We started to play with the idea of an all-inclusive classroom and what it would look like. We didn´t just focus on the disabled students but also on the teachers as well as the nondisabled peers and learning environments.
We see diversity as an important part of education and do not see segregation of students as the right way forward. Disabled students should be able to participate in “normal” education alongside their nondisabled peers. We also felt that we agreed with the thought of why teachers are being divided into classroom teachers and special education teachers and not just trained so that they are able to teach both groups. Therefore, teachers get better understanding about disabilities and know how to naturally act with these students. For our ideal all-inclusive classroom to work we would need smaller group sizes to reduce stress from both teachers and students, flexible study environments and an overall change in attitudes towards diverse students in education. To be able to influence students’ attitudes towards more acceptable and tolerant to peers that may look or sound different, teachers should have explicit instructions how to act in schools. Like the KiVa Koulu -programme. And of course teacher education should also include courses where students could reflect on their thoughts and attitudes about all-inclusive classrooms and what a teacher can do to make safer spaces for all students. This Social justice and diversity course is a good example because it makes us think of social justice from different point of views.
We will present our idea from four different perspectives as following:
The disabled students perspective
-Individualized planning of studies and alternative tools for studying
-Getting the same education and opportunities as nondisabled students by participating in normal education
-Positive support and encouragement from both peers and teachers to reach better learning outcomes as studies has shown
-Gives the chance to be “normal” amongst other “normals” and not to be labeled
The teacher’s perspective
-Adequate teacher training to work equally with all kinds of students
-Peer support and co-teaching models
-More special needs assistance in class
-The opportunity to find solutions to problems and see progress and not just push difficulties away
The nondisabled peer students perspective
-All-inclusive groups could change attitudes and increase acceptance of diversity
-Important values such as helping others, respecting others could be learned
-Sharing the same classroom with disabled students from an early age so that inclusion is seen as normal rather than something abnormal
The learning environment perspective
– Flexible and movable furniture
– Electronic devices to help and to support learning processes
– Other aid equipment used as tools to help learning processes (headphones, blankets)
We do understand that our thoughts might seem utopian in practice, but one can always dream of a better and more just future. However the first step towards change is to talk about issues like disability in education and take action in changing ableist views that exist. In a perfect future all classrooms would be all-inclusive and social justice would be an integrated part in all activity in education, from kindergarten all the way to higher education.
Teachers have a lot of pressure during the school day. Their job is demanding and therefore job strain has increased enormously. Increased social problems, restlessness and bullying are issues which they have to deal with a lot. From this point of view the idea of an all-inclusive classroom might sound a bit too challenging to carry out. Teachers need to lean on each other, have an open-minded, caring and constructive working environment so that it’s possible to implement ideas like this in schools. And as future experts on education and training, it is our task to discuss about such important issues like social justice with each other and lecturers.