For me, the article on inclusive pedagogy resonated the most with me. As recent as last year, when I hear of inclusiveness in the classroom, I think primarily of race and gender. However, sometimes last year (I think April, 2018), I attended a Networked Learning Initiatives (NLI) on differentiation in the classroom that changed my perspective on differences in the classroom. This was an interesting 2-hour session that was worth every second. I learned many things and I will share some of them in the paragraphs that follow.
To start with, I learned what differentiation in the classroom is. Simply put, differentiation in the classroom is being aware of the differences in our students. Differences could range from almost imperceptible challenges such as learning disability to more blatant ones such as race and gender. When I registered for this NLI session, I had the later in mind. However, I soon found out that the term ‘differences’ was more nuanced than I had imagined. In fact, during the session, one of the participants shared an example of a student in her class who was always having bad grades. She thought it was due to lack of efforts, only for her to later realize that the student had a learning disability, which made comprehending course content difficult. Unfortunately, the student was not even aware of their disability. This really made me reflect and I thought to myself: “In what ways could I have been insensitive to such minuscule differences in my classroom?” “could there have been someone in my classes with challenges such as learning disability that I failed to notice?” How many times have we tagged students as lazy while they may have been suffering from a learning disability?
Needless to say, after this NLI session, I decided to be intentional about looking out for such subtle differences in my classroom going forward. However, it is not enough to be aware of differences but we need to take necessary steps to accommodate students with challenges that we might not even be conscious of. The way we design our instructional materials is crucial. For example, when preparing lecture slides, we should ask ourselves if it is legible enough for students who might have difficulty with reading. Or if we want to play a video, we should make sure it is subtitled, in case there are students who might have hearing difficulties. There are several other examples of how to be intentional about inclusivity in the classroom, however, I will stop this blog post here.
I think my eureka moment about inclusivity in the classroom was this NLI session, and since then I have strived to be a more inclusive teacher, and I am still striving. The infographic below presents a good summary of inclusivity in the classroom.