Abteilung Projekte/Schulentwicklung: Schüler als "Brückenbauer" der Schulentwicklung

Im Zuge des 4. Projekttreffens des aktuellen ERASMUS+ Projektes diskutieren Schülerinnen und Schüler, Lehrerinnen und Lehrer gemeinsam mit Gästen und Experten wie Inklusion gelingen kann und welche Rolle dabei vor allem unsere Lernenden spielen.
Abteilung Projekte/Schulentwicklung: Schüler als "Brückenbauer" der Schulentwicklung

INCorporated. (ERSAMUS+ 2014-2017)/HH46/HH56

Die folgende Eröffnungsrede ist im Zuge der Vorbereitung des Projekttreffens gemeinsam mit der Partnerschule auf Chios/Griechenland entstanden. Darin wird unseren Schülerinnen und Schülern als "Brückenbauern" eine entscheidende Rolle zuteil, die aus Sicht der Aktuere eine wesentliche Gelingensbedingung für inklusives Lernen und Lehren darstellt.

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"Dear partners, dear friends!

Welcome to Germany, welcome to Moers and welcome to the Mercator vocational college. We – this means teachers and students – feel honoured of being the host of the 4th project meeting of our strategic partnership in “INCorporated”.

Mind the gap!

Preparing this meeting, I felt like spending some time of looking back at our recent project activities, products and results. Not only because of the official Interim Report being due until the end of this month. I just wanted to get a grip on our initial idea to make inclusive teaching and learning happen in our schools, of fostering an inclusive educational culture at our schools and last but not least – of boosting our schools’ development and sustainability through this partnership.

Inclusion -  in education was once described as an approach wherein students with special educational needs spend most or all of their time with non-disabled students. Now it is crucial that all policy makers, school boards, administrators, guidance counsellors, teachers, parents and students ensure inclusive practice in all aspects of educational environments. Research suggests that inclusivity is no longer defined by physical and cognitive disabilities but also includes a full range of human diversity with respect to ability, language, culture, gender, age and of other forms of human differences.

That’s what we are striving for. Together. But still, we haven’t reached this. Some schools have a long tradition and much experience in working with SEN students exclusively. Others do not have any inclusive concepts at all and only work with “normal” students. Others have gained experience through simply having been “exposed” to single SEN students registering with their school – learning by doing.

Now, let’s have a different view on this issue. Hopefully you like this image. [canyon, two rocks, river]

When we are talking about development processes in school – notwithstanding which – we find ourselves in a situation like this. School development resembles a canyon. Massive rocks. Two sides. In between, deep in the canyon, a river runs. A beautiful image.

We are standing on one side of the canyon, at the edge of a cliff, facing the other side we try to reach in order to continue our hiking trail through the landscape. We are aware of the gap between us and the place we desire to be.

School development means learning to build bridges to get from one point to another, from one level to another one, continuously constructing, deconstructing and reconstructing parts to improve our paths to make schools’ development more sustainable, to improve teaching and learning processes – in short: to make schools perform better to help students perform better (like we did in CoSSOL 2010-2012 or mLOL 2012-2014).

The thing is – we actually see this as “developing” schools, but it’s not. What we are talking about is CHANGE – “changing” schools. Development is a natural process which takes place, but leaving one level, one place for another often causes friction, sometimes fear. What inclusion means for teachers, we found out through the project’s questionnaire for teaching staff. Most of our teachers seem to be very open with regard to an inclusive learning culture. When asked about “changing” their traditional teaching habits to make inclusion happen, they react differently. They feel overchallenged, inexperienced, not well-trained for this, afraid of letting go about their grown fond of teaching habits.

Building bridges and therefore developing schools is always connected to friction because people are afraid of crossing that “bridge” and having to leave something behind. Some might be brave going in front, but a lot of teachers need the feeling of being supported. Teamwork therefore plays an important role. Exchanging thoughts together, developing reasonable and reachable goals. Creating a sense of with-it-ness, a horticulture, a common sense. What we are talking about here is the need for “change management” which is closely connected to the schools’ management, professionals and experts.

That might be the most difficult part in school development because teachers tend to keep traditional schemes of learning once acquired through training and experience. They do not want to cross that canyon.

That is why we firstly focused on teachers – how to sensitize teachers for the demands of SEN students and inclusive concepts, how to professionalize them in their everyday pedagogical routine. That is why we spend two meetings exclusively on that aspect.

But wait – I personally think we missed the point, the crucial one. Why do we want to “change” our systems or better: for whom?

In such change process we tend to tune out the end and aim of our efforts of developing learning cultures: our students. The object of our efforts is at the same time the most important promoter of change processes. Without them, learning processes do not change, even if teachers are trained to. That is why we decided to make students not the object of project work, but to incorporate them as subjects, as valuable experts for learning and teaching processes into our strategic partnerships.

Without the help of our students – SEN students or “normal” ones – we won’t make inclusion happen. Without seeing learning from students’ point of view, like Prof. Dr. Hattie puts forward with his approach of “visible learning”, all teacher training is senseless, useless, pointless. If we are afraid of change, do we really believe that our students aren’t!? I don’t think so.

There will be conflicts in introducing an inclusive learning culture at schools arousing from uncertainty, a lack of information, a lack of understanding and probably even the fact that inclusive learning will affect one’s personal learning process in a negative way. Therefore social competencies, social learning will play a crucial part in our attempt to develop our schools, of making change happen."

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