The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new. – Socrates

In order for inclusive schooling to be realised in sustained practice, it is crucial that time is spent on establishing shared beliefs and understandings. That is, coming to a collective realisation about education and its purpose, about how students learn, about what constitutes quality and effective teaching, about responsibility, and about the vision for life and communities beyond school.

Time needs to be invested in unpacking theory and research surrounding the above mentioned points, and having staff engage with this content in creative ways that occur both in collaboration and independently. Time should be given for members to question, challenge, debate and reflect; whilst being guided by moral imperative, legislation and human rights frameworks.

In practice, culture change can be viewed as impacting the “hearts and minds” of a school and its population.

inclusion culture by loren
Loren Swancutt – 2018

In order for authentic culture change to occur, the majority (80%+) of staff need to reach a point where they believe and understand that quality, evidence-based education should be afforded to all students, and that diversity should be embraced and celebrated. If changes in practice are demanded prior to significant cultural impact, there runs a risk of minimal compliance, tokenistic responses, and the less than desirable outcome of integration. Inclusive school reform is not likely to be scalable and sustained long term.

To assist in the pursuit of culture change, it is suggested to ‘start with the why…’ (Simon Sinek – The Golden Circle). The why of inclusive schooling is the student. Connect staff with the voices and lived experiences of individuals that form the context. Appeal to the “hearts” by putting a humanistic and moral lens over the work. From here, links can then be made to the how. The “minds” of inclusive schooling that stem from legislation, policy and research. These can be utilised to emphasise the logic behind the motivation and moral imperative. Finally, exploration of the what can occur with acknowledgement of the value, worth and contribution of every student, and the need to build capability in order to deliver educational experiences that centre on high expectations and optimal outcomes for all student within the general education environment.

Additional contributing factors and points of reference relating to influencing school culture are explored below…

Medical Model vs Social Model Approach:

An important aspect of developing inclusive culture is the shift from a medical model way of thinking about disability, to a social model approach.

A medical model way of thinking centres on deficit – that disability is something that needs to be fixed, overcome, or treated; and that the impairments and differences of the individual are responsible for the limitations that they experience.

A social model way of thinking centres on ability – that disability is a natural form of human diversity; and that limitations are experienced as a result of physical, attitudinal and societal barriers, not by impairment or difference.

Challenging such mindset and bias is a crucial component of establishing inclusive culture in schools.

Developing Social Capital:

Social capital is the network of relationships within a society that enable it to function effectively. The relationships are reliant on trust and cooperation, and for all members to contribute toward the greater vision and good of the collective group. Social capital is the glue that holds a school together. It complements individual skill and attribute, it enhances individual efforts and outcomes, and it enables collective commitment to bringing about change and improvement.

It is important for a school to be focused on building the social capital of students as a reflection of the desired society beyond its gates. Schools have the opportunity to model and develop relationships that recognise, support, and connect diversity – to build the relational quality between its stakeholders in an effort to bring about a connected, inclusive society.

School’s can assist students to build social capital by:

  • supporting students to understand that relationships are valuable;
  • developing recognition of the ways in which students interact and how that places values upon their different social groups;
  • practicing skills to improve the depth of the relationship with those they know;
  • developing practical skills to connect with those they do not know;
  • creating clear and simple communication strategies that effectively motivate and encourage others;
  • recognising strength and giving everyone a voice.

For more information on Social Capital in schools, access Social Capital in Schools. What is it and why does it matter? by Sue Roffey here

Growth Mindset:

Growth Mindset challenges presumption and perception that is based on stereotypes, norms and bias. It is a term that represents the scientific evidence that intelligence is not fixed; that through quality instruction, appropriate support, practice and commitment we can all form new brain connections and strengthen existing ones – resulting in the realisation that all students are capable learners and should be afforded opportunities to engage in rigorous learning experiences.

Likewise, all teachers are capable of implementing quality, inclusive pedagogy. With a commitment to reflective practice, professional learning and accesses to support and coaching, teachers can access and implement evidence-based practices that have a positive impact on the experiences and outcomes of all students within general education settings.

For more information about the science of Growth Mindset, its application in teaching, case studies of its use and the opportunity to take a Mindset Assessment, access the Mindset Works website here.

Sharing Success:

A great way to nurture an inclusive culture is for success to be acknowledged, shared and celebrated – both the successes of teachers, and of students.

Sharing examples of quality teaching and the impacts of it on learning and student achievement provides context and scales responsibility. It demonstrates a ‘bottom up’ approach to leadership, and highlights the wealth of capability that exists at a classroom level. It demonstrates contextualised achievement, and highlights that commitment to inclusive schooling pays off in real-time opportunity and outcomes for students.

Some examples of how success can be shared include:

  • Having teachers present a short strategy or process at the start of staff meetings
  • Providing teachers the opportunity to observe one another in practice
  • Starting an annotated video/photograph sharing file of inclusive practice in action
  • Sharing student work and achievement on displays in staff rooms
  • Hosting showcase evenings for parents to view student work
  • Sharing teaching and learning experiences on school managed social media pages

Do you have a great example of how success is celebrated at your school? Contact us and let us know!