Providing inclusive instruction is a core responsibility of schools. It ensures students with diverse learning and behavioral needs are provided with accessible and engaging instruction to meet both their academic and non-academic goals. Inclusive instruction also helps to create a sense of community and belonging for these students as they learn alongside their peers in the same classroom.
When administrators take proactive steps to support staff members who are doing this work, it has multiple benefits. It creates a positive school climate, which in turn supports teacher retention because those teachers feel valued, respected and supported in their roles. And it helps those teachers be more effective at their jobs. Supporting teachers who provide inclusive instruction is a win for the teachers, the school and most importantly, the students.
We hosted a webinar with special education instructional specialist Nicole Barrion in which we asked her that question. She offers five key strategies that can help administrators support these staff members.
One of the best ways for an administrator to support staff members is to build their own knowledge about inclusive instruction practices, and understand those staff members’ roles and responsibilities. Administrators who understand best practices for co-teaching and inclusion and who seek out opportunities to learn and grow their own knowledge on this topic will be more effective in leading and growing their teachers. Some things administrators can do: find out what the biggest barriers are to implementing best practices. Do teachers lack planning time? Do they have effective PD? Provide a consistent message of support and ask the critical questions to find out what teachers need, and how to help them. In a co-teaching environment, It can be helpful for the co-teachers to be able to be grouped together for planning time and PD so they can focus on issues relevant to their specific roles.
Set your teachers up to be successful from the start of the school year by being strategic about scheduling and grouping. For instance:
There are several different co-teaching models. When it comes to inclusive instruction, the models are not all equal. Administrators should encourage teachers to use high-yield models as much as possible such as Station Teaching, Parallel Teaching and Alternative Teaching, which all involve small group instruction. It’s important to build planning time into the schedule for the co-teacher and the regular teacher to plan lessons. Co-teachers should come in with planned materials and activities aligned to the lesson.
SDI is instruction that is tailored to a particular student and is based on the student’s IEP goals. It is NOT the same as accommodations. It is important for administrators to understand what SDI is, and what it looks like in the classroom. For example, SDI would be teaching a student how to chunk and reflect using post-its on a reading passage, whereas accommodations would be shortening that reading passage for the student. The first is SDI. The second is an accommodation. Administrators can support teachers by getting into the classrooms for walkthroughs, paying particular attention to whether SDI is happening, and helping teachers with strategies if they are struggling to implement SDI.
This is important for all staff members. Support your teachers and make it a safe space for them to ask for help. Celebrate even small achievements such as meeting goals and increasing participation. Recognize teachers for their efforts. Some additional things administrators can do:
Providing high-quality, inclusive instruction is crucial to helping all students thrive. The best way administrators can help make sure inclusive instruction is happening in their schools is to support the teachers doing this work. The strategies above are a great way to do this.
Vector Solutions’ Inclusive Instruction & Intervention course library is a great resource to help teachers, administrators and paraeducators support students with diverse learning needs and manage challenging student behavior.
The library includes expert-authored, online professional development courses focusing specifically on the skills, instructional strategies and resources needed to improve inclusive instruction and support learning outcomes for all students. It also includes content specific to the roles of school leaders, and of paraeducators.