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V.2 #1 Social Development - Responsive Classrooms: Principles for Inclusive Practices

Inclusive practices in school settings range from placing all children in grade appropriate general education classrooms—full-time—to placing them in other learning settings for part of the school day. Among other scholars, Salend and Duhaney (1999) concluded that inclusive practices can offer academic and social benefits to all children. Because of these beneficial effects, many education professionals have come to view inclusive classes as optimal settings for children with and without disabilities.

Although researchers have identified inclusive practices as beneficial to many children, teachers often struggle to meet the academic and social needs of all children in inclusive settings. One theoretical position contends that all learning is social and that “all higher mental functions are internalized social relationships” (Vygotsky, quoted in Wells, 2000, p.54). Because social relationships are implicated in learning, small changes in social contexts and interactions can positively or negatively affect student learning.

To produce positive results, and to ensure that all children benefit from inclusion, educational programs have been designed to help teachers achieve this goal. One such program with a documented record of success is the Responsive Classroom Approach (RC) (Northeast Foundation for Children, n.d.).

Principles of the Responsive Classroom Approach

RC’s goal is to integrate social and academic learning in ways that help all children in a class—those with and without disabilities.

RC accomplishes this goal by implementing seven principles to guide the thinking and actions of teachers. The seven principles are:

  1. treat social and academic curriculums as equally important.

  2. remember that how children learn is as important as what they learn.

  3. remember that cognitive growth occurs through social interaction.

  4. remember that the social skills of cooperation, assertion, responsibility, empathy, and self-control are essential for learning.

  5. know your children individually, culturally, and developmentally.

  6. know the families of your children and invite them to participate in your classroom.

  7. establish good working relationships with all adults in your school.

Following these principles helps to meet children's social-emotional needs, reduce discipline problems and enhance social and academic competencies. As a consequence, children can focus on learning.

Responsive Class