Curriculum Standards Critique
Bertina C. Morris
CIT-609 GR1 (51032)
Special Topics in Curriculum Design I
Nova Southeastern University
May 23, 2009
The Inclusive Classroom: Curriculum Design for All
It is crucial teachers ensure that the curriculum resonates with students and it
begins with the planning process. Teachers should give all students a variety of ways to
learn and interact in the classroom and not just lecture or deliver whole-class discussions.
Students should have opportunities to experience a wide range of lesson structures
including cooperative learning, role plays, projects, debates, games, stations or centers,
and labs. With differentiated instruction, students with and without disabilities become
more engaged, retain more, learn in a deeper way, and use higher-order thinking skills
when they have opportunities to investigate course content via different avenues. In
addition, using a variety of instructional materials will also help all students learn. A
wide range of materials is important because it offers every learner a chance to be
successful and learn in a way that suits them best. One student may be unable to
effectively interact with a certain written material, but may be able to learn concepts
easily by creating and studying a hands-on manipulative.
Virginia’s standards-based curriculum has its strengths, as is designed to
acknowledge students with diverse learning characteristics, which requires that teachers
use a wide range of teaching strategies, lesson formats, and educational materials. Our
state’s standards/curriculum has become more geared toward differentiated instruction
and less toward textbook and traditional instructional practices. The effective use of
diverse teaching practices, including multi-level and student-centered strategies, can
actually enhance learning for many students.
Furthermore, Virginia’s standards are flexible and provide different students in
the same classrooms with the opportunities to work on a range of concepts and skills,
based on individual abilities, needs, and interests. In another course I am currently taking
(CIT 506-51031: Multicultural, Historical, and Philosophical Issues), the textbook
discusses significant information on the rationale for inclusive classrooms. According to
Cushner, McClelland, and Safford (2009):
Like societal inclusion, inclusive education implies shared participation of diverse
individuals in common experiences. As one might expect, this concept is
interpreted somewhat differently by different people and, therefore, is
implemented with varying degrees of inclusiveness. The most straightforward
interpretation of full inclusion, which many educators and parents endorse as the
standard, is that a pupil, like those in the Burlington School District, should attend
the school she would attend if she did not have a disability, with her neighbors
and siblings, and be enrolled with whatever groups of learners she would be part
of if she did not have a disability. A key proviso is that any needed supportive
aids or services are provided, including those requiring the direct service or
consultative expertise of specialists, so that special education is defined as a
service, not a place (p.393).
Teachers need not expect students to learn the same material at the same pace; therefore,
they should not standardize teaching and learning. They should, however, provide
students with various ways of meeting standards through differentiated instruction.
Virginia’s standards-based curriculum sets prerequisites, which are needed in order
for a learner to be able to participate in inclusive education. I do not think certain
prerequisites are needed in order for disabled students to keep up in inclusive classrooms.
Inclusion students do need exposure to the same curriculum, but do not need to engage in
the curriculum in the same way as students without disabilities, and they may need to
practice the same skills differently from those students without disabilities. “Special
education is a service not a location. The inclusion of students is not determined solely by
where they are placed, but by their full and complete access to the same curriculum as the
general education population” http://www.nprinc.com/inclusion/vsin.htm (paragraph 2).
It is an unfortunate fact that some teachers and families often make assumptions
about what students can and cannot achieve based on beliefs they have about their label
or disability. I occasionally observe this behavior from some fellow teachers and am
saddened by their low expectations. Historically, teachers have also made damaging
negative assumptions about the learning potential of girls, students who behave
differently, students of color, and even students who use English as a second language.
Educators, however, are often wrong about students and their potential. As an inclusion
teacher of six years, I strongly believe in setting high expectations and encouraging every
child to reach his or her highest potential. Every child can achieve; however, it depends
on the teacher’s belief system and the amount of effort he or she is willing to put forth in
order for every child to be successful. It takes an extreme level of hard work to motivate
all children, especially those who may be harboring feelings of low self-confidence, low
self-esteem, and low self-worth, due to negative circumstances. I treat all of my students
the exact same, regardless of their abilities or inabilities. It is my job to motivate and
inspire every child, significantly those with disabilities. I believe that I have done that
successfully each year. I have also noticed a small trend of teachers beginning to see that
students with disabilities are finding “unexpected” academic and social success when
provided the opportunities to become members of the general education classroom. In
this environment, they are given the opportunity to work alongside non-disabled peers
and are exposed to a challenging and motivating curriculum and are actively engaged in a
social setting. I am a witness to this fact and will continue to be committed to my
philosophy that every child can learn and that every child is a star!
Cushner, K., McClelland, A., Safford, P. (2009). Human Diversity in Education: An
Integrative Approach. Boston: McGraw Hill
Gartner, .A., Ph.D. and Lipsky, K., Ph.D. Standards and Inclusion: Can We Have Both?
Retrieved on May 22, 2009 at http://www.nprinc.com/inclusion/vsin.htm