Free school guide to inclusion and climate science is not ideological – it’s based on evidence – The Conversation UK
A recent guide for teachers and schools has met with criticism. For example, an article in the Daily Telegraph claimed:
Teachers are told not to use expressions such as’ girls and boys’, ‘normal’ and ‘other’ in class – but they should make students aware of ‘superdiversity’ and ‘declare a climate change emergency’ to ‘ the truth ”about our“ climate breakdown ”.
The article is about Building Better Schools with Evidence-Based Guidelines: Adaptable Guidelines for Teachers and Headmasters that I published with Andrea Reupert and Lindsay Oades.
While the article claims the book provides “guides” designed by “academic nutcases”, this is not entirely true.
The book is intended as a free guide for teachers who want to read the evidence on their subject of hardship. The guideline templates are not prescriptive. The editors encourage users of the book to consider the guidelines and adapt them to their unique school context, priorities, and culture.
Topics such as “superdiversity” and “declaring a climate emergency” are just a small selection of the 35 other topics in the book. Topics range from student participation in physical activity to wellbeing, excellence in indigenous education, and feedback on learning.
Teachers can say “boys and girls”
The book includes a chapter on transgender and non-binary students. Hence the criticism that “one should not deal with expressions like girls and boys”.
The chapter suggests that schools consider the language they use in class to support inclusion.
The section on boys and girls specifies that “staff should not divide students by gender for classroom activities, sports, subjects, queuing, etc.” or address students as “girls and boys” if they specifically want to create an inclusive environment for Students whose gender is not described by the binary categories boys or girls.
Read more: 9 out of 10 LGBTQ + students say they hear homophobic language in school and 1 in 3 hears it almost every day
Recommendations on the use of gender-sensitive language, especially when pronouns are unknown, are not new and are endorsed by several international bodies. The American Psychological Society recommends terminologies such as “everyone,” “student,” and “children” as useful alternatives to addressing class groups as “boys and girls” to ensure students are validated and are not of the wrong gender.
Another critical interview on Sky News with Mark Latham revolved around the term “superdiversity”. This refers to the variety of differences that make up the population and recognizes how the individual aspects that create diversity can interact with one another.
It comes from a chapter that responds to the increasing diversity in the classroom such as “disability, cognitive skills, gender / sexuality and religion”. Diversity can also include “personality, interests, socio-economic status, individual needs, and a variety of other variables”.
The Daily Telegraph article suggested that the book “Urges teachers not to use phrases like English as a second language”. The advice, however, comes from one of several considerations for inclusive practice, such as avoiding terms “that classify student knowledge in a deficient way”.
For example, the term “ESL student” may not be problematic in and of itself, but the way it is used may be imprecise for some students who speak multiple languages. This result comes from a study of young students with different bilingual identities in Australia.
The message is: “Every child has a number of personal characteristics that must be taken into account in all aspects of school life”.
A climate emergency
Another chapter of the book outlines “why and how a school could proclaim a climate emergency policy”. This is based on a scientific consensus about global warming associated with human activities. For example, the groundbreaking Special Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns of the catastrophic consequences of climate change by 2030 if we cannot limit warming to 1.5 ° C above pre-industrial levels.
The directive also supports United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 13, “Take urgent action to combat climate change and its effects”.
Read more: Have you ever wondered what our curriculum teaches kids about climate change? The answer is “not much”
As the chapter suggests, teachers and students should “play their part in responding to this global declaration of the climate emergency.”
What evidence did we use
In the Sky News interview, Mark Latham claimed the book had “very little evidence.”
Each guideline has been written or co-authored by researchers recognized as the foremost authorities in the field. These include Laureate Professors John Hattie (expert in feedback on learning) and Marilyn Fleer (games in schools), Distinguished Professor Neil Selwyn (digital technologies) and Professor Andrew Martin (instruction on how to reduce cognitive load).
While the Sky News interview talked about identity politics and a leftist agenda, several policy recommendations in the book were endorsed by the people who criticize the book. For example, the chapter on reading teaching by Professor Pamela Snow, Kate de Bruin, and Linda Graham advocates the use of systematic phonetic teaching – which Mark Latham supports.
Read more: We have the evidence of what works in schools, but that doesn’t mean everyone is using it
Each contributor was also asked to evaluate the evidence used to support or inform the policy and to ensure transparency. They rated the evidence in terms of impact (and potential impact), how it can be generalized, and how easily any policy can be implemented. These ratings are included in the book.
Each policy has also been reviewed by those who will be deemed its ultimate users, including parents and teachers.
This book does not attempt to impose any particular ideological point of view on educational systems. There is a well-known gap between research and practice. The book aims to fill that void by providing teachers with the evidence right when they need it.