What Inclusive English Education Means to Me

BlumeIn der Reihe „Inklusion im Englischunterricht bedeutet für mich …“ stellen die Mitglieder des Netzwerks Inklusiver Englischunterricht ihre ganz persönliche Sicht auf Praxis und Forschung zum inklusiven Englischunterricht vor.
Carolyn Blume von der Leuphana Universität Lüneburg:

As a global citizen, I understand inclusive English education as a human rights issue, as guaranteed by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006). As an advocate of social justice, I see access to English education as an issue of equity. As a teacher, I see it is as my obligation to create an educational environment that enables all children to learn. As a teacher educator, it is my task to cultivate the attitudes and skills necessary for meeting the needs of all learners, regardless of dis/ability.

In this interpretation, inclusive English education is not narrowly about students with identified special needs. Rather, it promotes a broader definition that takes into account other factors that shape learners’ academic “success,” such as plurilingualism, socio-economic background, gender, ethnicity, health, and personality (cf. Booth, 2008). Moreover, it demands ongoing reflection concerning the ways in which society in general, and schooling systems in particular, construct definitions of dis/ability (Jones 1996), with the aim of reducing inequities. Lastly, it must take into account the ways in which knowledge of English in a globalized world provides access to resources and opportunities (Blackledge, 2000).

A commitment to the aforementioned principles of inclusion promotes strong pedagogy and ultimately benefits all learners. It requires practitioners to continually question the things they ask learners to do, and the purposes for doing them. Such intensive reflection about learning objectives and methods requires stringent analyses of each activity, exercise, task and expectation. If accommodations to an activity are necessary for them to be equally accessible to learners with special educational needs, then the necessary question that must follow is to consider why that accommodation cannot be made available to all students, regardless of their identified need or ability. What does its presence afford all learners? How does its presence diminish any learner? Where does one draw the line between a student with a speaking disability, and one whose language learning anxiety hinders her willingness to communicate? When seen from that perspective, many of the accommodations provided in response to meet the needs of learners with designated needs become, in fact, scaffolds and supports in terms of good pedagogical practice. It also follows the edict that a good inclusive pedagogy is a good general pedagogy, and vice versa (European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education, 2003; Saalfrank, 2013).

Seen in this way, inclusion is not primarily about students with special educational needs, but rather, about taking into consideration the highly individualized and complex strengths, weaknesses, interests, and needs of all learners. This perspective takes into account the vast heterogeneity found in all classrooms and debunks the concept of homogeneous classes. It also places the emphasis, not merely on finding ways to accommodate a specific need, but rather, on finding ways to open the curriculum in terms of both learning ability and student interest, taking into account that the mythical “average” student does not exist (Brügelmann, 2002). This approach reinforces the importance of student autonomy, avoiding top-down decision-making about what students are able to do according to particular labels or categories. Such an approach, however, can only function for all learners if the proffered activities are well designed and thoroughly scaffolded.  Only in this way can substantial time on task in classrooms that promote cognitively challenging and complex learning be guaranteed (cf. Hattie, 2012). Ultimately, thus, inclusive education demands educators who possess, on the one hand,  the attitudes towards inclusion that welcome these challenges and, on the other, the pedagogical content knowledge teach in ways that respect students’ various social, emotional, and cognitive abilities.


Blackledge, A. (2000). Monolingual ideologies in multilingual states: Language, hegemony and social justice in Western liberal democracies. Estudios de Sociolingüística, 1 (2), 25–45.

Booth, T. (2008). Ein internationaler Blick auf inklusive Bildung: Werte für alle? In A. Hinz, I. Körner & U. Niehoff (Hrsg.), Von der Integration zur Inklusion. Grundlagen – Perspektiven – Praxis (S. 53–73). Marburg: Lebenshilfe.

Brügelmann, H. (2002). Heterogenität, Integration, Differenzierung: Empirische Befunde — pädagogische Perspektiven. In F. Heinzel (Hrsg.), Heterogenität, Integration und Differenzierung in der Primarstufe. [… Arbeiten, die auf der Jahrestagung der Kommission „Grundschulforschung und Pädagogik der Primarstufe“ der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Erziehungswissenschaft (DGfE) vom 27. bis 29. September 2001 an der Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg …) (Jahrbuch Grundschulforschung, Bd. 6, S. 31–43). Opladen: Leske + Budrich.

European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education. (2003). Inclusive education and effective classroom practices. summary report: European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education.

Hattie, J. (Hrsg.). (2012). Visible learning for teachers. Maximizing impact on learning. New York: Routledge.

Saalfrank, W.-T. (2013). Inklusive Bildung im Kontext von Modellen guten Unterrichts. Zeitschrift für Inklusion, 0 (2).

The United Nations. (2006). Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities. In OLA (Hrsg.), Treaty Series 2515.

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