Creating Impact through Collaboration

Creating Impact through Collaboration

Anja Junginger, MYP Design Teacher / Strategic Development Manager, International School of Stuttgart


Defining and building a culture of inclusive high-impact learning has long been a strategic priority for us at the International School of Stuttgart. As with any ambitious and ongoing change process, we have had to clarify our thinking around our s of success, aligned with our guiding statements, and our theories of action for achieving this success. At the heart of our work is the importance of inclusion and learner-agency. Our challenge has been to create the right structures that will positively transform patterns of behaviour and attitudes to amplify our values. This change, we hope, will in turn allow for all learners to be participants in creating a space that enables a visible, collaborative, self-directed learning culture where all can grow, and are seen and heard in the process.


The Program

There are many ways to achieve these aims, however one that we are implementing and evaluating this year is the ISS Teacher Residency Program. The program aims to provide an opportunity for aspiring educators, our Residents, to grow and develop as IB teachers within a collaborative experience dedicated to their professional growth and evidenced through student learning.  Experienced Mentor Teachers support this development not only as guides and coaches, but also as learners themselves. This is aligned with our developing strategic approach to professional learning and building a ‘Coaching Culture’. The program is rooted in the principles of adult learning, the IB Standards and Practices, and the NEASC ACE Learning Principles for all learners, as well as guided by the Learning Forward Standards for Professional Learning.

The Program is intended to inspire, support, and challenge both a diverse group of young professionals advancing on their career path, as well as the ISS Mentor Teachers who collaborate with them.  Our hope is that by enacting this learner-centered and job-embedded form of professional learning that we can lay the seeds for a culture of collaboration and self-directed learning for all learners at ISS. The program currently supports eight  Residents, eight Mentor Teachers, and two coordinators. Our aim is that these 18 educators will begin to create patterns of motivation and energy, clarity of purpose, and growth mindsets inspired by action research within their teams. This will ideally create an amplifying feedback loop.


Our Findings

Although only six months into the program, we have gathered evaluative feedback so that we can iterate improvements into the 2023-24 structure . We used several evaluation methods including surveys, collaborative brainstorming, and Focus Group sessions with the Residents, their mentor teachers, and school leaders. First, we wanted to find out if our success criteria were being met, for which we used the survey, asking participants to rate their agreement with the success criteria statements.

  • Residents express satisfaction with the ways in which they are treated and included as members of the ISS community:
    Average rating 4.4 out of 5
  • Residents can incorporate their prior knowledge into the program to aid and extend their learning:
    Average rating 4.6 out of 5
  • Residents have opportunity to collaborate based on their strengths and abilities:
    Average rating 4.6 out of 5
  • Feedback is used to support learning, in accordance with IB philosophy:
    Average rating 4.2 out of 5
  • The program is a holistic and coherent learning experience for residents in accordance with the principles of adult learning:
    Average rating 4.3 out of 5 for Mentor Teachers | Average rating 4.0 out of 5 for Residents
  • Residents can explore their personal interests and ideas and set meaningful learning goals:
    Average rating 4.40 out of 5
  • Mentors have opportunity to share their strengths and abilities:
    Finding: 4.67 out of 5
  • Mentors can describe their own professional growth because of program involvement.


Residents and mentor teachers


Some examples of what was said:

  • It’s made me more aware of my own practices and it’s challenged me to be a better teacher since I have to model that.
  • It has given me the experience to have/handle difficult conversations and made me focus on solution-based conversations.
  • It has required me to reflect on my own practices, listen and learn about new ones and perspectives, and apply them accordingly.
  • It has been a useful experience to stop and consider why I do things the way I do. It has provided new motivation to re-engage with research in education and to try some new things.

Then we also asked all groups to give us two stars and a wish. A key theme that arose can be seen in these responses:

  • Perhaps clearer expectations of what the teacher’s role is. The freedom is nice but extra guidance beforehand would go a long way in setting out roles and responsibilities.
  • Clearer expectations of the outcome of the program, possibility of residents working with more than one mentor.
  • The expectations need to be agreed and clear for everyone involved / avoid mixed messages (or perception thereof). Maybe even a job description now for the resident and one for the mentor?

As well as:

  • Make the residents and mentors more visible and enable them to contribute more to the school as a whole.
  • Communicate the program more transparently.

Another important aspect that we were curious about was what impact Mentor Teachers thought the Resident Program was having on student learning within their classrooms. Their responses included:

  • The students benefit from another educator, from an additional skillset and from another caring adult.
  • Students adapt to the circumstances put forth in the classroom and see that a teacher residency and the class teacher are both approachable and inspire, challenge and support each and every student.
  • Very positive. The students benefit from a male and female homeroom teacher – they see and respect the resident as a teacher and his relationships with both students and parents are excellent.
  • Time assigned to individual students is priceless, huge advantage for them, there are two of us at any given time. We can differentiate/individualise their learning.


Residents with students


What we have learned

We were happy to see the positive impact that the program is already having on attitudes and skills across the program participants. It was also inspiring and motivating to participate in the feedback and brainstorming sessions. These helped us to think about ways to strengthen the program for even greater impact. The new ideas that the feedback generated included:

  • Develop a clear mission for the program and better define the expected impacts
  • Make more use of the program to support all participants in developing their intercultural competency and international-mindedness
  • Clearer guidance for Mentor Teachers about expectations for observation and feedback
  • More opportunities for Mentor Teachers to share and develop their coaching skills
  • More transparency and communication of the program in the community
  • More touchpoints across the organisation with the program in order to increase impact
  • Clearer guidance on how Residents evidence their learning and progress towards goals


Our next steps

As we are continually working on developing and diversifying the program using a solution-focused design process, this feedback has been immeasurably helpful. Our first action has been to move towards a mission-driven goal, which is to diversify the program so that a greater focus can be put on promoting intercultural understanding. For the 2023-24 cohort we have been lucky to hire Residents from Bosnia, Kenya, the US, Germany, Canada, and Colombia. In line with this, we are developing a program mission rooted in developing intercultural understanding and learning impact. We plan to make the ECIS Global Perspectives courses and the Preparing for International Teaching Certificate modules a core part of our professional learning strategy.

Our next goal is to bolster the role of the Mentor Teacher through clearer support materials and professional growth opportunities within the school. Currently they receive ECIS MLC courses, but we want to embed this work more within the school and create more opportunities for coming together as a professional learning community. We believe that Mentor Teachers will benefit from reflection, sharing, and action research related to their own development as coaches, as well as their development as middle leaders. We also want them to have better guidance on how to observe and give feedback on learning.

For the Residents, we want to continue to emphasise the focus on goal setting and evidencing learning. It is an area to strengthen and be more explicit about. The power of how we document and monitor student learning can be highlighted as we encourage our Residents, and their Mentor Teachers, to focus on this as a vehicle to document and monitor their own growth as educators. We also want our residents to experience being in different classrooms as observers to expand their experience and create more touchpoints for the program in the school.

Lastly, we will place a greater emphasis on making the program and the work of the participants more visible to the community as a whole. The excellent work that is happening should be amplified more so that others might also be inspired, and the ripple effect can be maximised.


A Vision for the Future

The importance of keeping educators in the profession cannot be underestimated. Most notably research findings such as those cited by Johnson et al in their paper Conditions that Support Early Career Teacher Resilience (Johnson, 2010) point us to the importance of creating better induction programs that support new teachers in developing the skills and dispositions to thrive and stay in the profession. Amongst other points made are that:

  • early career teachers confront a serious mismatch between their ‘idealistic motivations’ and the daily realities of classroom teaching (Abbott-Chapman, 2005); and that
  • too few early career teachers experience a quality induction program (Algozzine, Gretes, Queen & Cowan-Hathcock, 2007). Most are left to ‘sink or swim’ and learn by ‘trial and error’ in their first year of teaching (Howe, 2006).

Additionally, our mid-career teachers are another important group to focus on as we aim to create sustainability in the profession. Often the only way to progress and develop in schools is to move out of the classroom into administrative leadership positions. What if we could develop our most excellent practitioners as leaders but keep them in the classrooms where they can have the greatest impact on student learning and act as role models as ‘teachers of teaching’? School systems that excel, such as in Singapore take such an approach. “Singapore invests significantly in teachers as professional learning leaders with leadership roles that recognise excellence in professional learning, helping teachers to lead professional learning within their own schools and to align teacher needs and broader school objectives” (Jensen, 2013).

Our vision is that by bringing these two groups of impactful educators together to inspire, challenge, and support each other we can create more sustainability in the profession, develop greater intercultural understanding, and ultimately benefit students not only at the International School of Stuttgart but also in the schools that our Residents will teach in in the future.




“Beyond PD: Teacher Professional Learning in High-Performing Systems – NCEE.”, Accessed 1 Jan. 1970.

Johnson, B., Down, B., Le Cornu, R., Peters, J., Sullivan, A., Pearce, J., & Hunter, J. (2010). Conditions that support early career teacher resilience. Refereed paper presented at ‘Teacher education for a sustainable future’, the annual conference of the Australian Teacher Education Association (ATEA), Townsville, 4–7 July.





Originally from Hamburg, Germany, Anja Junginger grew up in Virginia and experienced first-hand what it means to be an international student and EAL learner. She went on to get a Bachelor of Arts degree and Master of Teaching from the University of Virginia, and later, a Master of Educational Technology from Boise State University.

Anja began her career in education, and at ISS, in 1992. She started as a substitute teacher and has since been a primary school teacher, IB Primary Years coordinator, Early Years coordinator, librarian, technology integrator, and the Director of Digital Learning and Communications, all of which has provided her with the passion and perspective to help in steering the strategic developments of the school so that they have the greatest impact on learning. Inspired through the teaching of MYP Design, as well as her role as a school visitor and workshop leader for the IBO, Anja enjoys supporting collaborations, developing meaningful projects, and strategic thinking.

In addition to her professional connection to the school, both of her daughters are proud alumni of ISS, who experienced their entire K-12 education as ISS IB learners.


60 Years of Research on Small Schools

60 Years of Research on Small Schools
Stuart Grauer


Smaller learning communities are routinely perceived and treated as “less” by virtue of their size when, in fact, they often offer more in essential areas.


Two Ignored Facts:

Schools and school districts have grown steadily in size for well over 100 years.

Since the 60s, teachers have been consistently expressing their desire for smaller learning communities.


The reasons for this disconnect, at least in the United States—political and not economic—are outside the scope of this article, but the reasons people thrive better in smaller learning communities are powerful and in need of clear expression. Smaller learning communities offer greater benefits in every key area of national concern as well as of concern to every parent and school leader: safety, teaching conditions, academic performance, culture of equal opportunity on campus, learning choices and curriculum, and costs of schooling.


Before stating what is so advantageous about small schools, it is crucial to state what a small school is, and is not, because the millions lose out when small schools aren’t really small. A small school is not small if it consists of 400 or more students. According to Gregory’s research (2000) it is optimal at close to half that size, and extensive literature review has shown me that at around 300 and more-so at 235 students, many small school advantages diminish.


The Gates Foundation put small schools on the map a few years ago, and then wiped them off of it. The Gates experiment was declared a failure while neglecting a mission critical fact. The Gates small schools were declared a resounding success when they started out, with 400 and less students. As the Gates schools allowed their student bodies to creep up to 500 in size, they were still labelled “small schools.” However, they naturally lost their impact. Because of the enormous influence of Gates and the straw man his mis-labeled “small” schools created, the small schools movement was dealt a devastating blow. Therefore, researchers, policy makers and the public must recognise that to deem a school of around 300 or fewer students (and absolutely less than 400) “small” comes with real risk in terms of the key benefits.


Panamanian girls get ready for school. (Photo: S. Grauer)


For instance, in true small schools, students are absent much less, drop out at nearly half the rate, have higher grade point averages, and improve reading scores by almost a half-year grade equivalency more than large schools (Wasley et al., 2000).


While small schools have a higher cost per pupil than large schools, they have a lower cost per graduate since they tend to have lower dropout rates. The higher percentage of dropouts from large schools are associated with serious, additional societal costs such as crime and lifetime earnings (US Department of Education).


Students in small schools outperform students in large schools on standardised achievement tests, significantly (Raywid, 1997/8, p. 34; Bryuk & Driscoll, 1998). In Matthews’s 2014 study of the nation’s most academically “challenging” schools, 40% of them were schools of less than 350 students, an extremely disproportional distribution in favor of small schools.


Also according to the research, small schools are safer, reporting fewer fights and no incidents of serious violence (National Center for Education Statistics, 1998). A 1999 U.S. Department of Education study found that schools with more than 1000 students had far higher rates of violent student behaviour than schools with fewer than 300 students, and teachers and students in small schools were far less likely to be victims of crime (McRobbie, J., (2001, October).  But students are not only physically safer in schools of less than 400, they feel emotionally safer and more connected with adults—which positively impacts learning.


The size of the student body alone does not make a good school, of course.  But there are things that can occur in small groups that can’t in big ones. Research shows that in small schools, relationships between students and adults are strong and ongoing. There is much more advising going on, either formally or informally. This leads to clearer paths to graduation and postgraduate plans. Secondly, relationships with parents are strong and ongoing. Thirdly, small schools have a leaner administrative structure, so that the whole faculty shares in decision-making. This fact explains why teachers in small schools feel a greater sense of efficacy—they have a say, and they report higher job satisfaction.


The research is rich:  In a review of more than 100 studies and evaluations, Cotton, noted, “Research has repeatedly found small schools to be superior to large schools on most measures and equal to them on the rest. This holds true for both elementary and secondary students of all ability levels and in all kinds of settings.”  Again out of the scope of this primer, research into anthropology, organisational development, sociology and history all have much to tell us about group size that has rarely if ever been factored into school design.


One of my favourite aspects of the small school is that the school develops its own, unique culture. The culture of small schools typically revolves around hard work, high aspirations, respect for others, and the expectation that all students will succeed.


Why is there a bias towards large schools? Wasley and Lear explain it like this: Our collective memory of high school in the U.S. includes nostalgia such as proms, football games, exciting social lives, romance, and first cars. No matter that such memories do not apply to most students. The average high school student does not attend sporting events; indeed the larger the school, the smaller the percentage of student participation in these activities. For many students, the social scene in large high schools is tough and unforgiving, with sharp distinctions made between the small group of social haves and the far larger masses of have-nots. And high school memories seldom include a significant academic component, let alone an intellectual one (2001).


Rather than logging millions of miles per year on busses to comprehensive schools and being dropped into fenced compounds with thousands of students, what if schools were created to be safe and manageable in size? Students deserve to be free from worry about personal safety and to be confident that their teachers and administrators know them well and can guide their development of skills and knowledge.




Cotton. 1996.

Cushman. 1997.

ED.Gov.  School Size.

Gladwell, Malcolm. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. Boston: Little, Brown, 2000. Print.

McRobbie, J., (2001, October). Are small schools better?: School size considerations for safety and learning. San Francisco, CA: WestEd Policy Brief.

Raywid, M. & Oshiyama, L. (2000, February). Musing in the wake of Columbine: What can schools do? Phi Delta Kappan, 81(6), 444–449.

Wasley, and Lear. “Educational Leadership.” Mar. 2001. Web.





Stuart Grauer helps and consults with schools that are small by design and looking for assistance with their marketing, governance, parent relations, and faculty training as they provide key, strategic information all these constituencies. Grauer’s writings and work have taken him many times around the globe and have been covered widely — including by The Discovery Channel, Phi Delta Kappan, The New York Times, and Independent Schools Magazine.  He has taught public and private, grades three through postgraduate, and is founder of The Grauer School and the Small Schools Coalition (SSC). His recent book is “Fearless Teaching” (AERO), available wherever books are sold.

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His recent book is “Fearless Teaching” (AERO), available wherever books are sold.

Inclusion, Language, Labelling, Needs, & Belonging


An illuminating interview with the founder of Global Inclusion Consultancy, Inclusion Expert, author and trainer, Daniel Sobel, who himself has ADHD and has turned it into his ‘superpower’.


At a time when ECIS has been reflecting deeply on inclusion from an international perspective and reflecting on its own practice, it felt opportune to discuss the topic with Inclusion Expert, Daniel Sobel to learn more about how his work connects with the work of UNESCO, ECIS and its membership community.


In this interview, Daniel openly shares his thoughts around some focused questions asked by Leo Thompson, an education consultant who designed the widely used Inclusion Umbrella and specialises in international school development and accreditation for a leading agency.



Q1: Daniel, besides your global inclusion consultancy, you have written a number of very successful books on the topic of inclusion in schools, but I wondered what this well-travelled word means for you. Is there a concise way of grasping the essence of the concept?


My team and I have been privileged to work with thousands of schools and I am fortunate to run an organization that supports inclusion in schools in approximately 130 countries. If there is one thing I can say for absolute certainty about inclusion it is that the word itself is hardly very inclusive. No two schools or two regions or two countries really agree on what inclusion actually means in reality – or even in theory for that matter.


‘Inclusion’ is a broad a spectrum that involves anything from physical issues to social, emotional and mental health issues and through all the neurological and cognitive aspects to gender, race and cultural issues – and the list goes on. Because this list is intimidatingly long, schools generally home in on the specific issues affecting them. 


For many, the term inclusion implies more work, effort, more money and resources and possibly admitting to facets of our responsibility we have failed at.


To sidestep all of the big issues above, there is one thing that inclusion as a verb brings about and that is a sense of ‘belonging’. This is something that all of us humans can relate to – it is inherent to the way we have evolved as beings who require a group. The group gives us safety and hope and all things nice. Unfortunately, the group can also be something like out of Lord of the Flies, or very subtly maligning or marginalising, something I experienced painfully as a child.


But effective inclusion brings us all to a sense of feeling like we belong just like everyone else does. This bypasses the need for any labels, expensive programmes or extreme shifts. It unites all of us humans regardless of where we may or may not be on a spectrum, disfigurement or skin colour.


Q2: You lead an organisation that has worked with thousands of schools in supporting inclusion and another organisation that supports inclusion in numerous countries. What are the biggest challenges and barriers to inclusion the world over and are there any catch-all starting points for all schools?


The biggest barriers to inclusion are the money, time and stress it presents to people as I describe above. There’s another barrier which is harder to describe because it always rubs up against an ill-defined ceiling. There’s a video I show of people with Down’s Syndrome who have university degrees, run a business, are married with children and have professions. It’s not that they were so unusual. It’s their teachers who believed in them that were. Belief-in is always fettered by assumptions and genuine limitations.


Where is that balance?


That’s the hard bit – to be aspirational and realistic.


The starting point is always to know your students as individuals. It is easy to say this and of course every school in the world will tell you they do already. But there is knowing and there is knowing, in its fullest sense, and some schools are oriented and more equipped to capture and utilise the soft data that tells the story behind the hard data that most schools use to track progress. Nearly all effective practices are through the doorway of this soft data and I wrote a whole book on this very theme. I think many schools I come across haemorrhage money on interventions and staffing which are surplus to requirement because they are led by the hard data results and sadly not what the child actually needs.


Q3: You recently launched the Global inclusive Teaching Initiative which is an online course for millions of teachers all over the world to enable all teachers to teach all children. Adapting the classroom to meet the needs covers a broad range of issues. How did you go about deciding what to include? What do you prioritise for teachers?


That was the juiciest, nerdiest and most enjoyable process for me and my co-authors, who included the renowned Professor Carol Tomlinson, and Scandinavian expert, Helena Wahlberg. We loved every moment of that series of discussions and debates. We had all written books and between us we are privileged to have worked with thousands of schools the world over. Actually, our debates were more nuanced and sometimes about what we should leave out. We all agreed on the phases of planning the lesson, delivering the lesson and understanding children. If we’d had to have completed the exercise in 10 minutes, I think we would have been able to easily, because there is broader consensus on what good inclusive teaching looks like nowadays than before.


Q4: Can you share 5 of the most effective practical inclusion strategies or approaches that educators can use in their classrooms and say when and in what situations they may be useful?


There are 5 most common fault lines where lessons can go wrong and they are often due to a lack of understanding and engaging the student effectively. These are easily preventable and just being aware of these can be really helpful. The majority of behavioural issues have something to do with these fault lines and that does make us rethink the whole topic of behaviour.


1) How a child enters a lesson has everything to do with how they settle. How do you make them feel and how do you know? Feelings of nervousness, dread or discomfort will lead to a lack of engagement. It is important to check in informally and listen to students here at an individual level.


2) Inevitably the teacher will engage with the class and this is nearly always initially done in a verbal delivery. But do all students fully understand the verbal delivery? This point is where students will get lost and simply checking and using other visual aids will help engagement.


3) Splitting into group work is an under-researched topic and it can lead to isolation and hiding within the group, avoidant and fractious behaviours. This group scenario is more easily managed through a framework of roles and checking children with variable profiles all can contribute equally and are welcomed into the group.


4) Similarly, when setting work for quiet, individual time, children may simply be too afraid to clarify or declare they do not understand and are not sure what is going on and what they need to do. Many students would prefer to appear naughty and thus avoid the work than appear ‘stupid’ in front of their peers.


5) One of the most neglected parts of the lesson is the very end. Interestingly, this can not only have a serious knock-on effect to the next teacher but actually, to how the child perceives the whole class and their anticipation of their next time with you. So, just as they enter the classroom with positivity, so they should leave it with a feeling of success.


The above focus is on understanding of the child, but it relies on the understanding and awareness of the teacher about what is going on for the child and their capacity to quickly notice and adapt. Underlying this is the relationship between teacher and child and that, I hope unsurprisingly, is the key to inclusive learning.


Some people may think that inclusive teaching is about elaborate scaffolding and differentiated work sheets. Actually, it is more about how a child feels, the relationships and the aspiration that is born out of this cocktail. Cumbersome technical additions are nowhere near as valuable as simple tweaks, checking of understanding and reinforcement based on genuine care.


Q6: What role does school culture, or atmosphere, play in inclusion, and do you have any tips for how to prevent marginalisation?


School culture is a very important issue and one which most educationalists are simply not trained in, and neither was I when I was in schools. I wrote a chapter about this issue in my second book comparing how out of touch we are compared with many other sectors and industries about the culture of our organisation down to the granular details of how it feels to step into your school.


For instance, banks and supermarkets usually think a huge amount about layout and design of their buildings, the processes customers go through as they engage with the organisation and they know this hugely effects their bottom line. This is also true of schools and yet not enough of them invest time and money into this. Banks and supermarkets also think about their staff culture – from uniform to language they use, to protocols and all manner of communications which will again, be carefully aligned to meet the needs of their bottom-line aspirations.


This is often not taken seriously by some schools and is thought of being peripheral. However, something that becomes obvious when you visit hundreds of schools is that like any other organisation, you feel the culture in the air the moment you walk through the door. Culture is ignored at a school’s peril.


Q6: Schools and their teachers differ hugely in their level of access to resources and training globally and yet everyone is expected to educate inclusively around very diverse needs. Are there any lessons from you work with UNESCO, that may be valuable to international schools?


Let me say two symbiotic things which may cause significant financial relief to some schools and cause others to scratch their heads. As a general rule, nothing does inclusion better than great teaching. You can reduce most interventions that cost time and money – aside from the ones that help the social and emotional aspects of children’s lives, keep those! Many of the withdrawal and remedial interventions are often just a distraction away from good teaching, and I say that noting their very positive intent.


So, this is a blanket approach which, when my team and I have carried out SEN audits with hundreds of schools, we find in general savings of many tens of thousands of pounds as well as an uptick in outcomes.


However, and here is the kicker, teachers need to be up to scratch on how to effectively teach all kinds of students in their classroom at the same time. Is it possible? Of course, and it is not even as hard as it sounds. But I wouldn’t want to be in charge of building a bridge if I was a chemical engineer and similarly, I don’t think it is fair to ask teachers to teach children they are not qualified or capable of teaching because they have not been supported by effective professional development.


It was because of this very skills gap that we noticed all over the world that we produced the Global Inclusive Teaching Initiative. As we are rolling this out for millions of teachers across 130 countries, also in support of UNESCO, we hope this will not only have a huge impact on children and their outcomes but also on the classroom lives of our teachers.


Q7: One of the topics picked up all in your latest book (The Inclusive Classroom) is the use of language and labels, and this goes back to stigma, glass ceilings and limitations, perhaps the unintended consequence of positive intent around inclusion. In this context, where is language useful and where is it not in inclusion for belonging work and for supporting student needs and enhancing their self-belief and independence?


I find that in general, adults who struggled at school and parents who struggle with their children are relieved to get some sort of diagnosis because they feel that one term explains so much to them and they can share it with others.


I am very quick to tell people that I am ADHD, I am proud of it and I think of it as a super power in many ways. But here is where it can go very wrong. Some people think that a label means something limiting or negative. The word ‘disorder’ and all of the problems associated with it usually accompanies such descriptors rather than the many gifts that these labels can imply.


But more than that, I think there is a risky sloppiness that comes into play when we teachers use labels. Just to state the obvious, Psychologists and medical professionals diagnose and treat and therefore they need a specific label as an identifier for a course of action. Teachers don’t diagnose or treat, they teach and create environments where purposeful learning can happen. In this circumstance, a label is actually a decoy and often hides the real issues.


For example, 3 children in a class may have Autism but each can present extremely differently – one being loud and disruptive, the other quiet and distant, the other being a model student who is extremely studious to the point of gifted. Similarly, you can have 3 completely different diagnoses, for example one child with Speech and Language issues, one with inattentive ADHD and one with Asperger’s and they all present very similarly to the classroom teacher.


So, the label doesn’t help here, it actually eclipses the real truth – which is that the only thing that helps the teacher adapt the classroom well for students is to personalise to meet the needs of individuals – and this means knowing the child; their quirks, strengths, hobbies and interests and their frustrations. I often say that we have been through one phase, which is to help all teachers understand the basics of things like Dyslexia and Trauma and the like and now we need to move on to a new epoch where we ditch the labels in the classroom and think about individual children.


I opened my latest book with a chapter on this issue going through all the research and practical issues that come up in classrooms and the publishers and advisors around me were expecting a backlash. In fact, I am very pleased to say that there have been no complaints or comments so far. I am glad to have stuck to my guns on this point and I make it a talking point wherever I go.


Daniel Sobel will be a keynote speaker and workshop facilitator at the ECIS Inclusive Education conference in Athens in March 2023. His recorded conversation with Sarah Kupke can be seen on the ECIS YouTube Archive. Daniel has written books, founded the Global Inclusion Consultancy, developed the Global Inclusive Teaching Initiative and is hosting the Global Inclusive Schools Summit, with UNESCO in September 2023.


Leo Thompson works closely with Daniel Sobel. He is an educational consultant whose “Inclusion Umbrella” graphic has become something of an icon for visualising how discriminatory catagorisation of difference can be converted into strengths if we embrace diversity and truly strive towards creating cultures of belonging for every child.