Westwind began a few years ago with a renewed commitment to professional learning communities. In a PLC setting we work together with each other to review the data that informs us about each of our students. We work to understand the educational strategies that will build upon the strengths of our students and staff to help them master the objectives and meet the goals of each student’s individual learning plan.

Our efforts to develop sound assessment strategies, lessons designed to meet the layers of abilities in an inclusive classroom, and instruction that engages and includes all students to the best of their ability is part of operationalizing an inclusive education model.

There will be times when individuals and groups with similar needs or interests will be engaged in different activities as we work to differentiate or practice supporting the strengths of our students. Inclusion most definitely does not mean all students doing all things at the same time, place, or pace.

More to come next post…thanks for your thoughts and questions.