Teaching for Diversity
Teaching for Diversity
The learning environment is one of the most vital aspects regarding the child’s educational experience and must be stimulating and diverse in order to engage the children and keep their interest throughout the lesson (News, 2000). Developmentally appropriate practices (DAP) must be maintained and are determined by considering the child’s age, developmental level, personality, background, and abilities so that each child will be included in the curricular activity in order to create the most effective learning environment for all of the students (Developmentally Appropriate Practices, n.d.). Creating an inclusive, student centred learning environment requires the educator to be flexible and adaptable to the many different situations they may encounter when dealing with the diverse social groups present in today's educational institutions. In classrooms with a multitude of ethnic students, disabilities and/or language and dialect diversity can affect the individual’s ability to learn, especially if the teacher has not received any specific training to accommodate the needs of these pupils, which is frequently the case in public school settings (Otto, 2010). This analysis will examine the aspect of diversity in the classroom, particularly students with hearing disabilities, and illustrate how various theoretical frameworks shape inclusionary practices, inclusionary tactics teachers can use to include disabled students, why these methods are appropriate, and how teachers can ensure that they are instructing in a manner that promotes inclusion.
The Australian National Training Authority’s (ANTA) National Strategy for Vocational Education and Training (VET) have identified five equity groups experiencing disadvantage within educational forums, which are women, Indigenous Australians, people with a disability, people from a non-English speaking background, and those living in rural and remote parts of Australia, but additional at-risk groups were identified in those still living at home, those from single-parent families, and those from families with a history of parental unemployment (Bowman, 2004; Considine, Watson, & Hall, 2005).
However, both reports cited indicate individuals with disabilities as a group and there are numerous disorders, like hearing, speech, language, behavioral, and cognitive, that can have a dramatic effect on the student’s ability to learn. There are also several legislative acts, such as IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) and NCLB (No Child Left Behind) in the U.S., VET in Australia, and universally, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989, which are in place to ensure that all children with disabilities are not discriminated against within educational forums (Billington, 2006; Bowman, 2004; Turnbull, Turnbull, & Wehmeyer, 2010). This legislation is designed to ensure that children with disabilities receive nondiscriminatory assessments, appropriate education, and are included in all aspects of their educational experience (Foreman & Arthur-Kelly, 2008). In addition to mandating inclusion within public schools and the equal provisioning of educational opportunities for disabled students, this legislation also ensures that the assessment methods consider the strengths and weaknesses of the student (Foreman & Arthur-Kelly, 2008). This will guarantee that they are placed in the appropriate educational setting so they can receive the best educational experience and that the necessary accommodations to achieve this end will be provided (Billington, 2006).
However, indigenous Aborigines are considered minorities in Australia and they are still disadvantaged economically, socially, and politically (Helme, 2005). Many discriminatory laws have been passed, including numerous concerning land ownership and Aboriginal rights to claim and own land and an estimated 100,000 Aboriginal children were taken from their parents and placed in government institutions, missions, or foster homes, forbidden to speak their own language or to learn about their culture under the child removal program implemented by the European government (Helem, 2005). Although such openly discriminatory programs were abolished following WWII, Aboriginal students with disabilities face significant challenges within the scholastic environment in trying to communicate with those around them and trying to understand what others are trying to communicate to them (Helme, 2005). The use of supportive devices can greatly assist them in their attempts to interact with their environments and those around them.
Recognition and proper identification of the characteristics of disability is important to the teacher’s capacity to propose appropriate accommodations for the student (Shaddock, Giorcelli, & Smith, 2007). The extent of the individual’s disability has a direct relational effect on the person’s ability to communicate verbally and their development of spoken language can range from mildly impaired to severely impaired (Turnbull et al., 2010). Since no one technique universally applies to all individuals with disabilities due to the wide scope of possible conditions, use of these methods must be implemented according to the student’s needs based on an evaluation of each individual. The amount of visual and auditory input each child receives will also have a significant bearing on their ability to construct verbal language.
Regardless of the nature of a child’s disability, they still have the same social and emotional developmental needs that must be met. Learning how to socialize with diverse peoples is a need all children have and this must be met for hearing impaired children as well. The individual experiencing the disability will have to learn how to interact with their peers and this experience will help them learn to communicate with the members of their family as well. Interactions with their peers, awareness of social cues, and feelings of isolation are all factors that can have a strong effect on the social and emotional development of individuals with disabilities (Turnbull et al., 2010). The prevention of negative feelings and negative self-images is crucial and early detection of the disability is vital to proper intervention and the undertaking of methods to include the student in all aspects of their educational experience.
The pupil’s language and familial background must be considered when making the determination of what communicative approach to use for instruction. Linguistic development is dependent upon the language barriers that may exist in the home and the child must be taught to communicate within the home and school settings. The diverse background of the students plays a role in their ability to thrive within various settings and is part of considering the whole individual when making determinations regarding their future educational experience (Helem, 2005). Students whose families do not speak English as their primary language at home will have a very difficult time communicating in their home settings if they are only taught to communicate in English without regard for the language barrier that exists in their homes. A depth of understanding concerning the nature of the disability and the signs can make a huge difference in whether the person is referred to the proper services to accommodate their disability.
Implementation through Practice
Making assistive devices available to students with disabilities and teaching them how to use the devices is an important aspect of working to include such learners in classroom activities. The type of instructional communication option chosen is a major determining factor in the type(s) of assistive devices that will be needed in the classroom. If total or simultaneous communication is the method selected, an extensive array of assistive tools would be needed to ensure the student has what they need to communicate. Devices like automatic speech recognition (ASR) uses real-time speech-to-text transcription to provide written notes of what the teacher is saying for the student to read, although the lapse in time between the teacher’s spoken words and the appearance of the words on the screen may cause difficulties in the student’s comprehension of the lesson (Stinson, Elliott, McKee, & Coyne, 2002). Common access real-time translation (CART) may also be used in classroom settings to provide textual translations of the teacher’s words for the student as the words are being spoken (Turnbull, Turnbull, & Wehmeyer, 2010). Assisted listening devices (ALDs) are especially useful to students that use amplification devices like hearing aids and cochlear implants because they help diminish surrounding noises to make the sounds the individual desires to hear, like the teacher’s words, more clear (Clark, 1998; Davis, Francis, & Harlan, 2000).
Accommodations must be made to consider the language the child speaks at home and to have a speaker or signer fluent in the student’s native language present to ensure the learner is able to consistently meet their learning and achievement goals (Turnbull et al., 2010). It is also important to determine the best means by which to assess the needs and capabilities of the student and the most effective communication strategy based on their needs (Bowman, 2004). The assessment process will establish the child’s strengths, weaknesses, needs, and the best services and assistive technologies that will fulfill these needs, keeping in mind the capabilities of the parental and familial structure and what assistance they can provide. Although VET makes provisions for many of the needs of students with various disabilities, there are limitations to these provisions and parents and teachers must be aware of these limitations so they will know what options are available for inclusion. The sooner the disability is detected, the more effectual the intervention designed will be and the more the student will benefit from the assistance they receive.
Early detection is especially important for young children with hearing loss so that they can get accustomed to using augmentative devices as soon as possible and learn how to function with their hearing loss. As Shuler-Woodard points out, the use of assistive technological devices from as early as age three can help disabled children:
“…overcome their physical limitations by adapting their environment to support their ability to participate actively in their daily home activities. This may include the ability to play successfully with toys and other children, to communicate needs and ideas, to make choices, and to move independently and participate in family life” (2009, p.31).
The earlier students with disabilities learn to interact with their surroundings and their peers, the less likely they are to feel isolated as they grow older (Shaddock et al., 2007). Keeping students with disabilities motivated to learn and interact with their surroundings is a continual challenge that educators will have to overcome to help the student fulfill their potential and fully benefit from their educational experience (Shaddock et al., 2007). The use of authentic experiences, integration of vocabulary into normal routines and activities to build conceptual knowledge, creating opportunities for self-expression, providing accomplished role models with disabilities, and teaching students things relevant to their experiences as a unique individual are all methods to help diverse students form a graphic understanding of the world around them (Turnbull et al., 2010).
Teachers must also realize their own biases regarding the abilities of their students and not demonstrate diminished expectations based on perceived abilities due to ethnic or other criteria (Helme, 2005). Introducing students to concept books is a great way to instigate early literacy. These books are usually easy readers and, if the correct books are selected according to the cognitive developmental stage, as detailed by Piaget, this can serve as an instrument of positive reinforcement rather than spiraling into circular dialogue, as demonstrated in Giorgis & Glazer in the “Child/Parent” dialogue (2008, p.98). Ritualized dialogue involves the back and forth exchange that occurs between adults and children during the reading or a picture book (Carlson, n.d.). This exchange and the eventual repetitious exchange of dialogue that develops is representative of Piaget’s theory of cognitive development (Giorgis & Glazer, 2008). As the child progresses through the sensori-motor stage of cognitive development and into the pre-operational stage, the interchange on the part of the child will progress from incoherent babbling to coherent speech and the child will learn how to label the objects depicted in the book through this repetitious exchange (Carlson, n.d.).
Scaffolding by parents and teachers is an additional method in assisting children to develop strong vocabularies and form cohesive associations with words and objects (Otto, 2010). Partnering with families is an important aspect of becoming a successful educator and helps the teacher include diversity in the classroom that will benefit both the families involved and the students through inclusion of their culture in their education. Educators must be able to engage in meaningful communication, which will help them establish and build respectful relationships with families that enable children to enjoy and benefit from early learning opportunities (Consindine et al., ). Encouraging familial involvement brings respect for diversity, equity, and inclusion into the program, adding communal values, knowledge, and strength, which are prerequisites for honoring children’s rights, optimal development, and learning.
Criteria that should also be considered when determining whether themes, projects, and activities are DAP and should be included in the curricular agenda for any group of students includes the curriculum. The curriculum determines what skills the age group you are teaching should be learning and usually includes an approximate schedule so you know what they should know the material as well as when during the scholastic term you should be teaching it (Considine et al., 2005). Curriculum provides a basic roadmap or foundation to help teachers decide what to teach and when to teach it. This can also be used to help plan activities that will supplement or enhance the lessons. However, when dealing with developmentally or cognitively challenged students, it is very important to first determine what their capabilities and levels of development are so the educator is able to select materials according to their abilities.
Appropriate assessments should be made to gain knowledge of each student’s abilities and if they will benefit from the curricular agenda even if the student body is not disabled. As indicated by Decker et al., (2009), “the planned curriculum serves as a way of helping teachers think about children and organize children’s experiences in the program setting” and “involves individual and group activities, physical care routines, supportive relationships, and all other aspects of a child’s day in the program” (p.211). The relationship between the home and program, as discussed by Decker et al. (2009), in quality programs, involving the social and cultural environment is closely tied to the program’s physical environment. The general decor of the space should be like the home environment, not foreign. For example, “…the visuals displayed, music listened to, literature read, and dramatic play props should reflect the social and cultural composition of the families, staff, and community of the local program” (Decker et el., 2009, p.213).
Developmental evaluation of the students- it is the common consensus that knowledge of children should be the deciding factor when conducting program curriculum planning and age-related characteristics are important components of DAP (Decker et al., 2009). Having personal knowledge of the children they are teaching makes caregivers feel that they can make general and reliable predictions about achievable and challenging curriculum for most young children in a given age or stage of development (Decker et al., 2009). Authentic assessment is a form of observation assessment. It is also called performance-based assessment and requires a child to actually demonstrate what they know and are able to do (Morrison, 2009). This is particularly useful when teaching children from diverse backgrounds and children with disabilities. A child is assessed by what they can actually do individually, their actual work, and what they are actually doing in and through the curriculum. The teacher is able to learn about the whole child and makes assessment part of the learning process. Parents and children are involved in a cooperative, collaborative assessment process and ongoing assessment is provided throughout the entire school year. Developmentally appropriate assessment techniques are used. Many teachers use portfolios in conjunction with this method to create a better-rounded picture of what the student’s capabilities are (Morrison, 2009). This form of assessment does not rely on test scores or statistical data as a means of evaluating a child’s development or progress (Morrison, 2009).
Creating an inclusive, student centred learning environment requires the educator to be flexible and adaptable to the many different situations they may encounter when dealing with the diverse social groups present in today's educational institutions. In classrooms with a multitude of ethnic students, disabilities and/or language and dialect diversity can affect the individual’s ability to learn, especially if the teacher has not received any specific training to accommodate the needs of these pupils, which is frequently the case in public school settings (Otto, 2010). The educator is the most important part of any educational program, which is why it is vital that highly qualified professionals are employed as facilitators of after school programs. The primary goal of the early childhood educator is to meet the child’s needs in “culturally and developmentally appropriate ways” (Morrison, 2009). Fostering a positive relationship with the family also helps the educator develop the best and most effective individualized plan for the child’s care and education. These interactions create alternative perspectives by which the educator can re-examine their approach to create learning experiences for the child based on the child’s familial background and their cultural diversity (Morrison, 2009).
Bowman, K. (Ed.). (2004). Equity in vocational education and training: Research readings. Australian National Training Authority. Australia: National Centre for Vocational Education Research Ltd.
Clark, C. (1998). The Role of Assistive Listening Devices in the Classroom. NETAC
Teacher Tipsheet. Retrieved from ERIC database, doi: ED438670.
Davis, C., Francis, P., & Harlan, D. (2000, November). Providing Real-Time Captioning,
C-Print Speech To Print Transcription, Assistive Listening Devices and Other Technologies: Questions and Answers. Retrieved from ERIC database, doi: ED451632.
Shuler-Woodard, D. (2009). Technology and Colorado Early Education Staff--Helping
Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children with Disabilities. Odyssey: New Directions in Deaf Education, 10(1), pp.31-32. Retrieved from ERIC database, doi: EJ903024.
Stinson, M., Elliot, L., McKee, B., & Coyne, G. (2002, June 17). Speech Recognition as a Support Service for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students: Adaptation and Evaluation. Final Report to Spencer Foundation. Retrieved from ERIC database (ED469044).
Turnbull, A., Turnbull, R., & Wehmeyer, M. (2010). Exceptional lives: Special education in today's schools. (6th ed.) Upper Saddle River: Pearson.
Morrison, G. S. 2009. Early childhood education today. New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc
Sorte, J., Daeschel, I., & Amador, C. (2011). Nutrition, health and safety for young children. Pearson: Upper Saddle River.
Billington, T. (2006). Working with autistic children and young people: sense, experience and the challenges for services, policies and practices. Disability & Society, 21(1), 1-13.
Foreman, P. & Arthur-Kelly, M. (2008, April). Social justice principles, the law and research, as bases for inclusion. Australasian Journal of Special Education, 32(1), 109–124.
Decker, C., Decker, J., Freeman, N., and Knopf, H. (2009). Planning and administering early childhood programs (9th ed.). New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.
Developmentally Appropriate Practices (DAP). (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.tr.wou.edu/train/cdcDAP.htm
Eliason, C. & Jenkins, L. (2008). A Practical Guide to Early Childhood Curriculum, (8thed.). New Jersey: Pearson
Feeney, S., Moravcik, E., Nolte, S., & Chritensen, D. (2010). Who Am I in the Lives of Children? (8th ed.). New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.
Kang, J. (2007, summer). How many languages can Reggio children speak? Many more than a hundred! Gifted Child Today, 30(3), 45-48, 65. Retrieved from ERIC database, (EJ769917).
LeBlanc, M. (2012). Reggio Emilia: An innovative approach to education. Community Playthings. Retrieved from http://www.communityplaythings.co.uk/resources/articles/reggio-emilia.html
New, R.S. (2000). Reggio Emilia: Catalyst for change and conservation. Retrieved from ERIC Digest. www.ericdigests.org/2001-3/reggio.htm.
Papatheodorou, T. (2010). Being, belonging and becoming: Some worldviews of early childhood in contemporary curricula. Forum on Public Policy Online, 2010(2), 1-18. Retrieved from ERIC database, (EJ903475).
Zhang, J., Fallon, M., & Kim, E. (2010). The Reggio Emilia curricular approach for enhancing play development of young children. Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue, 12(1/2), 85-99,A177-A178,A180. Retrieved from ProQuest Education Journals, (2283023431).