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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Chapter 4: The Four Major Dimensions of Inclusive Classrooms


The conceptual model of an inclusive classroom outlined here is focused on student learning and organized around four major, inter-linked dimensions that can be visualized as a double Venn Diagram in the shape of a cloverleaf. In an inclusive classroom, we find active learning in all participants, students as well as teachers. Learning is meaningful because content has been made relevant and is connected to prior knowledge and previous learning. In addition, while the curriculum may be prescribed, there is also room to pursue personal knowledge and interests. Finally, an inclusive classroom will have ongoing, dynamical[1] assessments. 

Diagram - The Four Major Dimensions of Inclusive Classroom

Outline of Diagram

Critics may observe that this model applies to any classroom in which good education takes place - whether it be AP Physics or 3rd Grade PE. It is certainly true that good teaching is good teaching, but we would argue specifically that in the act of rising to meet the challenge of educating exceptional children within the regular classroom setting, education for all children is substantially improved. We would argue that the structures and the strategies included within this conceptual map support quality education for all, including those who are highly capable, those with learning disabilities, and those who have limited English proficiency (English as a Second Language - ESL).

The model is based upon our six assumptions, stated earlier in the Introduction.

[1] "Dynamical" is a term taken from chaos theory (Gleick, 1987) to describe the nonlinear quality of systems. Constant values cannot be assigned to components of nonlinear systems, because as one component undergoes change, the character of the entire system also changes, making it difficult to predict the end result. In an educational setting, the implications are significant and suggests that the full effects of specific learnings cannot be forecast ahead of time. With regard to assessment, it further suggests that the parameters and methods of assessment will change and should change as student knowledge grows and matures and depending on what it is that is being assessed.

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