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Defining, Teaching and Fostering Inclusive Mindsets

Three pillars: Universal Dignity, Empathy & Perspective Taking, and Courageous Action

The following is an excerpt from the article, “Defining, Teaching and Fostering Inclusive Mindsets,” published by Global Partnership for Education and written by Special Olympics’ Chief of Global Youth and Education, Jacqueline Jodl, Ph.D.

Realizing an inclusive future where stigma and isolation no longer plague the marginalized depends on fostering empathetic, inclusive mindsets, willing to accept and embrace those who are different.

Within schools, many students with disabilities still experience social isolation and rejection and even victimization in the form of bullying. In some cultures, young people with disabilities are educated separately from peers without disabilities or do not attend school at all.

Policies and practice often focus solely on physical inclusion without recognizing the need to teach students how to learn and live together. The need to support youth participation in creating inclusive schools, communities and societies is recognized around the world echoed by the United Nations’ (UN) call to “Leave No One Behind.”

At Special Olympics we understand physical inclusion is not enough. Full inclusion in education requires a commitment to social inclusion—where young people of differing beliefs, backgrounds, creeds and ability levels come together to become teammates, partners, allies and friends.

Special Olympics’ mission is simple: by teaching children to play together, they can learn, grow and ultimately thrive together.

Emerging evidence suggests shared learning experiences are transformative because they develop an “inclusive mindset1.” As Stephanie Jones, lead researcher from the EASEL Lab at Harvard University, has found, an inclusive mindset enhances our ability to empathize and to see things from another’s perspective. It strengthens our sense of courage to stand up for others, and it supports our belief in the universal dignity of every individual.

A mindset is a set of beliefs that shape how you make sense of the world and yourself. Your mindset influences how you move through the world, how you think, feel and behave in any given situation.

Importantly, evidence suggests an inclusive mindset is malleable2, meaning it can be developed, that is to say teachable, to young people regardless of whether they have an intellectual disability, and it can be measured.

Developing inclusive mindsets are thus an important way to advance educators’ goals of reducing between-group tensions, bullying and loneliness, while also increasing a sense of safety in schools.

Unlike many approaches to diversity, equity and inclusion, the process of teaching and inclusive mindsets has been found to reduce fear and shame among young people without disabilities, making them more likely to stand up for their peers with disabilities.

The ripple effect these “includer” students generate creates a more positive culture and climate for everyone, resulting in stronger, more cohesive learning communities.

To continue reading, “Defining, Teaching and Fostering Inclusive Mindsets,” click here.

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