Classrooms across the country are more diverse than ever before. On top of all the usual challenges teachers face, they now also must work to promote an inclusive classroom learning experience for all students.
It’s an important task in the modern world. Creating classroom environments where students can learn together, side-by-side, regardless of their disability, language, gender, race, religion or economic background is critical.
It’s a tall order. That’s why many teachers turn to courses for professional development like those from Fresno Pacific University that offer the latest theory and practical applications for creating an inclusive classroom.
The Importance of an Inclusive Classroom
Everyone gains when children, regardless of their differences, learn together. This idea is the foundation of establishing inclusive classroom environments.
There are many reasons why this is important. For many children, a school provides the first environment where they are exposed to the world outside of their close circle of family and friends.
An inclusive classroom provides students the chance to develop their social relationship skills and their ability to have positive interactions with others. Their respect and understanding of others increase when they are in a classroom of diverse students from a variety of backgrounds.
An inclusive classroom also can help to change any discriminatory attitudes that students may have learned elsewhere. On the other hand, classrooms that are segregated can support these attitudes against students who are “different” in any way.
Classroom inclusivity promotes the ideas of civility to others and a community life that supports the needs of all members of a diverse population.
Ways to Promote an Inclusive Classroom
There are a variety of areas where inclusion can be promoted and supported. They include the following:
Materials and Ideas
Content for lectures, discussion group questions, homework assignments and exam questions can include examples that reflect diversity. Topics that include information about the contributions of historically underrepresented people in a certain field can bolster students’ knowledge on diversity.
In leading discussions on any topic, model the open-mindedness you want to instill in your students. Consider different points of view and historical context. Support students in understanding that all knowledge comes from collaboration and input of people from diverse backgrounds.
Set A Tone
From the first day of class, let students know the rules for behavior and the respect to be shown to both you and other students in the class. Allow for no exceptions in these rules and speak to students individually if their behavior (either overt or by ignoring the contributions of other students) is affecting the classroom.
Get to Know Students, Parents
Take the time to get to know each student individually and learn their background. This can lead to a better understanding of how they can contribute to the class. With parents, it’s important to try to get them involved in as many ways as possible beyond simply informing them of events via email. This is somewhat outside a teacher’s control, as many parents simply do not have the time or the inclination to get involved, but it’s worth the effort.
Fostering an inclusive classroom is a challenge for teachers. In some cases, they may be up against years of discriminatory thought instilled in students. However, it’s always worth the effort to create a more respectful, collaborative environment for all students.