Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Inclusive Learning

Back in 1996 the UK Further Education Funding Council Learning Difficulties and/or Disabilities Committee chaired by Professor John Tomlinson published its Inclusive Learning report which defined inclusion as as the greatest degree of match or fit between individual learning requirements and provision. The summary of the report is definitely still worth a read, and it proposes a "learning eco-system" as the means of achieving this best fit.

From a traditional educational perspective this is still pretty transformative stuff, and while academics widely acknowledge the need for curriculums which take account of learning styles they often seem to do so, at least in my experience, in a way which minimises the effect that this model has on their own planning and delivery. This notion of a process in which we commit to learning in detail about our students and their individual needs, preferences, abilities and challenges is far easier to accept if the resulting learning methods, curriculum, and assessment strategies are in pretty much line with the sort of thing we can deliver. We're unlikely to embrace something that indicates our approach is redundant.
One of the ways this manifests itself is that we appear to believe that this process of matching provision to requirements can be frozen and captured in a traditional course document. Indeed our usual interpretation of the validation process appears to actually require this, and there's no doubt that it encourages it. In truth, the process implied by Tomlinson suggests a dynamic which reacts on a student-by-student basis and continues throughout the course. Some of our work with Personal Development Planning moves in this direction, but it would seem to have little chance of making a real difference if the curriculum itself is static. Some aspects of such a dynamic curriculum can be treated as 'snapshots' and reused, but in light of an accelerating rate of change this itself will very soon become outmoded, and the 'survival time' of our strategies will begin to approach zero.

If you think this sounds like negativist carping, you'd probably be right. I'm a keen advocate of transformative change in curriculum design, and the idea of absolute personalisation just really rocks my boat. I'm developing a paper on next-generation electronic learning which is bound to incorporate some of these notions (I'll post the abstract at the very least here soon) and I'll try to develop some of them here in more detail over the coming weeks.

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