Tag Archives: inclusive education

Including All Students in the Conversation

I (Clive) am a great believer in whole-class and small-group discussion. However, three and four years ago I was terrorized by a series of individual students who dominated discussion in class, speaking at least 50% of the time – they would have talked 90% if I’d let them. I’m sure they did the same in their small group, if I wasn’t in the group.
This forced me to develop a set of techniques for giving everyone a turn. They’re simple but effective. Most students appreciate them, and they’ve enabled me to relax and not always be cutting people off (though I still have to be firm). I wish someone had introduced me to them long ago.

     The techniques assume the class is no larger than 35 (I have any bigger class divided up) and is seated in a large circle (I arrange the seating before the students come in). They also assume that students get a lot of “air time” in class, otherwise it’s impossible for everyone to have a turn.

Here are the techniques:

  • Going around the room, with each student (or every 2nd or 3rd student) saying what they think about the topic in hand (don’t worry if you don’t get all the way round).
  •      Discussion in 2s and 3s around the room, followed by reporting from each group.
  • Numbering off to form small groups, followed by discussion and reporting back.
  • Individual prepared presentations (ungraded, maximum 4 minutes) – 2 to 4 per class – with 3 people to the left or right of the presenter responding.
  •       Whole-class discussion after a “mini-lesson” from me, with a speakers list formed as people put up their hands.

I find students are very glad to be called on in these ways: no one has ever declined. And the approach greatly strengthens community as we hear from and get to know everyone, including many who’ve been largely “voiceless” throughout their school and university career. It fosters oral literacy and results in truly inclusive education.

If anyone has other strategies, please let me know!

A Daily Reminder

I (Pooja) work at a higher ed. institute with a population that is very diverse. I have many mature students, with a history of interrupted education, who are looking to make a fresh start with school after work many years in unfulfilling jobs. Even though school has failed them in the past, they come in hoping to form a new relationship with school. This cartoon and this quote are taped up above the photocopier in our office. It is a daily reminder of my work and the students I serve.


Everybody is a Genius. But If You Judge a Fish by Its Ability to Climb a Tree, It Will Live Its Whole Life Believing that It is Stupid. –Einstein

Multicultural Education that Avoids Stereotyping

Stereotypes are the main basis of prejudice and discrimination; yet multicultural education often reinforces stereotypes. How to resolve this problem?
My (Clive) social foundations ITE class this year is a dream come true: bursting with talent; an extremely diverse group but with a strong sense of camaraderie; full of fun but serious about learning to teach well. On Monday we had the second of three classes on inclusive education, with a focus that day on multicultural education. It was a wonderful session. Every student participated, and many spoke openly about their own racial and ethnic background. For example:

  • Jim: Identifies as Black, born in Canada, of Caribbean ancestry, not tall enough to play basketball well, doesn’t like rap music.
  • Janni: Born in Canada; her parents are of South Asian ancestry but grew up in South Africa and talk often about their life in that country.
  • Sandi: Parents of Indian background, most of her schooling in Germany, often refers to herself as Tamil Canadian.
  • Ali: Identified by others as Black, ½ Somali, ¼ Italian, lived much of his early life in Saudi Arabia before his family moved to Canada, family is Muslin but he isn’t really religious.
  • Mike: Born in Canada but of ¾ Irish and ¼ Scots ancestry, classical musician, worried in school that when teachers saw his Irish name they would look down on him.

Given this ethnic complexity in today’s world, how can we take the common approach of talking about ethnic groups and resolving to respect the people who belong to them? In what sense do students have an ethnic identity? True, people differ a lot, but their differences rarely run along ethnic, racial, or religious lines. The differences within such categories are much greater than between them. A large proportion of a person’s identity comes from individual qualities, as advocates of differentiation and multiple intelligences have said for some time. Ethnicity is important and should be respected, but individuals have complex ethnicities and draw on each facet in distinctive ways.

As the discussion unfolded, we came to the conclusion that in school we should focus largely on: (a) historical and current cases of bias and discrimination and their enormous human cost; (b) the positives of being inclusive; (c) the limits to ethnic and racial labelling; (d) commonalities that cut across sub-groups; and (e) the importance of individual identity.

At a personal level, many students seemed relieved at the thought that they could develop their own identity and didn’t have to fit a standard ethnic identity. I think many school students would feel the same way, and adopting this approach in the classroom would strengthen community and individual self-esteem.