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Chapter 3: Teaching Is Adapting to Student Diversity - page 8 / 16





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involves four additional components (Filler, 1996; Odom et al., 1996).

1.  The student with a disability participates actively in the life of the classroom.  This may require physical accommodations in the classroom and will involve planning on the part of the teacher to ensure that the student is not isolated from the other students (e.g., through the use of group activities and peer-tutoring).

2.  Appropriate services and resources are made available to the student within the regular education classroom.  This may involve, for example, provision of a teacher’s aide to work with the student or the services of a professional (e.g., speech-language therapist).

3.  Professionals from diverse disciplines must collaborate to ensure that the student receives services that are integrated in a coherent, planful manner.

4.  The student’s progress and the impact of inclusion on that progress must be monitored.

The impact of inclusive education on the development of students with cognitive disabilities has been difficult to determine because of methodological limitations of the research conducted to evaluate its impact (Siegel, 1996) and because many attempts at “inclusion” have amounted to little more than placing a student with cognitive disabilities in a regular education classroom without benefit of the other four components of inclusion (Filler, 1996).  There is evidence, however, that students with cognitive disabilities do benefit from more “ideal” implementations of inclusion; for example, when teachers actively work to foster social interaction between regular education and special education students, the latter show gains on measures of language and social ability (Jenkins, Odom & Speltz, 1989).  The challenge for regular education teachers, then, is to work with other professionals to ensure that their classroom approaches the ideal inclusive educational environment for their students with cognitive disabilities.


We now consider some strategies that can be used to ensure that teachers deal equitably with all students whatever their gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic background, or level of ability.  We begin by describing four hypothetical classrooms.  These examples illustrate the sort of diversity you might see in your own classroom.  We conclude by stating in a more formal way the instructional strategies employed by the teachers in our hypothetical classrooms.

Ms. Noonan’s Preschool Classroom

It’s free play time in Ms. Noonan’s room.  A dozen or so 4- and 5-year-olds are engaged in a variety of activities throughout the room.  Two of the children, Amaya and Ryan, are in the make-believe corner.  This week the make-believe corner depicts a doctor’s office, complete with white coats, X-rays, and a stethoscope.  Three boys, Joey, Tyrone, and Zack, are in the construction corner and are stacking blocks to see who can build the highest tower. As is the case during every free play, Ms. Noonan moves around the room and spends a few minutes with each group of children.  She makes sure that she uses these “visits” to get to know the children, to help enrich their play (e.g., by suggesting new ways of thinking about the play materials), and to get children who are perhaps a bit shy involved with their peers.

Ms. Noonan visits the construction corner.  She watches the boys’ building competition for a few minutes, complimenting them on their efforts and giggling with them as the block towers inevitably come crashing down.  Miranda comes over to watch, and she too enjoys the boys’ friendly competition.  At this point, Ms. Noonan makes a suggestion:

Ms. N.: Hey, won’t don’t you have teams?

Zack: Yeah, building teams!  

Tyrone: Cool! I’m on Zack’s team.

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