Inclusion is a term which embraces every ideology, perspective, and opinion that society offers at every level. When we use this option in the classroom, then teachers and administrators are no longer separating students based on their educational requirements, learning potential, or physical disabilities. Instead of having special education, you have inclusive education.
An inclusion classroom allows a student with a learning or physical disability to learn alongside their peers who do not face similar challenges. It provides a general education to everyone regardless of who they are, if there is an IEP in place, or there are specific challenges that must be addressed as an accommodation. Establishing a classroom like this can vary in complexity because of the individual needs which are present, but a positive attitude and informed approach can help everyone overcome the obstacles which can present themselves.
The inclusion classroom pros and cons attempt to point out that it is the diversity of humanity which makes us stronger and adds to our creativity. If there isn’t a diverse classroom when the world is that way, then it can reduce a child’s overall learning potential.
List of the Pros of an Inclusion Classroom
1. It is a way for all students to form friendships.
Because there are so many financial incentives tied to the educational progress of students, many districts segregate their students into specific quadrants so that kids are groups based on their abilities, special needs, learning disabilities, and physical challenges. Although this seems like a good idea, it teaches kids that the formation of echo chambers is normal. It suggests that the only people who can or should be your friend are those who look, act, and think just like you do.
An inclusion classroom changes this dynamic because it allows students to be together. That means there is an increase in social initiation, more relationships that form, and better networks within the school and throughout the community with families to ensure everyone can learn to their full potential.
2. Students in an inclusion classroom meet their IEP goals better.
If you place a bunch of students who all have challenging IEPs in the same room, then it becomes a challenge for teachers and support staff to ensure that the goals of that plan are met consistently. Complex behaviors are often on display in the special education classrooms which districts set aside for students when they need an adaptive curriculum, making it a struggle to separate kids from situations since there can be multiple triggers that occur simultaneously.
When there is an inclusion classroom available, then there is a general increase in achievement in the IEP goals of each student. This advantage occurs because there is better access to the general curriculum and the presence of role models that can help kids to intuitively see and practice new social and behavioral skills.
3. It provides higher expectations for all of the students.
Kids will usually perform up to the standards and goals that you set for them. When children receive separation into special classrooms based on their ability to learn or interact with others, then it can feel like a negative outcome. They can see themselves as being “bad” while everyone else becomes “good” since they didn’t get separated. By offering an inclusion classroom to work on this dynamic, there are higher expectations set for each child. This process increases the potential for learning while encouraging leadership and problem resolution skills.
4. Inclusion classrooms increase staff collaboration.
When school districts take the segregated approach for their special education students, then it creates a divide between the teachers with the “normal” kids and those with the “unique” ones. It discourages collaboration within the administrative body of the school because staff members must focus on their specialized assignments. Because an inclusion classroom brings everyone together, there is a significant boost in collaboration because everyone can work toward the same goals for their students instead of different ones.
5. This structure encourages more parent participation.
Parents are always the first line of defense when there are unique educational needs for a student that a school must meet. Their communication to the teachers, support staff, and administrators allows for an educational plan to develop that can further the learning opportunities for each child. This process integrates the families into their community if they have a special education student in their home instead of separating them from it because their needs are met by greater resources being available for anyone.
6. The only negatives tend to come from mismanagement of the system.
According to Kids Together, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit agency in the United States, there is not any research which shows that there are negative effects that occur when an inclusion classroom design is appropriate for the situation, school, and community. There must be the necessary supports and services in place to allow every student a chance to actively participate in the learning process. It is this structure which makes it easier to achieve their IEP goals.
Research which dates back as far as 1994 suggests that students with special needs who receive their education in regular classes do better socially and academically than comparable students who receive non-inclusive settings.
List of the Cons of an Inclusion Classroom
1. It forces students into a cookie-cutter model of learning.
An inclusion classroom works when there are enough resources available for teachers and staff to provide individualized learning processes for each student. The reality of modern-day funding for school districts is that if you place all kids into the same classroom settings, then the resources dedicated to “special education” go somewhere else. That means there will be times when some children are unable to mentally access the curriculum a teacher offers because they are forced into a cookie-cutter teaching approach.
Without individualization, an inclusion classroom will struggle to find success. That means there must be a focus on accommodation that works for everyone.
2. This structure can disrupt the learning environment for other students.
Kids with special needs often have advanced triggers which can lead to challenging behaviors and actions in the classroom. When they cause a disruption, then it makes it more difficult for the other students to stay focused on the curriculum. If there are multiple interruptions every day, then their learning processes are slowed despite the emphasis on diversity within the school environment.
That means teachers must move more slowly through the information to ensure that every student can stay caught up with the curriculum. If a student is highly capable of pursuing work that is more challenging, then they must be held back or separated from the classroom to accomplish those goals – which limits diversity in the opposite direction.
3. Some physical disabilities require a special classroom configuration.
No one is denying the fact that diversity can make us better as a human race. When we see life through a different perspective, then it becomes possible to increase our knowledge and deepen our empathy for one another. There are some students, even if their only issue is a specific learning disability like a processing disorder, who could be severely affected by an inclusion classroom to the point where they are unable to stay caught up despite the presence of accommodations.
When this situation is present in the classroom or school district, then the only outcome which works is a specialized spot where their current educational needs can receive the attention it deserves.
4. This process cannot be rushed if it is to be successful.
Co-teaching environments can be beneficial to students in an inclusion classroom because it solves the problem of individualization. The only problem is that most school districts rush to put together their inclusion processes so that they can meet a specific administrative goal, such as the presence of a specific percentage of inclusion for grant rewards or other monetary benefits.
Students who are used to receiving a separate educational resource in a dedicated classroom can struggle to adapt to the general learning environments that typically fall outside of the need of an IEP. They must receive a slow introduction to the changes about to occur so that they can be ready to meet the next challenges.
5. It can encourage some students to increase their acting out behaviors.
Most kids want to find a way to feel “normal” with their peers. That means an identified disability or learning disorder becomes a weakness, which can open the doors to teasing and bullying. An inclusion classroom can provide many benefits, but it can also cause more behaviors to occur because kids who have a disability tend to do whatever they can to hide this problem.
One of the easiest ways to draw attention away from their learning struggles is to act out in the classroom. If something seems too difficult to manage, then a disruption of the class can settle the situation. That means students who would normally be in a separate room can experience significant anxiety levels because of a forced transition toward inclusion.
6. Students with special needs can often find themselves in a minor classroom role.
Inclusion classrooms work when every student receives equal, individualized learning opportunities to further their education. Because there are 1-3 students in each class who might struggle with a disability or disorder, it is not unusual for them to be relegated to a minor role in the class community. Even the teachers who co-lead these situations can find themselves on the outside looking in as they attempt to provide the necessary accommodations that can help a student succeed.
7. It can lead to more absences in the student population.
“In looking at a nationally representative sample of students,” notes Education Week in a 2016 piece, “researchers have found that the young children who shared a classroom with pupils who have behavioral and emotional disabilities and more absences, lower reading scores, and lower math scores.” The research also notes that kids in kindergarten or first grade who were in an inclusion classroom were more likely to act out in class and have problems with their social skills.
Inclusion can boost the math scores of students with learning or emotional disabilities without placing an academic drag on other kids, but this benefit occurs for those who are in the same grade – not necessarily in the same classroom.
8. The disadvantages of inclusion classrooms impact minority students the most.
Jason Fletcher, a professor of public affairs at the University of Wisconsin, looked at the spillover effects of an inclusion classroom on students without a disability. He discovered that students who came from a Hispanic or African-American household in low-income schools had profound struggles with their reading under this structure. The score gaps between white students and minorities were also larger in the classrooms with students who had behavioral or emotional disabilities than they were in areas where those with special needs were given an alternative learning environment.
9. It forces the teachers to have a practical understanding of each disability.
Stacey Campbell is a general education kindergarten teacher in Washington, D.C. Education Week spoke to her in 2016 about the pros and cons of inclusion classrooms and her feedback was straightforward. “A lot of times the specialists who come in are only worried about that one child, but as a general education teacher, I need to worry about that child and every other student,” she said. “I saw my other students quickly pick up or emulate the disruptive behaviors. If they got hit, they were going to hit back.”
Without teacher preparation in special education programs and a practical understanding of what each disability requires as a response, it is an almost impossible task for an inclusion classroom to be a safe environment for all learning needs because there is a lack of knowledge in the processes.
Verdict on the Inclusion Classroom Pros and Cons
An inclusion classroom is one of many approaches that educators can use to help students with a disability receive an appropriate and free public school education in the United States. Whether the issues involve a learning disorder, a physical disability, or emotional and mental challenges, this tool is a way that helps everyone have access to more paths that can lead toward success.
Students can get lost in large classrooms, especially if they already struggle with learning challenges. Most kids who struggle in the traditional school settings require more structure to their day, which is something that is not always possible. If there is no collaboration available in the curriculum, then most of the benefits disappear.
The pros and cons of an inclusion classroom suggest that this tool is useful in some situations, but it depends on the school environment, family involvement, and other unique factors which can only receive evaluation at the local level.
About the Author of this Article
Crystal Ayres is a seasoned writer, who has been serving as our editor-in-chief for the last five years. She is a proud veteran, wife and mother. Vittana's goal is to publish high quality content on some of the biggest issues that our world faces. If you would like to contact Crystal, then go here to send her a message.