Diversity is natural but inclusivity is not because of prejudice. The day we give up our inhibitions and instill inclusivity in our soul, the world will become a better place. I am not asking to neglect differences, instead I encourage to embrace our differences positively to help each other, without judging or discriminating against each other. These same principles do apply to pedagogy as well because effective learning occurs when students and teachers unlearn their biases and learn to function together as a unit.
Diversity is characterized by, but not limited to gender, race, ethnicity, language, culture etc. The reason I say that diversity is not limited by the above characteristic traits is because even people who identify with the same traits are different individuals and have the right to be recognized differently from other members of the same community. This is where the concept of “Safe Space” steps in the classroom, where students are allowed be themselves, say what they feel, without being under the scrutiny. This does not mean students can be disrespectful to the teacher or other students, but express their views freely.
It is great how Cole Blakeway explains being different as “awesome” and that everyone is perfect the way they are. His words, “You don’t need to fix something that isn’t broken” resonate with my idea of a classroom where pedagogical techniques aim to build an inclusive environment. Techniques such as discussing uncomfortable topics in a manner that does not offend anyone and if they do, being prepared to ameliorate the situation by explaining the objective point of view or discussing the counter topics that can make students feel better about it. An example of such a situation was discussed by Professor Marcia Chatelain, talking about finding a balance during difficult classroom discussions.
Inclusive pedagogical techniques are not just mean to be followed by teachers but are supposed to be inculcated to students as well who are equally responsible for making the classroom environment inclusive. Teachers are not supposed to teach students how to be inclusive, instead they need to be taught the generic concept of inclusion and brotherhood which will help them develop techniques to make their fellow classmates comfortable. One such example can be seen below, where Dr. Nandita de Souza discusses about Shreya, a student with Down Syndrome and how her classmates encourage her to participate particular activity. Shreya’s classmates were taught how to be inclusive and they found out a way to encourage her, knowing that she performs the best when the teacher is not around which eventually helped her.
Another technique to promote inclusion in classrooms is to be aware of your audience, their demographics and other characteristics. This is really helpful in making your examples and teaching practices generic enough to be understood by the whole class, giving students a sense of belonging. Teachers should also promote interactive activities that help students know each other better. When students appreciate the teacher and form a connection with the teacher as well as their peers, free flow of knowledge occurs in all directions.
In the words of Ilene Schwartz, “Student failure is instructional failure”. Based on her thoughts, I would like to state that if a student fails to understand what the teacher is trying to communicate, it is a failure on both ends and one of the reasons for such a failure could be the lack of inclusion. Ilene considers “membership”, “relationship” and “skills” as the outcome of being inclusive. Even though there might be indicators of such outcomes during the process of inclusion but indicators should not be mistaken for the outcome. Listen to her TED talk below and see how she walks you through “The Power Of Inclusive Education”.
I would like to end with the words of William Arthur Ward,
Inspire your students to be inclusive and see the world become a better place, one classroom at a time.
References: 1. Difficult Discussions: https://commons.georgetown.edu/teaching/teach/discussions/ 2. Inclusive Pedagogy: https://commons.georgetown.edu/teaching/design/inclusive-pedagogy/ 3. Dismantling Racism In Education: https://blog.heinemann.com/the-heinemann-podcast-dismantling-racism-in-education 4. Inclusive Education: A Different Perspective: https://medium.com/thesparksfoundation/inclusive-education-a-different-perspective-960afb4d1076 5. How To Make Your Teaching More Inclusive: https://www.chronicle.com/article/how-to-make-your-teaching-more-inclusive/ 6. Innovative Inclusive Science Teacher Education: https://innovations.theaste.org/innovative-inclusive-science-teacher-education/ 7. Teaching Resources for Social Justice: https://libguides.seattlecentral.edu/teaching-resources-for-social-justice/pedagogy