Unlocking the Power of Inclusion: Understanding the Key Principles for Educational Success
Over the years, "how to educate" has become one of the most investigated elements in the pedagogical landscape. This process, which involves not only the education and training of the individual, today more than ever does not adhere to a series of objectively implementable practices.
This is why we increasingly hear and deal with the terms inclusion and inclusive education. In this article, we will have the opportunity to delve into:
A compass for teachers, educators, and trainers
When we talk about educational intervention, we must be aware that this intentional process must be carried out through key principles that can be used as a sort of compass for professionals: teachers, educators, trainers, tutors. Among these, one in particular stands out: that of inclusion.
If we wanted to provide an interpretation from an educational-didactic point of view, inclusion allows us to read all those objective conditions that can "slow down" the educational opportunities of the individual (macro-area of Special Educational Needs, SEN) and all those situations that can increase the risk of exclusion.
Inclusion, therefore, does not refer to "adequacy standards" (Booth - Ainscow, 2014) but provides for the student to actively participate in their own life and education. It is important to underline that when we talk about inclusion, we are not referring to children, young people, students in a state of discomfort - it is not required for a majority to integrate a minority - recognition of diversity is provided.
The importance of individualization and personalization
To avoid misunderstandings, it is also important to distinguish between inclusion and integration. The former is a process that refers to the social, educational, and political dimensions, focusing on the potential of the student. It intervenes in the educational context, the background, and then focuses on the student.
Integration has a specific focus, it is a situation that looks at the individual, intervening on the subject and their "diversity". This discussion allows us to introduce two fundamental concepts: individualization and personalization.
Unpacking the key pedagogical concepts for student development potential
Where does a student's development potential reside? In diversity or difference? In both. If different potential is shown and nurtured through a common development line, diverse potential relies on its being "out of the ordinary".
Two fundamental pedagogical concepts stem from difference and diversity: individualization and personalization. Regarding this, law 170/2010 (which we talked about in the article on DSA) provides that schools guarantee:
"the use of individualized and personalized teaching, with effective and flexible forms of school work that also take into account the peculiar characteristics of the subject, adopting an appropriate methodology and educational strategy".
But what does this mean? It should be clarified from the outset that the terms individualization and personalization are not synonyms and that both are - as also emphasized in law 170/2010 - a guarantee tool for achieving good school results. Didactic methodologies, compensatory tools and dispensing measures become central, especially for the school success of students with Specific Learning Disorders (SLD).
The term individualization refers to the process through which the teacher structures a specific curriculum, which has the function of providing a specific response to the needs of a single student.
For personalization, we mean the process by which the student makes the educational proposal addressed to everyone his own, interpreting it according to his own reference frameworks. The teacher proposes a standard path, valid for all students, but within it designs further alternative paths to which he can make didactic modifications and differentiations, in relation to the peculiarities of the students.
These two concepts introduce us to the discourse that revolves around that "modus educandi" that arises to guarantee the understanding of the individual's educational needs and that allows functional solutions to be implemented, overcoming rigidity and differences of all kinds: inclusive education.
Strategies and objectives for students with special needs and disabilities
The meaning of the term inclusive education must be sought in the educational, social and political sphere, starting from integration and arriving at a real inclusion of students, in a context that makes them participants and active builders of their own education.
Some students who need inclusive education are: students with special educational needs, students with dyslexia, students with autism spectrum disorder, students with disabilities.
The objective of inclusive education is to create optimal learning conditions in order to solve difficulties and enhance differences. In this way, each student will be able to discover, enhance and express their full potential. Below are some main objectives of this methodology, to facilitate understanding:
- celebrate and enhance differences among students;
- differentiate, individualize and personalize educational activities;
- promote autonomy, awareness and responsibility in students.
Today, there are many strategies that lend themselves to the implementation of inclusive education and that encourage new learning methods. We highlight some particularly interesting ones that we will explore in the next paragraph:
- cooperative learning
- use of educational software for the construction of concept maps (such as Algor Education)
The benefits of tutoring for students' academic success and personal growth
Tutoring is a service provided to students that involves didactic interventions aimed at overcoming any "obstacles" for a successful school attendance and active participation in all educational activities.
It aims to achieve a series of objectives, including: assisting the student throughout the entire study path, encouraging their participation in the educational process, removing any barriers to learning through interventions tailored to the needs, attitudes, and requirements of each individual student.
The goal is not only to counteract the growing phenomenon of school dropout but also to structure, taking into account the characteristics of each student, integrative and remedial didactic activities that can fill any gaps, thus ensuring the necessary requirements for an adequate path.
How is a tutoring path structured? Normally, tutoring is a service provided by expert individuals - teachers, senior students, or students from their own class group, called tutors - in favor of students with different abilities, called tutees. This experience contributes to the cultural, social, and professional formation of the student, accompanying them in the different moments of the educational process.
Tutoring assumes the peculiarity of the educational relationship, among its objectives:
- favoring the learning process;
- consolidation of skills;
- consolidation of self-esteem.
The aim is to stimulate the process of responsibility and the progressive acquisition of autonomy. The tutor tries to put the student in a position to gain experience, to learn, also foreseeing moments of error, maintaining the role of support, assistance, and accompaniment, without ever replacing the tutee or the reference of the tutoring.
My personal experience has allowed me to understand that the commitment of tutors in terms of support is not comparable to what they receive throughout their journey. The main prerogative of this wonderful growth process is sociality. Tutors must constantly reinvent themselves to make their presence and support felt by students.
Below, based on the work done as a tutor over the years, I would summarize the advantages of the tutoring path, both for tutors and tutees with different abilities:
- receiving help from figures that the tutee considers "better" and more competent, such as teachers, classmates, senior students, allows the student to perceive the situations in which they are involved, deeming them accessible because mediated by a figure they trust, this increases their self-esteem and encourages them to always do better
- the tutor develops a new dimension of personal competence and, from time to time, implements the things they have learned during their experience
Together, the educational relationship is always evolving.
A key strategy for inclusive education and special needs students
Another strategy in support of inclusive education today is cooperative learning. The focus is shifted from "me" to "us", the individual cannot achieve the expected goals without the group and vice versa, resources and learning spaces are shared, roles are interconnected. The active participation of each individual favors the success of the group and a collaboration is established in favor of the classmate in difficulty to help him/her.
Through cooperative learning, the student develops social skills such as: learning behaviors to adopt in relationships with others (e.g. active and passive listening, low volume of voice). Skillfully guided, he/she is able to develop skills to perform tasks efficiently, deal with conflicts, make decisions, solve problems. He/she will be able to reflect carefully on how he/she learned together, how he/she interacted, asking himself/herself: "What did we do well?"
Can all of this be useful for inclusive education and for a classroom context in which there are students with BES and DSA?
Supporters of cooperative learning believe that this method is essential for students with special educational needs, having an extremely positive impact on academic performance, promoting inclusion and integration.
This methodology strengthens motivation, meeting the needs of those with special needs. In addition, cooperative learning can significantly improve and reinforce interpersonal relationships among students. When the class adopts a cooperative rather than competitive attitude, BES or DSA students can contribute to the success of the group and are more likely to be accepted by it.
"Bringing together diversities" (Vygotsky) offers everyone the opportunity to enrich themselves.
Starting from this point of view, many authors believe that it is important to respect the criterion of heterogeneity of the cooperative learning group.
The crucial role of concept maps for dyslexic students
Today, schools have had to deal with the great difficulty of students with dyslexia in reading, summarizing, and memorizing texts of various lengths. That's why compensatory strategies have been introduced that can make the learning process less complex for students.
The tool of the concept map is immediately essential. Dyslexic students have great difficulty in grasping information sequentially and in establishing connections between concepts. Identifying the focus of the topic through the construction of a map in complete autonomy is crucial.
Among the many web apps for building multimedia maps, Algor Education offers students the opportunity to create their own map both at school and at home, thus celebrating a form of inclusive education that we have already mentioned previously, cooperative learning. The two elements, methodology on one hand and tool on the other, can, when combined in a classroom group, facilitate the learning steps of a dyslexic student and not only.
Algor was designed to address the needs of anyone who needs to organize, memorize, and learn concepts as teachers or tutors. A tool created to compensate and dispense, with its "create automatically" function, the student can enter text from different sources to obtain a concept map that synthesizes or suggests ideas from the original text.
Article by Mariana Ciaglia, pedagogue.