An analysis of how my teaching and learning approaches address the equality and diversity of my learners, and underpins and promotes an inclusive learning environment. My commitment to equality and diversity is demonstrated by my inclusive teaching practice. I am conscious that all students, no matter their age, race, background, class or ability, are encouraged to achieve their full potential in a safe learning environment. Petty (1998:69) states: ‘All students must feel that they are positively and equally valued and accepted, and that their efforts to learn are recognised, and judged without bias. ’
Communication First and foremost I need to have an understanding of my learner. Each student has an initial assessment to fill out during the first lesson. This form of communication is important in establishing any needs that may affect their learning, whether it be a physical requirement such as a wheelchair user needing access to a lift; a religious obligation, such as needing to pray during the lesson; or a student with dyslexia requiring worksheets to be printed onto coloured paper. There may be other issues affecting attendance or punctuality that I need to be aware of such as family issues, bereavement, etc.
Knowing this will affect the way I consider and plan my lessons, ensuring everyone has fair treatment and equal access to learning. During the class I will ask questions to ensure all students have access to the same resources. For example, can everyone see the text on the white board? Is everyone able to hear what I am saying? I would check my handouts are clearly written, in simple font and plain language with images that reflect the broad spectrum of society. Physical needs Whatever their needs, I make sure that I treat each individual with the same care and respect.
Particularly in my Art for 65+ class I need to be aware of a few students with limited eyesight or who may be slightly hard of hearing. I can encourage them to sit at the front of the class for the slide show, I can print out the worksheets in a larger font or repeat anything they have not heard. In some more extreme cases I can request an assistive listening device from the college. I would always ask a student if they required this extra support if I noticed they were struggling. It’s important to ask students during the lesson if there is anything they haven’t heard or understood.
They can speak to me as I circulate the classroom if they want to talk in person, or in confidence at the end of the lesson. With a wheelchair user I would need to make sure they can reach the classroom via the lift, have access to all the same art materials as everyone else – even if this means moving everything into lower cupboards. I would make sure they could also reach the sink and lower their easel. It would also be important to consider the layout of the classroom to allow for movement of the wheelchair. Resources
I try to recognise and use all opportunities to embed awareness of equality and diversity in my students. This is particularly important living in a country where there is a diverse mix of cultures; we can use this as an opportunity to celebrate this mix. I always try to make sure my resources include artists from other countries and cultures. When embarking on a mask project we looked at masks from Africa and South America for inspiration. In my Family Learning sessions we create arts and crafts relating to various different cultural celebrations throughout the world.
In December we not only looked at Christmas but created a piece of artwork for Divali, a candelabrum for Hanukah and next week we are making dragon puppets for Chinese New Year. As a teacher I would always resist and challenge stereotypical thinking and question my students to do the same. Brookfield suggests acting as a facilitator to: “…ensure that people understand that alternative interpretations of the world are possible”(1995:81) I specifically try to promote gender neutral teaching, I use examples of female artists as well as male in all my worksheets. This is often a challenge when looking at art in a historical context!
Teaching methods I provide equal learning opportunities for each individual by bridging the differences and I tailor my lessons to meet the needs of all my learners. Everyone learns in a different way. According to Reece and Walker (2003: 178) “Students all have styles of learning which they prefer and so use their own techniques to study” I make my lessons fully inclusive by using various different learning styles in the classroom. Some examples would be: Visual – using a PowerPoint slide show / video from YouTube or practical demonstration. Aural – by listening and talking to their peers about their work.
Kinesthetic – showing their involvement with the practical work. I also take into account the Honey & Mumford (1992) theory that learners are a mixture of 4 styles, activist, theorist, pragmatist and reflector. I might encourage my students to read around a new topic before they tackle it. This can be achieved by asking students’ to read about Impressionist painting in preparation for the following weeks lesson – conveying light and reflection within a landscape. Or I may ask them to use the crosshatching technique learnt in todays lesson to produce another drawing at home using the same process.
Fair assessment Each student will come across their own difficulties within their work, some may find it hard to convey tone, others perspective and another composition. Therefore to provide an inclusive lesson it is vital for me to give each student 1:1 time in every lesson to give each individual feedback. I work my way around the classroom and talk to each student in turn about the practical work they are doing, they can ask me for advice, I can demonstrate a technique or go over something they have not yet grasped.
It is important to ensure that each student is working at the correct level for his or her ability, each student is being challenged but not left behind and that all activities are pitched correctly. Each learner will have different interests that may reflect their enthusiasm for a particular topic. Some people may require encouragement, others may have confidence in what they are doing and be more independent. By varying the topics I am giving every student an opportunity to shine. I also encourage a variety of materials.
I urge everyone to experiment with charcoal, pencil, acrylic, watercolour, oil and chalk pastels. They can also try out different ways of working to see which is most comfortable for them, i. e. at a standing easel, with paper taped to a wall, working on the floor (pending space and mobility) or desk easel; onto a variety of supports such as paper, canvas, sketchbook or board. This encourages students to be open to new ideas, to experiment, and understand there is no right or wrong way to create art. I believe this promotes fair assessment as everyone is open to the same opportunities. Environment
I like to promote a sense of belonging and identity by encouraging the students to make use of the college facilities that are available to them, such as advice and assistance should they need it. I explain to them how to access resources such as the computers in the iClick centre and the library. I encourage my students to visit local exhibitions or for them to have an exhibition of their own work in a public building or cafe. Even recommending places where they can purchase art materials is giving them knowledge of the local area, making them feel like a part of the community and therefore promotes a sense of belonging.
In my work within the Family Learning department the parents are included in the craft session. This promotes parental involvement in a child’s learning which recent research (U. S. News University Directory, 2014) has proven to better their child’s “attendance, grades, and even self-esteem. Numerous studies show that as parents become involved in school, children achieve more – regardless of socioeconomic status, parent’s education level, or ethnic or racial background” Having a parent involved in the learning process can really help to encourage and address the learner’s needs.
The parent can continue the learning at home, understand their child’s progress, communicate with the teacher how well their child responds to certain tasks, as well as being of general support and acting as a role model in their child’s educational journey. I hope that by managing an inclusive learning environment in my classroom will ensure all my students have equal opportunity to progress and further their learning experience regardless of their gender, race, religion, background and ability.