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Model for Inclusive Curriculum: Approaches and Dimensions

Source: Peel District School Board (2000) The Future We Want: building an inclusive curriculum. Mississauga, ON: Peel District School Board.

How to use this tool
This tool can provide an introduction to inclusive curriculum and its multiple approaches and dimensions. It challenges educators to think about the curriculum they plan and ask: how does what I teach fit into the approaches and dimensions outlined below? Moreover, it encourages an approach to the curriculum that empowers students in how they understand the community and the world, and supports them to take action for social change. Annotated resources help educators move their curriculum along the continuum.

Note: It is important to recognize that curriculum is not just the textbooks, handouts, storybooks, and course outlines. Curriculum is everything in the school environment – from the texts to the seating plan to the posters on the wall. Consider the resources, paper, electronic, human and otherwise you use as an educator.

What does inclusive curriculum mean?
1. Inclusive curriculum is an approach to learning and teaching which recognizes and values the rich diversity of our school population.  Both in its content and methodology, inclusive curriculum seeks to recognize and to affirm the life experiences of all students, regardless of gender, place of origin, religion, ethnicity and race, cultural and linguistic background, social and economic and status, sexual orientation, age and ability/disability. The goal of an inclusive curriculum is to create a learning environment which reflects, affirms, and validates the diversity and complexity of human experiences.[1]
 

Examples: 1. Instead of studying history through the lens of the white settlers or the white men who (for the most part) have written our texts and written ‘history’, an inclusive history curriculum recognizes the contributions of all groups, including women, immigrants, Aboriginal peoples, people from all classes, religions, and sexual orientations. 2. The school’s morning inspirational readings should be drawn from diverse sources and include the voices of individuals and groups from both dominant and non-dominant cultures and perspectives.

2. An inclusive curriculum goes beyond the ‘heroes and holidays’ approach that looks at the contributions of African peoples during Black History Month, or perhaps looks at women’s rights on International Women’s day. An inclusive curriculum incorporates the contributions, injustices, and struggles of all groups within the traditional curriculum. An inclusive curriculum questions power relations and asks: Why do these power relations exist? For the benefit of whom? Inclusive curriculum addresses “isms” such as ageism, racism, sexism, classism, anti-semitism, heterosexism, faithism, lookism, ableism. It also looks at how these ‘isms’ are linked.

3. An equity-minded, inclusive educator also forms relationships with her or his students and learns about their heritages, their life experiences, their diverse learning styles, and their multiple capabilities. She or he acknowledges that each student is a competent learner who has much to bring to the classroom, and looks for ways to engage students with issues and approaches that matter to them. For example: When studying immigration, an equity-minded teacher may ask students about their own history and the push/pull factors that led their families to immigrate. The students may be asked to interview community members about their immigration experiences. Inclusive educators include students’ experiences and community resources (including parents) in the curriculum.

4. An inclusive, equity-minded educator sees the importance of teaching through an equity lens and does not see equity as icing on the cake. Too often, equity is seen as an add-on after thinking about the Ministry curriculum, the resources and texts provided, learning styles, etc. Equity should be a guiding principle when planning content, field trips, classroom layout, teaching strategies, and assessment/ evaluation tasks.

Inclusive Curriculum: Approaches and Dimensions
James Banks[2] in Multicultural Education: Historical Development, Dimensions outlines four approaches to curriculum reform (contributions, additive, transformation, and social action), and details five dimensions of that reform (content integration, knowledge construction, prejudice reduction, equity pedagogy, and empowering school culture). His model focuses primarily on racial and ethnic minority groups, but [the Peel DSB has] redefined the: "approaches" and "dimensions" below to include all diverse groups. Please note that in actual teaching situations, the four approaches and the five dimensions are often combined and used together.

APPROACHES TO AN INCLUSIVE CURRICULUM

Contributions
Adding diverse hero/ines to the curriculum, selected using criteria similar to those used to select mainstream hero/ines for the curriculum.

Additive
Adding a variety of content, concepts, themes, and perspectives to the curriculum without changing its basic structure.

Transformation
Changing the actual structure of the curriculum to help students to view concepts, issues, events, and themes from the perspectives of diverse groups.

Social Action
Allowing students to make decisions on important social issues and take actions to help solve them.

 

The four approaches work as four levels on a continuum. For example, the "contributions" approach offers a starting point, but can also be used as a way of moving on to other more intellectually challenging approaches, such as the "transformation" and the "social action" approaches. As Banks explains, we should develop a curriculum which goes beyond hero/ines and holidays to one that is transformative and teaches decision-making and social action skills.

Similarly, the development of an inclusive curriculum can begin with the dimensions of "content integration", though it should not stop there. The dimension of "knowledge construction" is essential to an inclusive curriculum, as is an "empowering school culture" if students and teachers are to achieve a social action approach.

DIMENSIONS OF AN INCLUSIVE CURRICULUM

Content Integration
Using examples, data and information from a variety of groups to illustrate key concepts, principles, generalizations, and theories in particular subject areas or disciplines.

Knowledge Construction
Understanding how people create knowledge and how implicit cultural assumptions, frames of reference, perspectives, and biases influence the ways that knowledge is constructed within a discipline.

Prejudice Reduction
Using characteristics of prejudicial attitudes and strategies to help individuals develop more democratic attitudes and values.

Equity Pedagogy
Using techniques and methods that facilitate the academic achievement of students from diverse groups.

Empowering School Culture
Restructuring the culture and organization of the school so that students from diverse groups will experience educational equity and societal empowerment.

 

 




[1] Inclusive Schools Organizing Committee, “Inclusive Curriculum.” TDSB Equity Department. No date.

[2] Banks, J. A. (1995a). Multicultural Education: Historical Development, Dimensions, and Practice. In J. A. Banks & C. A. M. Banks (Eds.). Handbook of Research on Multicultural Education (pp. 3-24). New York: Macmillan.

 

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