Inclusive, integrated, exclusive, or segregated. These are the four options for a community or a school. It may be argued that these are the four options that we each have for all of our interactions as a member of the greater society in which we live. It may be that there is a place for each of the four but when it comes to our schools we are committed to developing and supporting an inclusive education system, one focused on “teaching to diversity and inclusion where we value the characteristics that are diverse” (Moore, 2014) and work to meet and support that diversity. What follows and what is, and will be expanded upon in blog posts, is the foundation of what we hope will help construct an exceptionally inclusive learning environment.
Coming to an understanding of the meaning of each word, the impact each of the four words has on the composition of small groups, clubs, classes, schools, and school divisions, communities and ultimately nations is fundamental to the core value of truly meeting the needs and achieving the potential of each member in that community.
Alberta Education’s foundational statement for developing an Inclusive Education system is one where, “Educational practices are flexible and responsive to the strengths and needs of individual students creating inclusive learning experiences that ensure all students are successful” (Government of Alberta, 2017).
An inclusive education system is not a one size fits all structure and is not a matter of creating individual learning experiences for all students. It is mindfully working to ensure that an awareness exists of each student’s needs, and efforts are taken to support the very best learning experience for each student. An inclusive education system focuses on teaching to diversity and inclusion is where we value the characteristics that are diverse, and not try and homogenize them (Moore, 2016).
An inclusive education system foundationally accepts that all students can learn, it recognizes that all students do not learn at the same rate and that all students may not be able to therefore complete the same work successfully at the same time or in the same manner.
Creating a responsive and flexible learning environment is foundational to success for all students. For some students that learning environment may include:
- Instruction and support in a grade-level classroom with same-aged peers
- Individualized instruction in smaller group settings
- A specialized classroom or setting
- One-on-one instruction
- A combination of all the above on any given day
Westwind School Division is committed to providing educational supports and services in the communities where our students live, we do not operate a divisional program that would require students to leave their home school to be clustered in a regional setting. There are multiple factors contributing to this direction, the first being students should be supported to stay in the school for their area of residence with their peers. Proximity that would support some forms of clustering to better meet needs, is not attainable give the distance between communities. We recognize the very size of our school populations creates challenges of scale in providing services and supports across the learning spectrum and work to support teachers, administrators, parents and students in providing for all Westwind Students.
Flexible and responsive supports include:
- Universal supports – incorporated into the environment for all learners, such as flexible learning resources and technologies, differentiated instruction and positive behaviour supports
- Targeted strategies or interventions – for learners who need more specialized learning opportunities or access to more specialized expertise
- Specialized/Individualized supports – that directly relate to individual learning needs such as the use of sign language interpreters, alternate and augmentative communication systems (ACC), or mental health support
We note that targeted strategies and interventions can include efforts that span the entire spectrum of our student population including finding ways to support the development of our students who are looking for additional challenges and opportunities after meeting and exceeding the curriculum objectives in any one subject or area of study.
Government of Alberta. (2017). Inclusive Education. Retrieved from https://education.alberta.ca/inclusive-education/
Moore, S. (2016). One without the other: Stories of unity through diversity and inclusion. Winnipeg, MB: Portage & Main Press.