Inclusive Classrooms: Changing Attitudes about Diversity and Disability Through Integrated Service Learning Experiences
Our culture has traditionally accepted that individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities do not attend college. An increasing number of higher education institutions are offering programs intended to help these individuals gain access to the college experience. SUNY Delhi has partnered with The Arc of Delaware County (Delarc) to develop and offer inclusive college classroom experiences. Within this program, Delarc students attend classes while Delhi students become “Study Buddies” as part of their individual service learning projects; all learners complete project portfolios that are directly tied to course material. These courses provide engaging community experiences and interactions while fostering student attitude change and personal growth. This project exemplifies the reframing of diversity and emphasizes the ethical responsibility educational institutions have to teach learners about the power of civic engagement as it relates to respect and community integration of people who have non-traditional abilities.
Get some perspective: Watch the Think College infographic video clip titled "Why College?"
History of the Inclusive Classroom Project
SUNY Delhi and Delarc established a working partnership several years ago. This partnership, while still maintaining original service learning projects and experiences, has additionally evolved into an inclusive college experience that is helping to reframe diversity on the SUNY Delhi campus. As partners, discussions regarding pedagogies and curriculum have taken place. In these inclusive classrooms, the unique contributions and strengths of each individual are recognized, and all partners work together to motivate students to participate by relating individual experiences to the course material being discussed in the classroom. Throughout the experience, both organizations have worked together to develop evaluation and assessment strategies that provide useful feedback to the community partner, the professor, and the students.
Study Buddies take part in the all-day Vantage Point orientation training offered by Delarc. Additionally the Study Buddy projects taking place before class are activities that tie directly to course material. These projects produce tangible products (pieces of art, collages, music, photographs, etc.) to be part of a portfolio for each learner to have at the end of the semester.
Watch Jennifer's Inclusion Video, an example of an inclusive classroom experience from the SUNY Delhi/Delarc service learning partnership.
Benefits of this Partnership
There are numerous benefits of the Delarc/SUNY Delhi inclusive education project, for BOTH organizations. Read about the benefits and watch Brandi's Inclusion Video, which illustrates some of the principles of one SUNY Delhi inclusive classroom.