Case Study: Individualising learning through inclusion

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“By individualising pathways for learning, we are allowing more and more of our students to reach the “personal excellence” that our mission aspires toward. In this way, inclusion is important because it allows all students the chance to reach their individual potential”- says Kasson Bratton, Head of Middle school at Nanjing International, China.

Kassson BrattonIndividualised learning is an effective tool to promote self-directed study. While many institutions have already recognized the benefits of it, how it can it be driven through an inclusive approach? What role can technology play to enhance learning outcomes? To understand this in-depth we spoke to Kasson Bratton who shares some great insights in making this possible.

1) Tell us a little about yourself and your work

I think I might have the best job in the world. Working with adolescent learners and the professionals that have spent their careers educating this unique age group is challenging, exciting, and inspiring. In my role as Head of Middle school, I am responsible for leading the innovation and implementation of curriculum, as well as working with our teams on social and emotional learning. The intersection of these two areas is a key leverage point in making inclusive education a reality. A great place to spend a lifetime!

2) NIS is known to promote inclusive learning. In your view why is inclusion important? How have you adapted and implemented inclusive educational experiences for students?

At NIS, we say that our Mission of being an inclusive learning community that inspires international mindedness, personal excellence, and creative thinking is “unashamedly aspirational.” When this mission came into being several years ago,  it was really more of a “why not be more inclusive?” approach, in which NIS saw inclusion as simply working to include students with a range of specific needs in what was already going on at the school. Now we have matured to a point that we are beginning to frame inclusion more as ‘individualized’ learning for all students, where we are starting to negotiate curriculum, instruction, and outcomes with each student. Just today we had one of our semester awards assemblies in which we had stronger than ever student academic performance and our first “perfect” score in Grade 10 of our Middle Years Programme.

3) What does an inclusive class look like? How do students participate and in what way are they assessed?

There really is no one way that an inclusive classroom looks. One good example might be our approach to Design. Here, students work to problem find and create solutions through the Design Cycle. After an initial pitch by our Design Team. Each student begins their own exploration into the context, concept, or topic under study. Some students begin to craft their own timelines for their project, other use pre-exisiting dates. As they move through the investigation phase and begin to consider prototyping they tap into their teacher’s expertise, get feedback, and work through and within a cycle of creation, data collection, and reflection. The pace, product, and to a large extent, the actual process is completely individualized. This open-ended approach with individualized support allows all student to access the curriculum in the way that best reflects their specific learning needs style, and approach. The “inclusive innovation” that comes from this approach is now bringing engineers from the private sector into our school to work with and learn from our students, a partnership that was formed this year. Very cool.

4) In what ways has technology enabled designing classes based on student’s ease and speed of work?

Perhaps ironically, all the of the examples I have used so far can be achieved without much “technology” in the traditional sense. We are a 1:1 Macbook/iPad from G.1 and have all the “bells and whistles” you would associate with a well-funded international school. I think we are doing a good job not falling into the cliche of using tech for tech’s sake. With this in mind, we are always exploring ways to better utilize technology for learning. Perhaps the best use in terms of inclusion is the use of tech to create virtual asynchronous assignments, which is just a fancy way of taking what were in-class discussions where the loudest voice was heard and flipping this so the discussion is occurring online. This gives all of our students time to process and respond. Another area where tech improves the student experience for us is ‘feedback’. Our teachers use a range of virtual tools to give students timely and specific written and verbal feedback. This e-confering gives our students actual text or audio that they can access again and again. These are relatively simple examples that most school likely do as well, but they have impacted our learning for sure. I’m looking forward to hearing how other schools create a “unified educational experience” through technology!

At EduTECH Asia, Kasson joins us for a panel discussion on “Levelling the playing field: classroom technology for all”.

Is your institution planning to drive the same mission?  This is chance to meet Kasson and learn first-hand how to make this possible. Book now or before 15 July to save up to 50% of the final price.

This is the first part of the interview, watch out for the next blog where Kasson shares in detail about two initiatives at NIS and discuses some challenges.

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