Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

The Three Block Model of Universal Design for Learning (UDL): Engaging Students in Inclusive Education

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

The Three Block Model of Universal Design for Learning (UDL): Engaging Students in Inclusive Education

Article excerpt

Introduction

Inclusive Education (Inclusion)

Inclusive education, or inclusion, has been globally recognized as a goal for educational systems around the world (Curcic, 2009; Katz, 2012b). Inclusion can be divided into two sub-types; academic inclusion, defined by full and equal participation in interaction with typical peers in academic activities and curriculum within a regular classroom (Katz, 2012a), and social inclusion, defined by the opportunity to interact with peers in a regular classroom, and having a sense of belonging and acceptance within the learning community (Koster, Nakken, Pijl, & van Houten, 2009; Specht & Young, 2010). Social inclusion is vital to student development, because social and emotional well-being is directly related to resiliency, citizenship, and mental health (Wotherspoon, 2002; Zins & Elias, 2006), and increases academic motivation and aspirations, and achievement (Brock, Nishida, Chiong, Grimm, & Rimm-Kaufamn, 2008; Zins, Bloodworth, Weissberg, & Walberg, 2004). Inclusion, however, is not just about social and emotional well-being, or even social justice. Students come to school to learn - all students, including those with disabilities. Inclusive education must set high standards for all students, and support students to achieve them.

Comparisons of the literacy and numeracy skills, standardized tests, college entrance, and other academic scores of typical and gifted students in classrooms with and without students with disabilities are identical, including classrooms with students demonstrating significant behavioral challenges (Bru, 2009; Cole, Waldron, & Majd, 2004; Crisman, 2008; Kalambouka, Farrell, Dyson, & Kaplan, 2007; Timmons & Wagner, 2008). This research has been replicated over decades and across countries (Curcic, 2009). It is now clear that the presence of students with disabilities does not negatively impact the learning of other students. In fact, research shows that typical students in classrooms that include students with disabilities develop stronger communication and leadership skills, have more positive attitudes toward diversity, and may also demonstrate superior reading and math skills to those in classrooms that do not include students with disabilities (Bunch & Valeo, 2004; Cole & Waldron, 2002; Kalambouka, Farrell, Dyson, & Kaplan, 2007).

Globally, students with disabilities demonstrate improved academic outcomes, including literacy, numeracy, general knowledge, and higher order thinking when placed in inclusive settings as compared to peers matched for level of disability in segregated classrooms (Ruijs & Peetsma, 2009). Students with disabilities also outperformed their peers in segregated classrooms in adaptive/life skills, vocational and academic competence (Kurth & Mastergeorge, 2010; Myklebust, 2006). Clearly, inclusive education benefits students with and without disabilities, both socially and academically. Despite this, many students with disabilities in Canada continue to be excluded and placed in segregated classrooms (Canadian Council on Learning, 2007).

Inclusive education means just that - an educational system that creates learning communities inclusive of all students. Exploration of student engagement and research pointing to high levels of disengagement, particularly in secondary school, have raised concerns about educational systems and pedagogies that do not create social and academic engagement and inclusion for diverse learners (Dunleavy & Milton, 2008). According to Willms, Friesen, & Milton (2009):

Across Canada, many students have told CEA (Canadian Education Association) that classrooms and learning as they are currently organized are not working. They are not working for students who can keep up with the pace set by the lectures, textbooks and tests, and they are not working for those who cannot (p.5).

Perhaps as a result, the field of inclusive education is now focusing on the practical application of inclusive pedagogy- that is, what are the best instructional paradigms to facilitate social and academic inclusion and engagement for ALL students? …

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