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The Benefits of Inclusive Classrooms for All Students


Teachers and administrators in special education are increasingly discussing inclusive classrooms. Federal legislation mandates that schools integrate special needs students with general education students as much as possible, but in the larger context of teaching special education students, cultural inclusion is expanding those original ideas about integration.

Those pursuing an online Master of Education in Special Education can expect to study how inclusion benefits special needs students. Teachers who practice cultural inclusion emphasize each student’s unique background, learning style, experiences and preconceptions. This type of inclusive classroom benefits both special education students and general education students.

What Is Cultural Inclusion?

Each student brings his or her own preconceptions, cultural identity, memories and personal learning style to class. When classrooms are inclusive, the merging of personal and cultural experiences and interpretations enriches the overall learning climate. It is important for teachers to remember that students do not share the same experiences and that they all think differently; it is these differences that make a classroom inclusive.

Creating Teachable Moments From Tension

When students come from different cultural backgrounds, they are bound to occasionally disagree. Tension may arise when discussion shifts to sensitive subject matter or even simply when it is time for a class-wide activity. If a teacher is prepared for these moments, he or she can encourage reconnection between disagreeing students as well as lead discussions about diversity. This is beneficial for both general education students and special needs students because the focus is developing a deeper understanding between students.

Using Universal Design Principles in the Classroom

Cultural inclusivity benefits from the use of “universal design principles” that help each student feel both comfortable and engaged. “Universal design” refers to a method of designing classrooms and lesson plans that connect with a wide range of learners; for example, providing lessons orally as well as visually allows different types of learners to understand the same material. This is especially important when teaching special education students because it ensures that students with learning disabilities do not fall behind the rest of the class.

Cultural Inclusivity Needs Ground Rules

The establishment of ground rules in the classroom is an opportunity for teachers to set non-negotiable boundaries. These ground rules should foster not only respect for the teacher, but also for other students. Furthermore, ground rules can promote a physically and emotionally safe learning environment, and they should chart a clear approach to accountability if a student violates a rule. Because students all bring their own personal experiences and preconceptions into the classroom, it is important that everyone understands unacceptable behavior. Setting ground rules is especially beneficial for special education students, who may not understand that certain behavior is inappropriate. Likewise, it is important to let general education students know that they cannot mistreat their peers with learning disabilities.

Special education teachers have the opportunity to transform the lives of students with disabilities; one of the most transformative approaches at teachers’ disposal is the inclusive classroom. By embracing this concept, teachers gain a deeper and more holistic understanding of each student.

Learn more about Lamar University’s Master of Education in Special Education online.


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The Teachers College Inclusive Classrooms Project


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