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Inclusion Column

Inclusion Through the Lens of COVID-19

From the perspective of a world-wide pandemic, the idea of inclusion becomes more important than ever before. It is now evident that every person in the world has the potential to impact the life of every other person in the world. By taking personal responsibility and acting, not only in compliance with global health recommendations, but also with simple human compassion, we can ensure the wellbeing, happiness and safety of ourselves and others. All of us will then need to work together to help rebuild the disrupted social and economic fabric of our communities and our lives.
As I have been sitting at home, practicing isolation and physical distancing, I have had a lot of time to research and think about the opportunities that the Covid-19 experience has offered in terms of rethinking teaching and learning for all students. There have been some interesting articles that challenge us to take advantage of this break in routine to try something different - something that works for everyone and doesn’t isolate one group from another.

Parents have discovered some very positive benefits of closely observing and coaching their child’s learning at home. They have seen first hand how their child demonstrates personal strengths in subjects and skills that were previously unrecognized or unexplored - art, math, critical thinking, written expression and computer skills. These observations have been shared with the schools and the child’s course of study altered accordingly, to play upon these strengths. A much closer parent/school partnership may be one of the most positive benefits of the Distance Learning experience. The inclusion and investment of parent interest and support is proving invaluable to student success in these challenging times.

Some schools in Cleveland are considering “Mastery Learning,” in which traditional grade levels are eliminated and students learn and progress at their own pace. The annual promotion of a student from one grade to the next would be replaced with a system of “grade bands” that combine students of a few ages and grade levels in the same classroom. School district CEO Eric Gordon explained to his school board: 

“We’ve got opportunities here to really test, challenge and maybe abandon some of these time-bound structures of education that have never really conformed to what we know about good child development.” 

The Hawken School Class of 2019. The private school in Cleveland, Ohio, was the birthplace of the Mastery Transcript Consortium, which reimagines the high school transcript without letter grades or GPAs. The Cleveland Metropolitan School District is now considering an expansion of its mastery schools initiative for the 2020-21 school year. (Facebook)

Other higher learning institutions are taking this opportunity to explore a more progressive “student-owned” curriculum, based on allowing students to delve deeper into areas of personal interest. Subject standards would still be met, but the student would have more choice in terms of where they work, how they demonstrate their learning, and the pace at which they chose to work. 

UNESCO’s list of resources for use during Distance Learning also includes Learning Platforms for personalized learning based on personal progress and assessment. Blended Learning combines effective teaching and feedback, with online programming and support tailored to every student.

Let’s hope that we can retain the best of what we have learned during this experience and that we take steps forward to truly become an educational community prepared to maximize the potential of every student. To become truly inclusive we need to be bold! Let’s go for it!

Laurie Behan, 
Director of Support Services, ASFM