Today, I learned something new about inclusive education. Which is surprising, because I thought I pretty much had all my bases covered when it came to knowing inclusion! I'm actually a little surprised that I hadn't thought of it earlier. Honestly, I really hadn't thought about it at all. Until now.
For the past 20 years, I have devoted the majority of my time and energy towards providing inclusive educational opportunities for students. While I thought I had all students in mind, I have to admit, most of my attention has been directed towards the elementary and middle school grades.
So, just to backtrack a bit, lately I've been up to my eyeballs in PowerPoint templates, fonts, and font sizes. I've been busy trying to prepare slides for an upcoming presentation on inclusive education. This presentation has to be a little more "put together" than the ones I've done in the past because this time I will be presenting (alongside some of my awesome inclusion colleagues) at the SXSWedu conference in Austin, TX. Super exciting!
Anyway, my slides were a little on the lackluster side and I decided to call for help. I reached out to educator, author, and professional speaker, Anne Beninghof. I was lucky enough to have met Anne when she was a guest on The Inclusive Class Podcast several years ago.
Anne embraces the belief that education needs to be engaging, motivating and purposeful. She focuses on teaching and including students with diverse needs in the classroom. Anne is also a very successful teaching consultant and coach. She provides professional development for educators all over the world.
Even more exciting, Anne has written an excellent guide on how to give "rich and robust" professional training called, Caffeinated Learning. So, given Anne's vast experience in educating all types and ages of learners, I asked for her help with putting together my presenation! After 30 minutes of speaking with Anne, I learned the general ins and outs of giving presentations to adult learners. I had also just learned something new about inclusive education! I realized that inclusive education is not just for young students, middle school students and high school students. Inclusive education is for older learners as well - such as college students and adults!
Learning is a process that never ends, so why do we stop providing inclusive, engaging, interactive lessons once students hit adulthood? That is no more apparant than in our post-secondary schools, extended learning classes, and professional development workshops where adults are expected to sit and listen to a lecture for hours at a time (which I have also been guilty of doing). It is also glaringly obvious when inclusive post-secondary options for students with disabilities are almost non-existent in the United States (that's a whole other blog post)!
Student-centered instruction, differentiated curriculum, and interactive lessons does and
should not end when our students enter high school, college or even in adulthood. If our learning is lifelong, then good quality teaching needs to be lifelong as well. So, with the help of Anne, I discovered what most people won't tell you about inclusive education (or, like me, maybe they just haven't realized it yet):
1. Inclusive education is for life!! It is for high school students, college students and adults. Inclusive education is a well-researched practice that benefits all learners, of all ages. Inclusive education can and should be provided at all levels of our education system and beyond.
2. Adult learners require the same type of interactive and engaging lessons that we provide our younger students. Lessons need to be meaningful and appropriate so concepts are retained.
3. Adults benefit from using technology, manipulatives, and hands-on experiences to comprehend new material. They need to be able to work with new information in order to understand it. They need to write it down, talk about it, and apply it.
4. Learning accommodations and modifications can be made for adult learners as well. Follow this link to read an excellent overview of the types of supports that a college can provide for their adult learners with disabilities. This overview comes from Kwantlen Polytechnic University in British Columbia, Canada.
5. Adult learners need feedback on their learning and progress, too! We all want to know if we've accomplished and achieved our goals. Big or small, it is in our nature to experience success. Click here to discover a fun way to review content with a large group of older students.
For more information on working with adult learners, check out Anne Beninghof's website and book, Caffeinated Learning. While you are doing that, I need to get back to planning for that presentation......