Why are inclusive classrooms so important, especially for language learning? How can you create a learning environment where inclusiveness gives every student opportunities to succeed?
The practice or policy of providing equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized, such as those who have physical or mental disabilities and members of other minority groups.
What does inclusivity mean in education?
Discussion around “inclusive classroom” techniques used to be limited to how teachers could make their classrooms accessible. For example, many solutions focused only on how to assist and include students with disabilities. More and more, inclusion in the classroom means creating an environment where everyone can learn:
- Students from different economic backgrounds
- Students with different abilities (whether they need special accommodations or whether they need more challenging exercises than their other peers)
- Students from different cultural backgrounds and learning experiences
You can help students feel successful by meeting them where they are in an adaptive classroom. The first step is to become aware of your students’ challenges and barriers to learning. Then, identify solutions that help create a more inclusive classroom.
Understand students’ motivations and challenges, and focus on solutions that build communication and trust. Creating safety and connection in a classroom gives everyone a better learning experience. This is especially true for students learning another language (L2 learners).
What are the impacts of a successful inclusive classroom?
Often, all students in inclusive classrooms benefit from adaptive learning solutions. For example, captions help students who are hard of hearing, but they also help students without these challenges. Successful inclusive educational strategies like these give every student a chance to learn and feel successful. They do this without making students feel left out or disrupting the rest of the class.
Inclusive classroom settings also promote collaboration and connection. Effective connection and community building will include a students’ cultural backgrounds and experiences. This way, students can learn about each other while expanding their view of the world. A multicultural classroom also makes it easier for natural and informal learning to happen. For example, a student sharing something about their culture feels seen and heard by the class. In a language learning environment, they might feel more engaged because the topic is something they are already familiar with. Lastly, other students in the class will learn something important about their peers.
Inclusive classrooms help students with learning anxiety. For example, when students have multiple opportunities to be successful at different exercises, they feel more confident with the learning process. Reducing barriers to learning helps students feel more competent (for example, repeating a video multiple times to help students build on what they know, or working with a subject they are already interested in).
5 tips to make your classroom more inclusive
1. Interesting is accessible
Learning is hard, especially when it’s language learning. Choose topics your students are interested in already. Create activities from a clip from their favorite show, or choose a movie with a lot of action or emotion. Do your students have a favorite TikTok clip? Make language learning exciting and increase motivation by making a fun exercise using captions.
2. Captions increase learning for everyone
Captions help students who are deaf or hard of hearing, but they also help other students with comprehension and retention. Students who need more time to understand material in class often benefit from captions and repetition of content.
3. Adaptive handouts make learning possible at every level.
Create different versions of handouts for your students. You can also make activities that encourage peer-to-peer teaching and learning. Turn them into fun games – have students work in teams to find the correct answers together.
4. Anticipatory/preparatory sets make inclusive learning easy.
Help students love their level. Students feel excited and included when they can find success regardless of how advanced they are. At the same time, preparatory questions help students learn better since they are building on what they already know.
5. Empathy helps with language immersion.
Use media to encourage immersive learning. When the speaker conveys emotion, students can mimic body language, pacing and tone more effectively. Asking students to read aloud with a movie clip is engaging and helps with better language acquisition.
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