Online Learning & Inclusive Practice

by Matt Holloway, Coordinator for Educator Development, Center for Instructional Support, MA ESE


Massachusetts schools and districts continue to make coordinated strides towards developing more inclusive learning environments for all students. To support these efforts, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) has developed a pair of online courses called Foundations for Inclusive Practice: Educator and Foundations for Inclusive Practice: Administrator. These courses are one option for MA educators to meet the 15 PDPs license renewal requirement related to training in strategies for effective schooling for students with disabilities and instruction of students with diverse learning styles at no cost.

“The information was very in-depth and I really enjoyed the format and organization of the course. I learned a lot. Loved the video clips, articles, can’t rate it high enough! Thank you”  – course participant

The courses, which became available in September, have had an enrollment of over 2,200 educators and 550 administrators, respectively. They have been very warmly received. Whenever I need a little “pick-me-up,” I log in to one of the courses and look at the “Introductions Board,” a Padlet message board where course-takers introduce themselves and share what they hope to gain out of the course. There are several similar Padlet boards throughout each course where educators can share strategies, ideas, and common problems of practice.

matt1Padlet Message Board from the Administrator’s Course

The courses are self-paced and untimed, meaning that our design team had to get very creative in finding ways to make the learning experience engaging and interactive without the benefit of a teacher. ESE partnered with the Education Development Center (EDC) to create the courses and with The Education Collaborative (TEC) to host and help promote them.  Through the use of short videos, audio clips, message boards like Padlet, formative learning activities, and reflective responses to survey questions about data analysis, I think we’ve achieved that goal of creating an engaging, interactive online learning space.

“This was a very well planned out course that provided a comprehensive look at inclusive practices and how each component, co-teaching, student feedback, etc., is critical to its success.” – course participant

Many school and district teams have been working through the courses in collaborative sessions. We designed these courses to be an engaging way for individual educators to learn about the principles of inclusive practice – Universal Design for Learning, Social and Emotional Learning, and Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports – on their own. However, we know that high quality professional development promotes collaboration among educators to encourage sharing of ideas and working together to achieve the identified goals and objectives. There is an “Inclusive Educator Template” document in the first section of the course that can be used to guide these activities.

“This course made me take a look at my own practices as well as school wide practice.  I actually now want to include engaging with students and families in my own professional practice goal area.”  – course participant

You can register for one or both courses by following the link on the Guidebook for Inclusive Practice site. You’ll also notice that there are options for participants to sign up for 1 graduate credit through Worcester State University based on successful completion of the course. Find more information about graduate credit inside the course itself.

Inclusion means a place for every student in every district—students with disabilities; students who are English language learners; students who are gifted; students who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or questioning; and students who seem to fall neatly into the “average” range. All students deserve a chance to learn in a safe and supportive environment. The Department is pleased to be able to provide an online learning experience that will help teachers and administrators build the skills they need to make their daily practices more inclusive.

matt2Matt Holloway is the Coordinator for Educator Development at the Center for Instructional Support with the MA ESE. He can be reached on Twitter @mwholloway and on Voxer @mwholloway as well.

Are you interested in sharing your ideas, insights and questions? If so, click here to sign up for a post. Julie Vincentsen, Principal of Ruggles Lane School, will reach out with specifics. Are you interested but nervous because you’ve never blogged before and don’t know where to begin? Don’t worry – as long as you know how to use Microsoft Word you will be up to this challenge. We write for our communities all the time – this just changes your audience. You probably could even take a current newsletter you’ve written and repurpose it for your colleagues.

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