During one of our recent programs, we visited the CHIME Institute, a charter school dedicated to implementing full inclusion with all of their students. CHIME has done this beautifully. They seamlessly incorporate gifted students, students with disabilities, and students with typical development into the same classroom without any major disruptions or loss of instruction. When you walk through their classrooms (And if you’re ever in the Los Angeles area, I suggest it!), it’s difficult to not feel like this is how education should work; however there are realities that make a good implementation of full inclusion impossible for some schools. Over the next two weeks, I’m going to lay out the benefits and barriers so that you can do a thorough cost-benefit analysis on full inclusion.
Everyone benefits. For the past 30 years, educational research has touted the academic benefits of inclusion on both students with disabilities and students with typical development. In 2017, Choi and his colleagues found that schools who implement full inclusion practices showed larger student growth on all subjects over the course of a year than their partial inclusion counterparts. Students with disabilities benefit from the raised expectations and support from their peers. This makes sense given that peer tutoring with a mixed ability pairing results in improved understanding for both participants. Those who are supporting their peers are provided with opportunities to consolidate their learning (don’t you learn tons when you are preparing a lesson?) as well as thinking about the topic at hand from multiple perspectives. Additionally, the differentiation in the classroom means that every student is met where they are and provided scaffolding to improve, rather than a one-size-fits-most approach.
Opportunities for social development. The social development for students with disabilities is demonstrably accelerated when they are in a full inclusion environment. Students are able to learn social behaviors from their peers, allowing them to experience more positive developmental trajectories and decrease their anti-social behaviors. Woodman and colleagues found that these benefits can extend well beyond school and lead to more independence in adulthood.
For students with typical development, full inclusion provides opportunities to learn tolerance. There are some lessons that even the most educated parent or teacher cannot teach, they can only provide opportunities to learn. One of these lessons is the willingness to embrace those who are dissimilar to you. Exposing kids to peers that have different background experiences and different ways of viewing the world allows them to learn how to appreciate these differences and work with people from a variety of perspectives and abilities.
Promotes a collaborative school culture. Lyon and colleagues found that adopting a program of full inclusion supported a sense of belonging in all students and improved student academic participation. All students reported a sense of high expectations, a supportive environment, and higher connectedness to their teachers and peers. This is likely because teachers and school leaders are required to think more about where individual students are, how they are interacting with each other, and what they need to succeed. This personalized attention to detail is something that students can feel and translates to and overall culture of inclusion and success.
For more details on the benefits of full inclusion, check out Swift School’s report on the subject.
Next week, we’ll consider some of the barriers to a full inclusion model and discuss why it is so difficult to do well.