The aim of this training course is to reflect and discuss on different strategies, methods and practices to promote inclusion in the classroom. Particularly, we looked at classrooms supporting students with disabilities. The keywords of this training are empathy, cooperation, and membership, which characterize the elements of inclusive education. This training provided the opportunity to learn new tools and new models, creating the chance to discuss different strategies and practices, all with the aim of continuous improvement.
The new edition of the course “Special Needs and Inclusive Education: the Italian Experience of overcoming segregation” took place in Bologna from 30/04/2023 to 05/05/2023. The participants came from all across Europe, with Anastasia, Kadri, Karin, and Krista from the Tallinn Education Department in Estonia; Eléonore and Emmanuelle from École Académique de la Formation Continue (EAFC) - Rectorat de Lyon in France; Katarzyna and Agata from Szkoła Podstawowa nr 10 im. Armii Krajowej w Będzinie in Poland; Estrella from CEIP Santísimo Cristo de La Salud de Hervás in Spain; and five participants from Portugal: Silvia and Fernanda from Agrupamento De Escolas De Vilela; and Donzilia, Ana Rita, and Jacinta from Agrupamento de Escolas de Anadia.
The first keyword, “Empathy”, is the ability to take on the perspective of the other person without judgement and to convey that understanding and support. It is fundamental to forming genuine connections with people, and “To connect” is crucial in educational contexts, particularly when supporting students with special needs.
The second keyword explored is “Membership”: the sense of “belongingness to a group” and of perceiving how your contributions could be meaningful for others. This sense of belongingness, created by removing physical barriers that prevent dialogue, and by promoting mutual understanding, tolerance, and respect, is paramount to fostering a welcoming environment that stimulates and supports learning and growth.
The third keyword explored is “Cooperation”, which refers to the relationship with the students’ families, who continue supporting the student’s learning process outside the classroom at home. Cooperating with families is crucial, as they are a fundamental pillar in a student’s support system and play a heavy hand in developing and defining it. With this in mind, teachers must be the guiding light for both students and parents, providing information and ideas on how parents can best assist their child’s learning process. Cooperation can also refer to the role the students – those with special needs and those without – play in the classroom. Acknowledging and respecting their differences while also celebrating each other's strengths and ability to connect is fundamental to navigating the world outside of the classroom.
We explored the peculiarities of the “Italian Model”, which is one of the few examples of inclusive education. Inclusive education is based on a design that “includes” everyone in the same system, counting on the support of special figures such as Support Teachers and Educators. This is in contrast to models that have special needs schools separate from common education classrooms and institutions, which can generate a greater disconnect between students sorted into either group.
To get a closer look at the Italian Model and our approach to inclusive education, the teachers had the opportunity to tour the secondary school “Rosa Luxemburg” in Bologna and observe how they put into practice the methods and theories presented during the course. To further complement this, teachers participated in a virtual tour of the primary school “Il Circolo Didattico di Amelia” in Amelia with our partner institution in Palermo. The tour was led by Alessandro Piacentini, whose passion for special needs education was infectious and sparked great conversation in the classroom. These opportunities allowed participants to actively explore and discuss the Italian Model, and reflect on what methods and strategies may be useful in their own professional context.
Finally, the networking and cultural activities of our program provided many formative moments for the teachers: they were an opportunity to exchange points of view, models and methods, and foster mutual enrichment while learning more about Italian culture and eating delicious Italian food!
In this training, we discovered different approaches to “Inclusion”, different perspectives, and different strategies through sharing a diverse array of past experiences, challenges, and successes. Thank you to all of the participants, who, with their dedication and passion for diverse and inclusive education, made this course unique with their great contributions. We hope to see you soon!
Welcome to the ELA Blog. Here you will find articles and photos of our courses and have a look at the topics addressed during the week in Bologna, Palermo and Tenerife. You will also have the chance to take a peek at our projects and check out what we have been up to.