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Diplomacy in Action

Chapter 1: How Do We Manage the Move Toward Inclusion?


It is important to remember that good education attempts to meet the needs of all students. However, we can no longer assume that one methodology is appropriate. Principles from brain research suggest that a 'one-size-fits-all' approach to classroom teaching is ineffective and possibly even harmful (Tomlinson & Kalbfleisch, 1998). We can no longer assume that one particular text, activity or teaching mode will "work" to support all students' learning (Ferguson, 1995). What we now know about the human brain, multiple intelligences and learning styles makes flexibility of pedagogy indispensable. The question then becomes how to make the shift towards an inclusive orientation and at the same time continue to serve individual needs?

We look towards organizational psychology and the new sciences to provide us with clues as to how we might redefine our organizations in order to better serve those students knocking at our school doors. In the first place, it is important to recognize that there is no single model, no single program, format or service delivery method that will serve as the answer to all possible situations. In discussing organizational change, Wheatley (1994) writes:

I no longer believe that organizations can be changed by imposing a model developed elsewhere. So little transfers, or even inspires, those trying to work at change in their own organizations. Second, and much more important, the new physics cogently explains that there is no objective reality out there waiting to reveal its secrets . . . It is not important that we agree on one expert interpretation or one sure-fire application. That is not the nature of the universe in which we live. We inhabit a world that is always subjective and shaped by our interactions with it (pp. 7 - 8).

For a program to succeed, it is important for a school to develop the model for itself, to determine what fits and what works in the specific context of that community. The need for schools to develop their own models or responses to special needs populations has also been recognized by the Office of Overseas Schools (1998) in its Ten Year Report.

There are, however, some guiding principles:

1. Identify the core values, core beliefs of the organization. We need to find and define the key patterns and principles that express the school's overall identity. What defines it as an organization? This is the major task facing an international school seeking to become more inclusive - defining its core identity, not identifying the program that seems to fit most easily into the existing framework.

Sometimes, schools undergoing re-accreditation or accreditation for the first time may suddenly find themselves faced with this question as they reframe their philosophy and mission statement and ask the following questions:

• What is our purpose?

• What values do we stand for?

• What are our priorities, and how do we define what is important to us?

• Who is our client group, who will be included?

2. Identify the meta-issues involved in the change movement. Again, taking our lead from Wheatley (1994, p. 8), we identify the forces that will shape our transformation:

• What are the sources of order and organization?

• How do we create organizational coherence, where activities correspond to purpose?

• How do we create structures that move with change, that are flexible and adaptive,
without artificial boundaries, that enable rather than constrain?

• How do we simplify things without losing both control and differentiation?

• How do we reconcile personal needs for freedom and autonomy with
organizational need for prediction and control?

As schools, what we want to find out is how we can make the change from where we are to where we want to be, where our vision takes us, and identify those issues that will arise in the course of our journey.

3. Identify and analyze the current status and resources of the organization.
Schools seeking transformation need to identify the philosophical, relational, human, and material strengths that already exist within the organizational structure. In this way, resources can be identified and developed, including skills for collaboration and areas of professional development.

It will be evident from this short analysis of transformational steps that a movement towards inclusion requires commitment from all sectors of the school community and realistic projections of time in order to effectively develop and institutionalize the change.

Ultimately, what we are looking for is to develop a self-renewing, self-organizing system (Wheatley, 1994), what Garmston and Wellman (1997) refer to as the "adaptive school."

Conclusion: If the school reform movement in the U.S. has taught us anything about educational change it has brought home the failure of quick fix panaceas. The journey to inclusivity is a complex one, but what could be more important than making a commitment to do whatever is required to provide the child - all children - with his inclusive birthright, the right to belong?

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