Developing Inclusive Practices in the Classroom

Engaging All Students in Classroom Change

In: Moving towards Inclusive Education


Often in secondary schools, students from different ethnic and ability groups, or who have different sexual orientations and religious beliefs, feel uncomfortable sitting in mixed groups at school, especially if they feel that they don’t ‘belong’ to the dominant group. This chapter asks how educators can create opportunities for students to be with each other in ways that help them challenge the assumptions that support exclusion. This can involve, for example, challenging ideas about normalisation and popular identity categories. Creative relationship practices that can address these issues were developed, drawing on my work in classrooms in New Zealand and Hungary. The theory of Deleuze and Guattari helps to create settings in which each student’s identity, instead of being viewed as fixed and singular, can be defined as the capacity for becoming something other than what one was before. This opens possibilities for flexibility and change with students and also teachers. Drawing on work on indigenous culture and inclusion by Berryman and others, and Davies’ strategies for implementing ideas from Foucault and Butler on normalisation, my work has explored possibilities for students to claim new identities safely in group settings through ‘circle conversations’. Examples are given of the way these conversations work, taken from a three-year study in a secondary school in New Zealand carried out within a restorative practices programme. Finding ways to encourage students to question normative standards about relating to others in their classroom led to many positive examples of behaviours changed towards greater inclusion. Finally, I discuss possible ways to include the circle conversation pedagogy in contemporary secondary schooling.

Moving towards Inclusive Education

Diverse National Engagements with Paradoxes of Policy and Practice