Promoting Inclusion through Learner-led Discussions
The following blog post was written by Greg Danowski, a faculty member at the School of Global Access.
As part of the ATESL 2018 Conference, I delivered a presentation titled Promoting Inclusion through Learner-led Discussions in the EAP Classroom.
Placed in the context of inclusive education, my workshop focused on ways in which learner-led discussions in the highest level of English for Academic Purposes (EAP)—Academic English 2 (AE2)—acknowledge different kinds of diversity in the classroom as well as capitalizing on this diversity in order to enhance learning. One of a number of inclusive teaching practices used in AE2, the learner-led discussion gives students opportunities to learn from each other while feeling welcome and respected as members of a collective whole.
My workshop was designed to demonstrate that the ultimate goal of learner-led discussions is to foster inclusion by engaging all learners in an open and uninhibited exchange of opinions, views, and ideas. To that end, I outlined the procedure for conducting discussions led by learners and highlighted the importance of selecting a suitable article by the discussion leader as it provides a common basis for the discussion.
I also explained the task of the leader during the learner-led discussion, emphasizing his or her crucial role in ensuring everybody’s participation in the discussion. I shared with my audience some topics of past learner-led discussions, stressing the fact that virtually all the AE2 cohorts that I had taught chose to discuss articles whose contents fell within the broad categories of social issues, education and learning, and health and lifestyle.
I argued during my presentation that this proves that learners themselves, regardless of their cultural background, strive to seek common ground as participants in learner-led discussions.
Finally, I presented the results of a recent learner-led discussions-related survey that I conducted among my learners. Most respondents agreed strongly or very strongly that there were opportunities for being included in the discussions, and that during the discussions they were comfortable and felt a sense of belonging.
The workshop was very well attended. The participants showed great interest in the content of my presentation by asking many good questions and making insightful comments. Quite appropriately, the lively discussion that followed the presentation also unfolded in a true spirit of inclusion.
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