International Community School (ICS) gained International Baccalaureate (IB) World School status in 2008. They offer the full range of International Baccalaureate programmes for students aged 3 - 18 years. Here, they explain why co-teaching sets them apart and helps their inclusivity efforts.
We’ve previously written on this website about the principle and practice of inclusion at the International Community School.
Amongst a community of 250 students and 80 faculties, we have, at any one time, between 45 and 60 different nationalities, so to promote anything other than an inclusive approach to education would seem total folly.
However, inclusion translates as meaning different things to different people. One of the key things that inclusion means for us as a school community is including all children, with a variety of learning differences, where possible within the main classroom setting.
In our school we do not have a special needs department instead we have a student support department. This is not mere semantics; it is a reflection that all students have individual learning needs.
ICS aims to provide an education that is personalised for each student. At ICS we support a range of students. Some are gifted and talented, and others have been diagnosed with specific learning disabilities.
We also support students on the autistic spectrum who are academically very able, but need extra input to help them navigate the social world. Unfortunately in many schools, students who learn or think differently would be put in separate classes/education programmes.
However, to us this is not only educationally and socially unhelpful it is over simplifying the situation, for example, some students on the autistic spectrum are gifted and talented, so sub-dividing children and placing them in different classes or streams would be extremely artificial and counter-productive.
At the International Community School, one of the ways in which we endeavour to promote inclusion and meet the learning needs of all our students is through a co-teaching model.
Co-teaching has proven to be one of the best ways of delivering learning support to help students achieve to their potential. When it works well co-teaching can be an extremely rewarding experience for the students and their teachers.
How often do we reflect on our educational experiences and find that the areas where we excelled were those where we ‘liked’ the teacher or understood the way in which they explained things and conversely the subjects where we struggled were those where the relationship with the teacher was quite different?
A co-teaching model seeks to compliment this approach by having two teachers working with the class. The teachers plan together, they interact during the class and whilst one takes the lead, the other can work with individuals or small groups to explain or support/encourage as required.
Naturally, we have our co-teachers focus on those students who we have identified as needing particular support but this doesn’t preclude helping other students.
Due to our small class sizes and co-teaching model for all core academic subjects in the IB Middle Years Programme our teachers are able to craft differentiated lessons to support our students in gaining access to the curriculum in a meaningful way.
We have had co-teaching at the International Community School for three years and whilst it has been hard work to embed and refine the model, we feel that it is making a significant difference to our teachers and students.
Teaching and learning are now a ‘team’ activity, where everyone has something to contribute, rather than the more traditional and ‘individual’ activity. Consequently co-teaching is playing a key role in making us a truly inclusive learning community.