Classroom Observation

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I had the opportunity to observe a 10th grade English “inclusion” class at the Greater Lowell Technical High School. I am performing my practicum experience at Greater Lowell Tech (GLT), and was astonished to learn that special education accounts for almost 25% of the student population! I honestly had little knowledge of inclusion classrooms, and any information I had obtained was through literature or discussion with fellow classmates. There were no such things as inclusion classrooms when I was in high school, and special education was not nearly as prevalent. I chose an inclusion classroom to do my observation out of sheer curiosity and thought it would be an interesting experience. I knew a direct observation for this assignment would definitely give me insight into what techniques are used with the special education students, and allow me to see how they interact and work with regular students. This class was 90 minutes long, and co-taught by Mr. John Gibson (SPED), and Mrs. Jenny Flood (9th and 10th grade English teacher). I was unaware that inclusion classes were instructed by 2 teachers, but shortly into my observation I realized why. Maintaining an inclusive classroom requires these teachers to meet the needs of all students. The knowledge of special education (and the special needs of these students) is very important, and knowing how to properly address each student is essential. I was starting to see that Mr. Gibson and Mrs. Flood were creating a classroom environment or a community where individual differences were appreciated and respected. The classroom was set up with 5 clusters of desks (about 4-5 desks in each cluster) with about 5 students in each group cluster. To be honest, I could not initially distinguish the special educations students from the regular students. The class was going through chapters of a novel, and they were all encouraged to critically think and respond to the questions that Mr. Gibson asked aloud. Mr. Gibson stood at the front of the class, utilizing a smart-board, and walked around to each group, attending to raised hands. At this point, I noticed Mrs. Flood was sitting in with each group (and rotating), and working 1-on-1 with specific students. I finally realized that she was taking the time to work with the special education students of each group individually The use of groups, or using the strategy of cooperative group learning, requires teachers to understand the cognitive processes associated with various kinds of learning and how these processes are stimulated. This type of group learning allows students of all different levels of readiness to complete a project together. I even saw a few of the more advanced students helping some of the struggling students. Also, it was clear that both teachers had an understanding of their style and techniques, along with the students’ advantages and limitations. In addition, using groups as classification systems can also be beneficial to teachers as they “enable professionals to identify and differentiate disabilities, as well as communicate effectively…” (Thompson & Henderson, p. 695). One of the advantageous aspects of inclusion is developing positive self-esteem of all students, as well as introducing positive interpersonal relationships. Inclusion allows students who have specific learning disabilities to stay in the classroom, instead of being pulled out into the special education resource room. Allowing special education students to stay in their class develops positive self-esteem. It doesn’t put a burden on students with disabilities, and they won’t feel like their disabilities segregate. I really enjoyed watching the groups working together. I feel like the group members were working well with each other, and I observed groups participating in decision-making while working collaboratively. Both Mrs. Flood and Mr. Gibson were delighted to answer my questions at the end of class. I originally thought I would be able...
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