Insights from FLeD Project: Flipped Learning for Inclusive Education

by | Jan 16, 2024

Insights from FLeD Project: Flipped Learning for Inclusive Education

Jan 16, 2024 | 0 comments


Undoubtedly, increased accessibility to quality education for disadvantaged people creates better opportunities for full participation in public life and education environments. In the last decade, the topic of equal rights and effective training of “different” learners in higher education institutions has taken a priority place. They have the right to participate in the educational process on an equal basis with all other students, to develop and improve their potential, to accumulate knowledge, skills and competencies that will lead them to successful professional and career development. International education policy is focused on developing the ideas of providing “education for all”. Universities have an obligation to create the necessary conditions and opportunities to ensure that all students can actively engage in the learning process and learn effectively (Thomas, 2016). In fact, inclusive education as a philosophy is currently accepted as an indicator of the quality of education systems.

This blog post discusses the effect of flipped classroom strategy in the context of inclusive education in higher education. This approach is well suited to teaching all students regardless of their differences. This is especially a good opportunity for inclusive education, especially for students with special educational needs (SEN). We will present some definitions, focus on the importance of contemporary teaching models and methods such as the flipped classroom for students who need support, look at good practices and draw attention to the FLeD project, which emphasizes flexible learning via the flipped experience using digital technologies.

Definition and Meaning

The word “include” means – to make someone a participant in something; join. This term and the meaning behind it make inclusion one of the guiding values in any modern democratic society. The philosophy of inclusive education is built on the right of every person to education. It is based on the ideas of integrating people with disabilities into society, succeeding in developing and introducing the idea of changing the physical environment and the educational model according to the needs of the learners.

Inclusive education is one of the modern trends in global and European policy and practice. It is supported by numerous international documents, including:

  • the Salamanca Declaration, Spain (1994),
  • the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (2006),
  • Standard rules for equality and equal opportunities for people with disabilities’ (1993),
  • Framework for Action of the Dakar Forum, Senegal (2000)

 It is based on the belief that students of all abilities have the right to an education that is meaningful, appropriate, and equal to that of their peers. Inclusive education is seen as a process that seeks to eliminate all forms of segregation and discrimination. To cover vulnerable and isolated students for one reason or another. To encourage and facilitate the participation of all in the educational process. The national policies of a number of countries take real action to promote inclusive education and building an inclusive environment in schools that adequately responds to the diversity of student needs. Creating an inclusive educational and social environment is considered the most effective way to combat discrimination and exclusion, to ensure access to education for all, regardless of health, ethnic, social, economic or gender status.

Inclusion is a principle:

‘Inclusion and equity in and through education is the cornerstone of a transformative education agenda […] No education target should be considered met unless met by all’.

(World Education Forum, 2015, p. 2)

Inclusion is also a process:

‘A process consisting of actions and practices that embrace diversity and build a sense of belonging, rooted in the belief that every person has value and potential and should be respected’.

(UNESCO, 2020, p. 419)

Booth (1996) describes inclusive education as the process of addressing and meeting the diversity of needs of all learners by increasing participation in learning, intercultural connections and community understanding, and reducing exclusion within and from education. How is inclusion seen in your own context? Can you add some more critical contextual views?

The texts below clearly reflect the essence of the concept of inclusive education.

‘Inclusive education is a process that involves the transformation of schools and other centres of learning to cater for all children – including boys and girls, students from ethnic and linguistic minorities, rural populations, those affected by HIV and AIDS, and those with disabilities and difficulties in learning and to provide learning opportunities for all youth and adults as well. Its aim is to eliminate exclusion that is a consequence of negative attitudes and a lack of response to diversity in race, economic status, social class, ethnicity, language, religion, gender, sexual orientation and ability ’.

(UNESCO, 2009)

‘Inclusive education as an approach seeks to address the learning needsof all children, youth and adults with a specific focus on those who arevulnerable to marginalisation and exclusion’.

(UNESCO, 2003)

In the first definition, inclusive education is interpreted as a process that puts emphasis not on the child itself, but on the education system, which must reach all learners. In the second, inclusive education is seen as an approach that has two main characteristics: orientation to learning needs with an emphasis on the vulnerable group that may be marginalized or excluded.

Current Debates and Perspectives:

The inclusion of all learners is a challenge that implies a rethinking of pedagogical practice and practical changes to the entire educational system. Universities also face many issues related to the inclusion of students:

  • with biologically determined differences including different types of disorders, and gender
  • with sociocultural and socio economical differences including minority origins, remote access from educational institutions, and poverty.

The questions that need to be asked and that wait to be answered are:

  • Does higher education really guarantee an equal opportunity to study and an equal learning experience?
  • What pedagogical principles and strategies should be applied to learners with different needs?
  • To what extent will the academic staff respond positively to their needs for easier access to learning?

The main challenge is the diversity of educational needs. It requires an adequate response to difference and individual characteristics and an awareness of the need for inclusive policies to overcome social and educational isolation. Modern ICT are part of the factors for access to an educational environment for these groups of learners who have different disabilities, for whom there is a risk of isolation or who have insufficiently good learning results. E-learning has the potential to make education more accessible and democratic for persons with physical, sensory, cognitive impairments, learning difficulties, etc.

As a trend in modern education, the use of various forms of e-learning is emerging, which provides the expanded opportunities for access, adaptability, personalization of learning, greater autonomy and independence in learning, which are decisive factors for the successful learning of students with different types of disorders (Betts et al., 2013; Coombs, 2010; Seale, 2006). Other authors emphasize the possibilities it offers in terms of alternative means of communication, providing remote and continuous access to educational resources anywhere and at any time, the possibility of learning at one’s own pace, learning from home and easy communication with other students and teachers, increasing the effectiveness of the educational process and the motivation to learn (Fichten et al., 2009; Goodman et al., 2002; Martínez, 2011).

Taking into account the above, we can naturally place the flipped classroom as a strategy that provide a supportive environment in higher education and a space for inclusive education. Flipped Classroom methodology tends to make learning process significant and accessible to every student by:

  • moves the traditional lecture out of class time through the use of a huge variety of media, apps, software to communicate course content
  • gets students to do practical activities and homework (interactive videos, that can be subtitled, videos and images, written texts, material manipulation)
  • teaches them the key concepts of a particular topic in advance as homework.

These lectures are replaced in class by a set of interactive problem-solving activities designed to induce active learning thereby prompting students to apply and further comprehend the learned concepts. The flipped classroom learning style enables the teachers to teach content pre-class while providing adequate in-class active learning processes. In this way, flipped classroom can:

  • facilitate the learning at one’s own pace thanks to unlimited access to learning resources and learning activities at their convenience, in other words the pace and speed of learning is personalized.
  • consider the speed and specifics of the sensory and cognitive perception of information for most students with SEN (blind, hearing impaired, intellectual disabilities, dyslexia, autism, etc.),
  • provide good conditions for the learning content to be mastered by extending the time to read/observe/listen the learning materials
  • enable students to better understand and remember the new knowledge and more effectively complete the assigned tasks in the classroom.

In addition, learners:

  • can return to the learning materials and activities at any time to recall what they have learned and fill in gaps in their knowledge.
  • personalize the learning experience of students and improve the processes of perception, meaning, overall understanding of the learning material and easier through educational multimedia and hypermedia
  • increase their effectiveness of learning by personalising learning by accessing materials in a digital format which much more functional than text-based information about them,
  • can easily manipulate and, if necessary, transform resources into a more convenient format.
  • have access to more regular communication with the teachers, providing them with individual assistance.

With electronic learning resources, such parameters as font, font size, colour and fill, brightness and contrast, volume, object movement, animation speed and others can be changed. For example:

  • for hearing-impaired students, alternative formats need to be provided for access to learning material presented in audio or video format (text or sign dubbing, speech transcription, available on request)
  • for hearing-impaired students, an audio recording of a lecture can be generated to facilitate their independent learning outside the classroom.

As an example, we can point to the multimedia learning resources developed by Sofia University with gesture explanations in video format, developed using popular software applications for creating electronic learning content: PowerPoint and Camtasia Studio. The videos with sign translation of the lecture material are pre-recorded with a native speaker, which guarantees their authenticity and credibility (Figure 1). Another example is the creation of sign dictionaries with key terms from the lecture courses (Figure 2) as well as a digital picture dictionary. In FLED project the accessibility is enabled by course materials and activities accessible to all students, that is also key to making it possible for students to participate in alternative modes. It is recommended that teachers include adaptations for the different profiles and special needs of the group: subtitles with appropriate typography, text-to-speech reader, correct colour contrast, correct font size, etc.

Blagovesna Yovkova

Blagovesna Yovkova

Associate Professor, PhD, Sofia University