UDL and other inclusive approaches
UDL does not work in isolation. It is informed by and informs other change initiatives for diversity, equity and inclusion. As an educator, I believe that if I am enacting the UDL principles to their fullest inclusive potential then I must be engaging with those other approaches that support and interconnect with UDL and each other. Within each approach there will be alternative and overlapping strategies, which I hope to speak about in my blogs and POdcast. For now this is a short introduction into the three main inclusive education approaches currently being spoken about within UDL.
Culturally Responsive Practices
As educators we need to ensure that not one student feels like an afterthought in our classrooms because of their diversity of culture, including but not limited to race, socio-economic backgrounds, gender and gender identity, disability, religion or sexual orientation. When teachers proactively and intentionally plan to remove barriers and bias by creating culturally responsive and relevant experiences we are recognising and honouring the importance of embedding the cultural identity and references of every student into every aspect of learning and teaching. In doing so, we help strengthen our students’ sense of identity, promote equity and inclusivity in the classroom, engage students in their course materials, and support their global and critical thinking. As Nicole Tucker-Smith says ‘Representation Matters!’
Restorative practice or restorative justice is a values-based approach to, for want of a better phrase, school discipline. It helps education settings replace zero-tolerance policies with a shared community capacity to recognise when expectations have been broken and how to respond in a fair and just way. In this manner, restorative practices build healthy relationships and helps prevent conflict while dealing with conflict in a healthy manner when it does occur. There are several explicit approaches that can be used to build the community’s capacity in restorative practice. These include teaching and modelling communication skills, compassion and empathy so that students can share and listen to diverse opinions, regular class-wide circle time, responding to conflict with conversation, involving the entire class/group when determining potential consequences and next steps when conflict or adverse behaviour occurs, and using the language and questions of restorative practice.