In teaching today’s society, there are countless barriers students and educators are faced with. Among them are academic, societal, and psycho-social barriers. By focusing on these barriers and attempting to move in a progressive manner, I believe educators enhance access to education and will in turn have a lasting effect on classroom practices and student engagement.
Social attitude towards an individual with disabilities is one of the major societal barriers in education. IIP Digital of the U.S. Embassy states that “When parents, school administrators and community members believe that impairments make a child less worthy of being educated, or less able to benefit from education, it is unlikely that children with disabilities will be given equal access to education.” This barrier impacts classroom practices and student engagement in those children absorbs societies rational on disabilities, making it tough for educators to gear their mind towards individuals with disabilities in the classroom. In turn, I believe students with disabilities in the classroom feel burdened and are less likely to have a positive experience in school as his/her peers. Students with disabilities deserve the same equal rights to education as their peers. Society’s notion that students of disabilities are less deserving is unjustifiable. I strongly believe educators who have the heart and mind can slowly change society’s thoughts on individuals with disabilities. Educators can overcome this barrier through community outreach programs to “raise awareness and dispel myths about disabilities” (IIP Digital, 2013).
When mainstreaming students with special needs, having the necessary materials and training to teach with is vital to their success. “While teachers do not need an advanced degree in special education, they should be trained in how to interact with children who have visual impairments, hearing impairments and other special needs” (IIP Digital, 2013). Without the necessary materials and training offered to educators, educators are limited in what they can do to help students with disabilities achieve in the classroom and in turn, students are less engaged. For students with disabilities to truly benefit and have an exceptional education experience in a mainstream classroom, teachers must teach with knowledge to each student’s disability and needs. More training and quality materials will allow for optimal learning experience these students deserve because “not only will this help schools better accommodate students with disabilities, but also send a message to the community that all students deserve such an education” (IPP Digital, 2013).
With society being racially, ethnically, economically, and linguistically diverse, the idea of one-size-fits-all does not apply in today’s classrooms. Students who are neglected of individualized learning will not benefit from the optimal learning experience he/she needs to be successful and “to help students reach this potential, teachers need to individualize the learning process as much as possible” (IIP Digital, 2013).With the one-size-fits-all model, students are unable to gasp this learning method. Alfie Kohn, American author and lecturer, expresses that the one-size-fits-all education does not work and “declaring that everyone must reach the same level is naïve at best, cynical at worst, in light of wildly unequal resources” (Kohn, 2001). There is no excuse for one-size-fits-all education. According to Andy Powell, CEO of Independent Education Foundation Edge, “one-size-fits-all education system does not enable all children to thrive in their own way” (Powell, 2014). In fact, Powell further explains that “we need to move towards a system of mass customization, based on a strong common core of essential skills and knowledge, which allows young people to develop their own particular talents and aspirations. Young people will learn if they see learning as important, meaningful and worthwhile” (Powell, 2014).
“Parents and educators who feel overwhelmed and do not know where to go for help can create barriers through inaction” (IIP Digital, 2013). Many parents with students of disabilities and educators who teach inclusive education often feel lost at sea with the lack of support and practical help. This affects teaching practices in those teachers with minimal background and support from administrators. Although educators may be aware of the disabilities, the support and help must extend far beyond that to truly meet those needs of students with disabilities. Teacher and parents both need a strong support system to help special needs students move forward. Luckily, “many societies now have advisory groups, which typically include disabled individuals, to help school administrators and governments make smarter policy decisions by informing them of the unique needs of disabled students” (IIP Digital, 2013).
Implementing technology use in the classroom plays a big role in changing the education environment. However, technology is expensive and many schools prefer to teach the traditional way because of the resistance to change, lack of professional development, lack of innovation and access. Karehka Ramey of The Guardian explains that refusing to use technology tools in the classroom “will leave many schools backwards” in a time where our society is growing technologically (Ramey, 2014). Many teachers who refuse to change old tactics set students of the 21st century back in time. Rather than receive training to implement technology, teachers who are resilient to the change will teach traditionally straight from the curricula, subject by subject, lowering students engagement level in the classroom. Students of the 21st century need to feel stimulated and engaged in the materials learned and technology can help with that. As Ramey states, “technology provides easy access to academic information, ability to learn easily which results from the use of visual learning in the classroom which is facilitated by technological tools like the smart white boards, and the ability to learn from anywhere” (Ramey, 2014).
The achievement gap is arguably the most talked about issue in regards to education barriers.The issue of achievement gap is especially concerning to teachers with non-affluent and/or black and Hispanic students because of the troubling performance gaps. Through the rising demands of NCLB, teachers recognize the urgency to close the achievement gaps among affluent and non-affluent students. The achievement gap is impacting diverse classrooms. Mary E. Walsh of The Whole Child and Executive Director of City Connects explain that “until we address poverty, the achievement gap will persist” (Walsh, 2013). Walsh further explains “to provide opportunity of upward mobility, teachers must instill best teaching practices to ensure success whether that means coordinating with families and community agencies, working with school counselors, and customizing to the needs of each student”. Because the achievement gap exists, teaching practices have enhanced and teachers are now finding that holding each student to high expectations can also help close the gap. When teachers hold students to high expectations, students will feel valued and not underestimated.
Kohn, A. (2001, June 10). One-Size-Fits-All Education Doesn’t Work. Retrieved from http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/onesize.htm
Overcoming Barriers to Equal Education. (2013, August 28). Retrieved from http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/st/english/pamphlet/2013/08/20130823281583.html?CP.rss=true#axzz34kzMA6jc
Powell, A. (n.d.). We Need An Education System That Excites Children. Retrieved from http://www.teachingtimes.com/articles/revolution-education-system.htm
Ramey, K. (n.d.). Barriers to the Effective Use of Technology in Education. Retrieved from http://www.useoftechnology.com/barriers-effective-technology-education/
Walsh, M. (2013, June 10). Support All Students to Close the Achievement Gap. Retrieved from http://www.wholechildeducation.org/blog/support-all-students-to-close-the-achievement-gap