Forcing inclusion in classrooms isn't always best for students, TRU researcher says
‘One-size doesn’t fit all’ when it comes to education
A researcher from Thompson Rivers University says that while inclusive education is important, it might not work for all students, all the time.
"I've been a classroom teacher and I know what the realities are," said Kim Calder Stegemann, associate professor of education and social work at TRU.
Her recently published book, Inclusive Education: Stories of Success and Hope in a Canadian Context, uses case studies of situations where students have needed an alternative setting or approach to education, rather than forcing them to be included in all general classroom activities.
"We're highlighting all kinds of different placements for children, teens and young adults so that they can get the most out of the experience. They can grow to their best potential and we just feel that one size doesn't fit all," she said.
Calder Stegemann says that the variety of cognitive and physical needs students have means alternative methods of education need to be available for students who can't manage with general classroom studies.
During her interview with Daybreak Kamloops, she cited the case of Leon, a five-year-old boy on the autism spectrum who was entering kindergarten.
"It was just too stimulating for him," Calder Stegemann said.
The school gave Leon the chance to do a gradual entry, where he came in for an hour a day in the beginning and worked his way up to being able to manage in the classroom all day.
General education setting not for everyone
"[Sometimes] it's a real process to finesse what's the best thing for every child," she added.
She found people around her saying that if educators can't find a way to include all students in all activities, they were doing something wrong. She doesn't agree with that sentiment.
"I think in general most teachers are willing to bend over backwards to make it work for kids, but we just know that sometimes sitting in a general education classroom isn't the best thing," Calder Stegemann said.
The book was written primarily for educators and leaders in schools, but she says parents who have children with any kind of special need will benefit from the information.
"We really want to provide parents and students with choice," she said. "Inclusive education is process, not a place."