The task of educational professionals is to prepare students to be productive members of society. As time has changed, inclusive classroom and diversity and socioeconomic reforms have occurred to provide a better representation of quality education for all students, including those with special needs; however, there is still more work to close the gap of inclusion for severely delayed children. This paper will address diversity and socioeconomic status and inclusive classrooms, and proposed changes to the educational system for students with specialized and diverse needs.
Diversity and Socioeconomic Status
Diversity and socioeconomic status reform in the classroom have provided students with a range of cognitive and social benefits which is vital to the development of children. When students see their cultural background and culturally derived knowledge in curriculum, they are more likely to engage, see schooling relevant and achieve academically. (Webb, Metha and Jordan, 2013). An integrated diverse classroom promotes creativity, motivation, deeper learning, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. When students learn cooperatively alongside those with different perspectives and backgrounds, all students benefit. In addition, on average, students in diverse schools, regardless of a student’s own economic status, have stronger academic outcomes than students in schools with concentrated poverty.
They have higher average test scores, are more likely to enroll in college and less likely to dropout. (The Benefits of Socioeconomically and Racially Integrated Schools and Classrooms, 2019). Exposure to racial and socioeconomic diversity offer students social-emotional benefits. It increases tolerance and cross-cultural dialogue benefiting civil society. When school settings include students from multiple racial groups, students are comfortable with people of other races, have reduced anxieties, and are less likely to have discriminatory attitudes and prejudices. Integrated classrooms improve students’ satisfaction and intellectual self-confidence.
Diversity research at the college level shows when students have positive experiences interacting with students of other backgrounds and view the campus racial and cultural climate as affirming, they emerge with greater confidence in their own academic abilities. Lastly, integrated learning enhances leadership skills (The Benefits of Socioeconomically and Racially Integrated Schools and Classrooms, 2019). Although diversity and socioeconomic integration is beneficial, classroom diversity creates cultural barriers or learning disadvantages. Research has shown that differences in learning and cognitive styles are related to culture and socioeconomic factors influencing the way teachers teach, attempt to motivate and the assumption they have about students (Webb, Metha and Jordan, 2013).
Teaching methods are designed to reach all students in the classroom and deliver the same standards of education. In a diverse classroom, teachers are faced with difficulty to plan a lesson that relates to different cultures (as they may be faced with language barriers), different learning abilities or different religions (Positive & Negative Aspects of Diversity in the Classroom | Synonym, 2020). Culture influences the selection of curriculum materials, what and who they portray, and how to portray the content. Lessons may unintentionally be insensitive towards a particular student or student group, and teachers may become unintentionally biased towards a particular group of students.
Also, a traditional response of teachers to accommodate for student differences is to water down the curriculum. Although this response may be due to their desire to equitably address differences, instead it can result in low expectations for some students and inequitable student outcomes. Watered-down curriculum tends to be lifeless and dull, disengaging even more the students who need to be drawn into learning (Nieto, 2002). Because diversity and socioeconomic educational reform has tried to fit all children within the model of singular reality and the normative patterns it creates regardless of cultural background, the needs of all children have not been served equally well.
There is increasing tendency to umbrella special education under diversity as a means of bringing it into the larger education arena and link to multicultural education. The terms diversity and disability are unconsciously equated; however, disability is different than an orientation of diversity. Cultural diversity is a positive resource each child brings to school. Students with real disabilities require specific adaptations to be successful in school beyond their acceptance as full members with rights of access to the community (Pugach and Seidl, 1996).
Inclusive classrooms serve students with a variety of abilities and disabilities in the regular classroom along with appropriate supports. Students with disabilities and students without disabilities benefit from inclusion. Inclusion contributes to the academic and social progress of disabled students. It also creates a greater tolerance on the part of students without disabilities and better prepares them to live in an integrated society. While an inclusive classroom has it benefits to children, there are concerning issues. For successful transition, disabled students need proper supports.
One concerning issue is inclusion is used to save money at the expense of providing needed services to students with disabilities, and that many of the services or resources (e.g., Braillers, speech synthesizers, special computers) needed may either not be available in the general education classroom or when supports are provided, a student may be stigmatized when undertaken in front of nondisabled peers. Lastly, many general education teachers may not have the time or training to make inclusion a success (Webb, Metha and Jordan, 2013).
Proposed Change Inclusive Classroom and Diversity and Socioeconomic
Status reforms have benefited all children, but a gap remains with severe intellectual delayed children. Children with severe intellectual delays tend to not be integrated with typical students due to the complexity of inclusion. This presents a disadvantage to disabled and nondisabled students that needs to be explored and rectified. Severe intellectual delayed students learn social cues and interaction from their peers. If there is limited to no interaction with typical students, they are not able to learn these vital skills. There is also a stereotype that severe intellectual delayed children are not intelligent. When nondisabled students see the world through a “disabled” lens, the stereotype is abolished, and they learn valuable academic and life skills. Proposed Implementation To reduce the inclusion gap of severely intellectually delayed students, implementation requires advocacy and a modified inclusion.
Changing the physical education and health curriculum to include cognitive disabilities would educate students and have them more informed. Once typical students have a better understanding, it fosters reduced anxieties. It is complex to integrate severely intellectually delayed students into a general education classroom. Thus, modified inclusion is a better avenue to facilitate integration. Typically, grade school students have resource time in which part of resource could include art or music class once a week with their disabled peers. Middle and high school students have a study period; perhaps, school administration could put a program in place for them to tutor disabled peers during that time.
In conclusion, throughout the history of education there have been beneficial reforms to improve the quality of education. However, there is always opportunity for improvement as the nation’s cultural is ever changing. One improvement would be lessening the inclusion gap for all students.
- Webb, L. D., Metha, A., & Jordan, K. F. (2013). Chapter 9. In Foundations of American education. Saddler River, NJ: Pearson.
- Nieto, S. (2002). Language, Culture, and Teaching : Critical Perspectives for a New Century. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
- Pugach, M. and Seidl, B., 1996. Deconstructing The Diversity – Disability Connection. Contemporary Education, 68(1), pp.5-8.
- The Century Foundation. 2019. The Benefits Of Socioeconomically And Racially Integrated Schools And Classrooms. [online] Available at: <https://tcf.org/content/facts/the-benefits-of-socioeconomically-and-racially-integrated-schools-and-classrooms/> [Accessed 1 April 2020].
- Gorski, V., 2020. Positive & Negative Aspects Of Diversity In The Classroom | Synonym. [online] Classroom.synonym.com. Available at: <https://classroom.synonym.com/positive-negative-aspects-diversity-classroom-7978159.html> [Accessed 1 April 2020].