Three steps to an inclusive classroom in the IB Diploma

As educators we know that each student has a unique profile of strengths and needs and will approach learning in a diverse range of ways.

In its broadest sense, inclusion is about improving the participation and outcomes for all students by looking at school based processes including pedagogy, assessment, curriculum alongside additional support and physical resources.

Despite the notion of inclusion being incredibly broad each classroom teacher has responsibility to develop a culture within their classroom too build on the strengths and needs to each student in creative ways.

1. Affirming identity and building self-esteem of students

A key foundation is understanding the diversity of students and learning needs that exists in your classroom. In some schools you will know students from previous classes but in many schools you begin the Diploma Programme which a fresh group of students you know very little about.

You can survey students in their first few lessons to get to know them slightly better. Some sample questions below can help you understand something more in-depth about your students.

  1. What types of activities do students feel support their learning the most or frustrate them? Some students like independent work whilst others struggle to maintain focus, others prefer mini-lectures and to ask questions whilst other prefer to unpack ideas in collaborative groups.
  2. What nationality to they feel a connection with? In teaching Economics I have been caught in the trap where you assume the student with Australian passport know Australia intimately but of course they may have not visited for years or be a true 3rd culture child.
  3. Which languages do they feel comfortable or fluent in? This can help with the grouping students at times or to find opportunities to read, research or speak in their mother tongue language if this helps to better access knowledge and case studies.
  4. What other subjects are they doing in the IB? this can help you find connections with similar subjects. eg Psychology or Economics and understand if student might have higher coursework loads.

By knowing more about your students and attempting to individualise your approach you will slowly build students self-esteem. They will be able to see you are acknowledging them as a unique student.

In most schools you will be able to hunt down some previous assessment data of your students. This could include ALIS predictive data from CEM, which provides a breakdown of vocabulary and word fluency, mathematics, and non verbal ability. This can help you begin to spot differences in your classroom.

2 Valuing prior knowledge and innovative pedagogy

Students begin each lesson and topic with a different level of prior knowledge. They may have read ahead in the textbook, studied your subject in previous years or be completely new to the subject. In some subjects you can move too quickly and leave others behind and they quickly flounder and lose confidence.

Graham Nuthall in his book ‘The Hidden Life of Learners‘ summarises that the crux of student success is an ability to develop and build on existing knowledge through a range of activities that weave in new ideas. For teachers to be effective we need to creative ways of working with differences in prior knowledge and understanding.

In my experience you need to begin slowly with the assumption that every students should at least revisit and recap the basic concepts. You can leverage technology so that students can complete a quiz or EdPuzzle quickly activate prior knowledge and simultaneously provide other students with more time to work through resources to become familiar.

Being innovative with pedagogy and particular the use of technology can help provide a differentiated approach to support each learner. Using well designed groups, research grids or challenges can

3.Scaffolding and designing assessments

Although the majority final assessments in the IB Diploma programme are written and exam based the scope of the two year course provides a runway to scaffold and develop students skills. Providing multiple opportunities for deliberate practice and feedback is a crucial way to supporting students.

Some ideas below can help support students as they develop skills

  • Provide annotated exemplars so students can visualise how to they can demonstrate understanding
  • Provide terminology lists in assessments to students can apply discipline specific concepts
  • Share sentence starters to assist students write in more analytical or evaluative ways.
  • Allow student bring ‘cheat sheets’ into assessments where they can list our case study notes
  • ‘Chunk’ long tasks into smaller questions
  • Provide specific and detailed checklists before assessments to support revision.
  • Provide generous time limits to begin this but gradually decrease these towards the end of the choice

In final assessments, many students can apply for accommodations based on specific learning needs. These could include extra time, being able to type their responses or a scribe. As soon as you as a classroom teacher knows about these students can utilise and practice these skills in class.

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