Promoting Participation and Engagement: The Smart Inclusion Initiative - Part 1: Data from the Smart Inclusion Initiative

by Alex Dunn, SLP and Alison Inglis, Ph.D., C.Psych., Upper Canada District School Board

Interested in the application of the Smart Inclusion Initiative? Read Part 2: Breaking News.

Participation in Education

Participation in education involves going beyond access. It implies learning alongside others and collaborating with them in shared lessons. It involves active engagement with what is learned and taught, and having a say in how education is experienced. But participation also involves being recognized for oneself and being accepted for oneself. I participate with you when you recognise me as a person yourself, and accept me for who I am. (Booth and Ainscow, 2002)

Introduction

The Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB) believes that in public education all students have a right to experience meaningful academic and social participation in their chosen educational setting.  In January 2007, a multi-disciplinary team of professionals1 began a journey using technology as a catalyst for inclusive classroom practices.   Special needs software and hardware were paired with interactive whiteboards, and situated within the context of Universal Design for Learning (Turnball et al., 2002), Differentiated Instruction (Tomlinson, C.A., 1999), Aided Language Stimulation (Goosens, 2000), and the Participation Model (Rosenberg & Beukelman, 1987; Beukelman & Mirenda, 1998).  The goal was to enhance educational and social participation for all students including those with disabilities – “necessary for some, good for all.” 

In May of 2008, 12 students2 with severe communication disabilities were identified as eligible for Ministry of Education Special Equipment Allowance (SEA) grants to purchase equipment for the Fall.  This equipment included a SMART Board along with a variety of application software and AAC tools3, considered essential to augment and assist not only communication, but also meaningful educational and social participation in the classroom setting for the student with a severe disability.  Student achievement and participation with peers in large and small group instruction were then tracked from September 2008 through to June 2009.  Data sources included: surveys (completed by school teams), speech-language assessments, review of Individual Education Plans and report cards, and interviews with teachers and principals4

Results

The following show pre and post data for students with special needs in the areas of Engagement, Independence, Communication, Behaviour, Social Participation, and Academic Participation. Reports were gathered from 2007 to 2008 teachers retrospectively in September 2008 and from 2008 to 2009 teachers in June 2009, at end of the Smart Inclusion school year.

To determine levels of classroom attendance and engagement, students were rated on a scale of 1 to 5 for time spent in class and time spent engaged in the activity, where ratings represented the following: 5 = most or all of the time, 4 = a lot of time/engagement (up to 80%), 3 = some time/engagement (up to 50%), 2 = very little time/engagement (up to10%), and 1 = no time/engagement. The average rating for time in class increased from 4.5 before Smart Inclusion to 4.9 after Smart Inclusion. The average rating for time students spent engaged increased from 2.7 before Smart Inclusion to 4.5 after Smart Inclusion (Figure 1). By the end of the Smart Inclusion year (2008-2009 school year), target students were spending slightly more time in class in the Smart Inclusion year compared to the year prior, and were much more engaged in learning activities with peers during the Smart Inclusion year compared to the prior school year (2007-2008). 

Figure 1 - Graph showing time students spent in class and time spent engaged before and after Smart Inclusion (discussed in text above) 
Figure 1. Amount of time students spent in class and amount of time students spent engaged before and after Smart Inclusion.

To determine the amount of direct assistance students needed to interpret/understand tasks and to complete tasks, students were rated for the amount of direct assistance required on a scale of 1 to 5, where ratings represented the following: 5 = almost always needed, 4 = a lot needed (up to 80% of the time), 3 = some needed (up to 50% of the time), 2 = little needed (up to10%of the time), and 1 = no assistance needed. The average rating for the amount of direct assistance needed to interpret/understand tasks decreased from 4.6 before Smart Inclusion to 3.5 after Smart Inclusion. The average rating for the amount of direct assistance needed to complete tasks decreased from 4.75 before Smart Inclusion to 3.75 after Smart Inclusion (Figure 2). By the end of the Smart Inclusion year (2008-2009 school year), target students required less direct adult assistance to interpret, understand, and complete learning tasks compared to what they required during the prior school year (2007-2008). 

Figure 2 - Graph showing amount of direct assistance students needed before and after Smart Inclusion (discussed in text above)

Figure 2. Amount of direct assistance students needed to interpret/understand tasks and to complete tasks before and after Smart Inclusion.

To determine how often communication opportunities were present and successful, students were rated on a scale of 1 to 5 for time spent in class and time spent engaged in the activity, where ratings represented the following: 5 = most/all of the time, 4 = a lot of the time (up to 80%), 3 = some of the time (up to 50%), 2 = very little of the time (10%), and 1 = none of the time. The average rating for communication opportunities present increased from 4.0 before Smart Inclusion to 4.6 after Smart Inclusion. The average rating for communication attempts successful increased from 2.0 before Smart Inclusion to 3.5 after Smart Inclusion (Figure 3). By the end of the Smart Inclusion year (2008-2009 school year), target students were being provided more communication opportunities and were successful in more of their communication attempts compared to the prior school year (2007-2008). 

Figure 3 - Graph showing presence & success of communication opportunities before and after Smart Inclusion (discussed in text above) 

Figure 3. Amount of time communication opportunities were present and amount of time communication attempts were successful before and after Smart Inclusion.

To determine the frequency of seriously disruptive behaviour for each student, the decrease in disruptive behaviour was reported as a 25% decrease, a 50% decrease, a 75% decrease, or a 90% decrease. Student 1 showed a 25% decrease in disruptive behaviour, Student 2 showed a 50% decrease in disruptive behaviour, Student 3 showed a 75% decrease in disruptive behaviour, and Students 4 and 5 both showed a 90% decrease in disruptive behaviour by the end of the Smart Inclusion year (Figure 4). Of the 8 students for whom complete pre- and post-data are available, 5 had been demonstrating seriously disruptive behaviour in the year prior to and leading into the Smart Inclusion year.  By the end of the Smart Inclusion year (2008-2009 school year), target students exhibited less seriously disruptive behaviour compared to the prior school year (2007-2008).

Figure 4 - Graph showing amount of seriously disruptive behaviour (5 students) before and after Smart Inclusion (discussed in text above) 

Figure 4. Amount of seriously disruptive behaviour for five students before and after Smart Inclusion.

The following table shows that by the end of the Smart Inclusion year (2008-2009), target students were socializing with more peers compared to the prior school year (2007-2008).

Socializing
Levels
Pre
Smart Inclusion 2007 - 2008
(# of students)
Post
Smart Inclusion 2008 - 2009
(# of students)
No friends

5

0

1 or 2 friends

3

5

A few to many friends

0

3

The following tables show Participation Levels in Language Arts and Mathematics for 8 target students in the year prior to Smart Inclusion (2007-2008) and at the end of the Smart Inclusion year (2008-2009).  Participation Levels are described in the first column of each table – None, Involved, Active, Competitive5.  For example – first row: Pre-Smart Inclusion, 2 students were working on alternative expectations, apart from class peers, in subject/topic areas unrelated to what the rest of the class was working on (at any given time) – Participation Level: None.  Post-Smart Inclusion, none of the 8 student were working on alternative expectations, different and apart from peers.

 

Participation Levels
Language Arts
Pre
Smart Inclusion 2007 - 2008
(# of students)
Post
Smart Inclusion 2008 - 2009
(# of students)

None: Alternative expectations not on topic or participating with class; may be out of classroom; may be working on other curriculum areas in the classroom.

2

0

Involved: Alternative but on topic or alternative expectations but participating in the activity with class; alternative expectations may include OT, PT, SLP, Behaviour, Social, life skills, daily living skills, etc.

5

1

Active:  Modified curriculum

1

7

Competitive:  Same expectations as everyone else; may have some accommodations – working with peers

0

0

 

Participation Levels
Mathematics
Pre
Smart Inclusion 2007 - 2008
(# of students)
Post
Smart Inclusion 2008 - 2009
(# of students)

None: Alternative expectations not on topic or participating with class; may be out of classroom; may be working on other curriculum areas in the classroom.

2

0

Involved: Alternative but on topic or alternative expectations but participating in the activity with class; alternative expectations may include OT, PT, SLP, Behaviour, Social, life skills, daily living skills, etc.

4

1

Active:  Modified curriculum

1

5

Competitive:  Same expectations as everyone else; may have some accommodations – working with peers

1

2

Summary and other findings:

  • Special needs students participated with peers in small and large group. classroom activities to a greater degree in 2008-2009 compared to the previous school year.
  • All students in the classrooms were highly engaged in classroom activities using Assistive and SMART Technology.  Engagement was defined by teachers as “attentive, interested in activities, not disruptive, excited about learning.”
  • Teachers reported that they were doing “more teaching, less behaviour management” with the entire class.  There were significant decreases in referrals to the school office and serious behavioural incidents for several students (including some of the Smart Inclusion target students) whose behaviour had impacted classroom participation and learning in previous years.
  • Special needs students were not only more engaged and participating to a greater extent in classroom activities with peers, but teachers felt students were meeting their Individual Education Program (IEP) goals sooner than expectedSome teachers made more adjustments to the IEPs than they felt was typical compared to their past practice.
  • Standardized language assessment pre- and post-data available for 8 students to date reveal that all students demonstrated growth in their speech and language skills; all students’ communication skills had improved to a greater degree when compared to growth over previous years 6.
  • Teachers felt that diagnostic and on-the-spot assessments were enabled and helped inform their programming (i.e., precision teaching).
  • Classroom teachers began using what was previously thought to be “special needs” software with all students during both small and large group instruction.
  • Principals reported in interview that piloting the project in a small number of classrooms throughout the district created “proof of concept,” enabling them to plan on taking “the calculated risk” of integrating Smart Inclusion theory and technology into more classrooms within their schools.

Since the 2008-2009 school year, UCDSB teams have broadened their Universal Design for Learning Toolkits to include other mainstream educational technologies including iPads, Nintendo DSi, and interactive tables.  That some students have significant learning “challenges” is not the point. Rather, the true “challenges” lie with us – to universally design classrooms, school communities, and pedagogical practices that reach and teach all students. Effective inclusion is akin to effective teaching practices. Enhancing inclusive practices benefits all students (Jordan, Schwartz, McGhie-Richmond, 2009).

1. The team consisted of Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs), Student Engagement Teachers (SET), Learning Consultants, IT Consultants, Technology Trainers, Classroom Teachers, Educational Assistants and Principals.

2. 12 students were originally identified.  Two moved during the course of the school year and data collection was incomplete for another two therefore complete data are available for eight (8) of the original 12 students.

3. For most of these students, AAC and some specialized software were already in use, purchased under previous SEA grants.

4.For further information about Smart Inclusion see Dunn & Inglis (2011/2012) or visit us at the Smart Inclusion Wiki

5. Participation Levels come from the work of Beukelman, D. & Mirenda, P. (1998).

6. All Smart Inclusion students have been on SLP caseloads for several years.

Authors

Alex Dunn is a Speech-Language Pathologist for the Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB), located in Eastern Ontario as well as the founder of Inclusioneers. She has devoted the last 16 years to exploring creative service delivery models to ensure that all students, including those with severe communication challenges, achieve meaningful educational and social participation. Most recently Alex spearheaded the creation of Smart Inclusion, an initiative that combines assistive technology with emerging technology and pedagogy to support inclusion – making the impossible, possible for ALL students. Alex’s work has been shared across North America and Europe, and she has just recently been named the Smart Exemplary Educator of the Year for 2012.

Alison Inglis is a Chief Psychologist with the Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB). Dr. Inglis has worked in health care and education settings over the past 18 years as practitioner, researcher, and lecturer. Dr. Inglis and her staff work shoulder-to-shoulder with teaching teams to create flexible and inclusive school communities that support and improve learning and wellness for all students.

Glen Tay School is a Kindergarten to grade eight elementary school located just outside of Perth Ontario – about an hour from Ottawa. It is a rural school of about 220 students. The school is one of two school in the Board chosen to be a Smart Inclusion school.

References

Beukelman, D. & Mirenda, P. (1998).  Augmentative and alternative communication:  Management of severe communication disorders in children and adults (2nd ed.), Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.

Booth, T. & Ainscow, M.  (2002). Index for Inclusion: DevelopingLearning and Participation in Schools.  Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education (CSIE). Retrieved from: http://www.csie.org.uk/resources/inclusion-index-explained.shtml.

Dunn, A. & Inglis, A. (2010/2011) Smart Inclusion for the 21st Century Classroom.  Closing the Gap Solutions.  Volume 29 – Number 5 (pp. 6-11).

Goossens, C. (2000). Aided language stimulation for the cognitively young. Paper presented at the meeting of Augmentative and Alternative Communication in the Desert, Phoenix, Arizona.

Jordan, A., Schwartz, E., & McGhie-Richmond (2009). Preparing teachers for inclusive classrooms. Teacher & Teacher Education, 25, 535-542.

Rosenberg, S. & Beukelman, D. R. (1987). The participation model.  In C.A. Coston (Ed.), Proceedings of the national planners conference on assistive device service delivery (pp. 159-161). Washington, DC: The Association for the Advancement of Rehabilitation Technology. 

Tomlinson, C.A. (1999).  The differentiated classroom:  Responding to the needs of all learners. Alexandria, VA:  ASCD. 

Turnbull, R., Turnbull, A., Shank, M., Smith, S., & Leal, D. (2002).  Exceptional lives:  Special education in today’s schools (3rd ed.).  Columbus, OH: Merrill, Prentice-Hall.

Field, S., Sarver, M. D., & Shaw, S. F. (2003). Self-determination: A key to success in postsecondary education for studentswith learning disabilities. Remedial and Special Education, 24, p. 339–349.