Inclusive education


Lisa Tolentino is a doctoral student pursuing a Media Arts and Sciences PhD through the School of Arts, Media and Engineering (AME) at Arizona State University. She works in the Embodied and Mediated Learning Group, working closely with high school special education teachers, designers, artists and researchers to develop digitally mediated environments to support social interaction, exploration, community and creativity in learning for students with autism.

I believe the key to activating the lives of students with disabilities is not about changing who they are; rather, it is in changing how we listen to them. So let’s begin with a short listening exercise. If you are at our near a kitchen, perform the following steps before reading the blog. If not, feel free to skip ahead.

An Exercise in Listening: 5 steps in 15 minutes.

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Cynthia Mruczek Cynthia has a passion for teaching and working with school leaders and teachers as they address issues of equity in schools. As the Assistant Director of NIUSI-LeadScape, she works closely with principals and teachers to engage in professional learning that leads to making schools inclusive of all students. Cynthia worked as a teacher in elementary and middle schools in Phoenix for thirteen years before deciding to continue her learning at Arizona State University. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Educational Leadership and Policy.

I stumbled upon an amazing opportunity a few months ago. One that I’m sure many teachers wish would present itself at some point after their career in the classroom is over. I was sitting in the waiting room of my doctor’s office when a young woman approached me slowly and said, “Excuse me, but is your name Ms. M?” I was startled at first, mainly because in my current position at the Equity Alliance, Ms. M isn’t typically how I’m addressed. As soon as I made eye contact with this young woman, I recognized the fifth grader in her. Granted, she looked very different, but her eyes were the same. I responded, “Yes, I’m Ms. M. Oh my goodness. I’m so sorry, but I can’t remember your name. I know it starts with a C!” (I also remembered that she was a fantastic writer. Those of you who are teachers may be familiar with the strange phenomenon where you remember weird bits of detail about past students.) She smiled and reminded me that her name is Carolynn. Carolynn had been a student in my fifth grade classroom in 2001 (a more significant detail that I’ll share later.) We talked a few more minutes and exchanged phone numbers, as well as a promise of getting together for coffee in the next few weeks. Later, I marveled at the fact that 1) I remembered her, 2) SHE remembered ME, and 3) perhaps most importantly, I’d get the opportunity to sit with a former student and talk about her life then and now. This conversation solidified for me what being “culturally responsive” is all about. Read more

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Dr. Lisa Dieker is a Professor and Lockheed Martin Eminent Scholar at the University of Central Florida. She received her undergraduate and master’s degree from Eastern Illinois University and her Ph.D. from the University of Illinois. Her primary area of research focuses on collaboration between general and special education at the secondary level with a specific interest in the unique opportunities that exist in urban schools in the areas of mathematics and science. She also has a passion for how technology and specifically virtual classrooms can be used to impact teacher preparation As the Lockheed MartinEminent Scholar, she works collaboratively with outstanding UCF faculty in mathematics and science to Direct the Lockheed Martin/UCF Mathematics and Science Academy. Dr. Dieker is also the coordinator of the Ph.D. program in special education.  This program, during her tenure and in collaboration with her colleagues in special education, has graduated 50 new scholars.  Twelve are students with disabilities and twenty come from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. She has published numerous articles focused on interdisciplinary collaboration. She is sought out regularly to provide national and international keynote addresses. She serves in numerous leadership roles including serving on the board of the Council for Exceptional Education Teacher Education Division where she was selected by the Council for Exceptional Children as the Child Advocate Network (CAN) coordinator of the year.  She also has been the editor and associate editor for two international journals and is currently the Associate Editor of Teaching Exceptional Children.

Selma Powell is a doctoral candidate at the University of Central Florida. She received her undergraduate and master’s degree from the University of South Florida. Her dissertation research focus is on developmentally appropriate use of mathematics applications for iPads in early childhood classrooms. Additionally, she is committed to advocacy for children with special needs and their families. In November of 2011, she was recognized by the Council for Exceptional Children, Division of Early Childhood, as the recipient of the J. David Sexton Doctoral Student Award for her contributions to these children and families. Selma Powell has published three articles and has presented at numerous national and state conferences. Within the university, Selma Powell has held leadership positions with the Council for Exceptional Children student chapter, as well as the Association for Doctoral Students in Exceptional Education. For the past two and a half years, she has worked as the assistant to the associate editor of Teaching Exceptional Children.

To include or not to include? That is the question every parent has to struggle with as his or her child progresses through the school; issues related to placement options for students with disabilities are challenging. This question is a complex one for parents, teachers, administrators, and even students to answer, as grade point averages become more and more important for college admissions or future career options.  Therefore, what is the least restrictive environment for all students?  That is a question that becomes even more complex as students enter middle and high school.

As an educator and a parent of a student with a disability, I (Lisa Dieker) can share that our family has had these same struggles.  Compound the parent role with what both of us (Lisa and Selma) know about secondary schools and we will share some of the reasons the struggle at the secondary level exists.  Many parents struggle with the right balance between their child participating in inclusive settings and closing gaps that might still exist for students as they progress in grade level.  In addition, parents must consider a range of service delivery options when GPAs count and there are few instances of general and special educators teaching together.  Not only are students transforming intellectually, emotionally, sexually, and socially, but teachers’ identities seem to change from foregrounding children to foregrounding discipline knowledge. In this blog, we share what we have seen that works for secondary schools that develop successful inclusive education contexts. Read more

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Keffrelyn Borwn-PhotoKeffrelyn Brown is an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin, in the department of curriculum & instruction with a primary appointment in the cultural studies in education area. Her scholarly interests focus on understanding how pre-service and in-service teachers acquire, understand and use sociocultural knowledge to address the teaching of underserved student populations. She is also interested in the educational experiences of and knowledge produced and circulated about African American (students). Her work has been published in Educational Researcher, as well as in several education handbooks and encyclopedias. Keffrelyn is an affiliate faculty member with the John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies and the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies.

In my university sociocultural foundations course I ask students—many of whom plan on becoming K-12 teachers—to list words they have heard used to talk about Black students. Every semester I consistently hear terms like: loud, lazy, gangster, troublemaker and at-risk and each time I am floored by the words shared.  Neither these terms nor their connoted meanings correspond with words or perspectives used to describe students viewed as having the potential to learn. I am also saddened by the taken-for-granted way students approach this task.  This is evident in the rapid, yet apathetic, nonchalant manner in which students come up with and offer these words.  They do not question the negative nature of the terms, nor the consistency of the terms offered.  It is not until we discuss the activity that students think about the implications this way of talking about Black K-12 students might have on their education.

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K Collins picKathleen M. Collins is an Assistant Professor of Language, Culture and Society in the College of Education at The Pennsylvania State University, University Park.  Her program of research examines the contextual factors and interactional processes that contribute to school success and school failure.  She is the author of Ability Profiling and School Failure: One Child’s Struggle to be Seen as Competent (2003, Routledge) and her work has appeared in Urban Education, Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, Learning Disabilities Quarterly, and English Journal. Her most recent research uses a multiple literacies framework to investigate the role of the arts in supporting children’s acquisition of content area literacies.

Each summer from the time I was 3 until I was 12 I spent two weeks alone with my maternal grandparents at their home in Carle Place, Long Island. For a girl growing up in western Massachusetts, Long Island was exciting. It was, after all, an island, and my grandparents lived in a close-knit Irish and Italian neighborhood where sharing talk, laughter, and home-grown produce over the backyard fence were regular occurrences. Read more

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Rueda picRobert Rueda is a professor in the area of Psychology in Education at the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California. His research has centered on the sociocultural basis of motivation, learning, and instruction, with a focus on reading and literacy in English learners, and students in at-risk conditions, and he teaches courses in learning and motivation.  He recently served as a panel member on the National Academy of Science Report on the Overrepresentation of Minority Students in Special Education, and also served as a member of the National Literacy Panel (SRI International and Center for Applied Linguistics) looking at issues in early reading with English language learners.

When I was growing up, I ended up bedridden for a period of time. After endless days of watching cartoons, I was bored. Thankfully, a friend’s mother brought over a box of books which had been sitting in the attic which she had just cleaned out. I picked it up, and for the first time, was interested in reading without being required to. While I had the skill and knowledge to read, I had no reason or interest to do so.

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Forlin picChris Forlin is Professor of Special and Inclusive Education at the Hong Kong Institute of Education. Her research and publications focus on change paradigms in special education; inclusive education policy and practice; along with curricula and pedagogy for teacher education, with innovative research in working with systems and schools to establish sustainable inclusive education. She currently advises to the Hong Kong government task force on developing a New Senior Secondary School Curriculum for students with intellectual disabilities and is a consultant to the Vietnam Ministry of Education and Training on developing curricula for preparing teachers for inclusion.

When asked to blog I initially thought I would talk about teacher education for inclusion which is one of my specific areas of interest. We have been actively promoting inclusion and ‘education for all’ for nearly four decades now but has teacher education for inclusion really kept up with this change? Can we claim as teacher educators that we are meeting the needs of adequately preparing teachers for inclusion? I have taught pre-service (or pre-surface as one of my undergraduates wrote about it in her assignment – Freudian slip or a simple spelling error? – not sure which is worse!) and in-service teachers for the past 18 years so it seemed a natural topic to select. Then I read the posting on this website from May 13, 2009, when President Barack Obama delivered the commencement address to the 2009 graduates of Arizona State University (You can access the full speech via http://www.niusileadscape.org/wk/). During this speech he asked the following questions:

“Did you study education? Teach in a high-need school? Give a chance to kids we can’t afford to give up on – prepare them to compete for any job anywhere in the world?”

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lisa picLisa Tolentino is a doctoral student pursuing a Media Arts and Sciences PhD through the School of Arts, Media and Engineering (AME) at Arizona State University. She works in the Embodied and Mediated Learning Group, working closely with high school special education teachers, designers, artists and researchers to develop digitally mediated environments to support social interaction, exploration, community and creativity in learning for students with autism.


When I think back to the years when my sister and I were children, I remember a time when I could still fully relate to her. In her youth, she was a lot like me: a very shy and sensitive child who was acutely in tune with the emotions of others. We both experienced complex feelings but lacked the words to express ourselves. We empathized on-demand, giggling uncontrollably at curious coincidences or weeping quietly while adults whispered of serious matters. And we both knew when someone was talking about us.

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Joellen Killion is the deputy executive director of the National Staff Development Council. She is the author of numerous books and articles about effective professional learning, evaluating professional development, coaching, and teacher leadership.

Whose child is this?

As I walked down the hall of the bustling middle school with young people scurrying through the halls dashing from room to room to get to their next class, I heard a female adult voice rise above the din call out, “Whose child is this?” Puzzled, I turned toward the voice to see an adult standing next to a thin, perhaps 6th grade, student. The adult had a firm grip on the backpack strap that hung loosely from the young man’s back. Around the pair students flowed like water around rocks in a stream going about their business of getting to their next class.
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Carole Edelsky is a Professor of Language Arts in the Division of Curriculum and Instruction at Arizona State University. She earned her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction at the University of New Mexico in 1974. Her dissertation was the first study of children’s awareness of gender stereotypes in language use; it won the Popejoy Outstanding Dissertation Award (Outstanding Dissertation from the College of Education, Business, and Liberal Arts for 1974-1977) in 1977. Dr. Edelsky has won several additional awards for her work in education and has participated in numerous other service projects throughout her career. Dr. Edelsky’s research interests include first and second language literacy, gender and language, critical literacy, and classroom discourse. Her influence on education and research within her field of study has been and continues to be great.

Students with disabilities have a right to a high quality education, an education that goes beyond a focus on skills and instead sets its sights on loftier goals (promoting equity), more ethical dispositions (e.g., a concern for fairness), and more elusive but critical habits of mind (e.g., engaging with inquiry). All students deserve such an education, and students with disabilities are no exception. What does such an education look like? What is the teacher doing? And what is the principal doing?

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