Bell-Curve Thinking is prominent in today’s schools.😫
Bell-Curve Thinking is the the process of thinking in norms and outliers. In terms of school, most students fall somewhere in the middle (the curve). This group of students become the norm or the mainstream. If your student falls somewhere on the outer edges, they become the outliers. The further away from the centre, the less 'normal' you are perceived to be.
Bell-Curve Thinking leads to a vicious circle of maintaining the status quo: normal vs not normal; mainstream vs special education; meeting vs not meeting; able vs disable. 👎
Bell-Curve thinking is what leads so many into categorizing students based on labels, diagnosis, performance, and ‘societal norms’.👎👎
Bell-Curve Thinking is NOT inclusive!!!😔
BUT, if we can name it- we can CHANGE it.🙌🙌
Keep reading to find out a few things YOU can change today to stop Bell-Curve Thinking...
A simple tip to start the change, think of each kiddo as a learner.
Instead of placing emphasis on curricula, place it on achievement and meaningful participation for ALL 👍
As teachers we are so conditioned to think about curriculum, standards, and benchmarks as they relate to each grade we teach. I know that the school boards have it set up this way that benchmarks need to be met for each subject and each grade level- BUT what if started to thinking differently about benchmarks. What if we thought about each child and what they need to get out of the each subject- so maybe benchmarks become spectrums from attending/readiness skills all the way up to highest level in that area. YES, this sounds crazy and like a ton of work.....but we need to have school boards modernize curriculum guides to be guides and not checklists. Inclusive Education deserves to have supports that reflect its aim and not reflect a traditional system's aims. YOU cannot change the curriculum right now, but you can push the stress of it to sides. Your job is to support and teach ALL learners. You need to be realistic, you need to be simple in your approach, and you need to know your students. I love short whole class lessons, but then splitting into levelled groups for more direct and explicit teaching. Group sizes can vary and you are more likely to connect and engage all your learners. Do not worry about how many minutes of instruction they are getting, just ensure they are getting appropriate & realistic instruction for their needs. When you think of each kiddo as a learner it becomes easier to connect, it becomes easier to understand, and it becomes easier to plan. Teaching in small levelled groups allows us to provide differentiated instruction, in order to increase access, in a more manageable way. Trying to differentiate in a whole class lesson is daunting- maybe impossible to many. Shorten the lessons, but increase your expectations for ALL your learners.
Keep it simple
Different access points for activities, concepts, skills and lessons
I know Bell-Curve Thinking is familiar and supported by most practices and policies. BUT THAT DOES NOT MAKE IT INCLUSIVE THINKING!!!
Quantitative thinking is important- no doubt. Please do not think that I am anti-thinking in numbers. However, when we are trying to further our inclusive approach to schools we need to shift our mindset and retrain our brains. We, as educators and any stakeholder, need to understand that difference is normal and that each individual student expects to learn, to participate, and to be present in the school. Our practices, policies, and mindsets need to value children for who they are and their awesomeness. If we start to define what is normal or not normal, we start to see some kiddos as problems to be fixed. Children are children- they do not need to be fixed, they need to be taught. This normal vs not normal mindset really rubs off on the kiddos as 'not being good enough' or 'you need to change'. The inclusive movement started with aiming to include more vulnerable populations....so the Bell-Curve Thinking remained. We shut down specialized programs and schools, put all kiddos together....without providing the appropriate supports to make it successful for some students. This lack of support & resources coupled with still thinking about Inclusive Education as a means to include certain groups perpetuates the Bell-Curving Thinking. Being a few decades into our journey, it is time to stop seeing Inclusion as a modern day special education and more about an approach in building communities of valued and appreciated individuals.
When you plan your next lesson, think about what will each kiddo (ALL) get out of this lesson:
How are they included meaningfully in the learning?
What is their individual learning aim? How am I supporting that in my planning?
Besides for being in the same space, is there collaborative learning for ALL (not some)?
Changing our mindset is hard- ‘There is only one way, until we are shown another’. Change one small thing in how you plan one lesson.... set a small & achievable goal. Be okay with failing- you will learn, you will get help, and your bag of tricks will grow. I also suggest being simple in lesson planning, classroom planning, and expectations. The ole saying 'Rome wasn't built in a day' is very true- it takes time to teach inclusively, to thinking inclusively, and to act inclusively. THIS IS TOTALLY FINE- you can do it with itty bitty baby steps. As you get more comfortable, the steps will get bigger.
YOU GOT THIS👍