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Giving a voice to all supports the inclusion of marginalised students

Johnny Warström, CEO and co-founder of interactive presentation platform Mentimeter

Promoting #Diversity and #Inclusion

A diverse and inclusive classroom is one that treats each student according to their individual needs and is, in theory, a happy one. However, in any classroom, there will inevitably be louder and quieter students.

In a large group, it is easy for the quieter voices to get lost, resulting in these individuals participating less in group discussions, shying away from larger group activities, and often falling behind as a result. It’s not that they don’t know the answer, they just lack the confidence to express themselves in front of others.

With studies suggesting that one in five girls admit that they would rather not put their hand up in class to avoid drawing attention to their appearance, teachers and practitioners need to be more vigilant than ever to create a diverse and open setting, in which all students can flourish.

The question is: How can you help all of your students express themselves effectively in a way that they feel secure and comfortable?


Providing an inclusive, safe and varied learning environment is central to promoting engagement across a diverse student population. Small changes and an acknowledgement of empathy within the classroom can help shift the pattern of behaviour from an age of broadcasting one’s self to a more diverse environment of acknowledgement and listening.

Firstly, let’s consider language. Whether it is addressing tone, volume, intonation, or even the way you are speaking to the class, think about how you would like to be posed a task. Listen to the classroom and the language being used by your students.

Openness is key, let the creativity flow. Group participation doesn’t necessarily just mean throwing a question out to the whole class. Games, quizzes and quick-fire pop-quizzes can open the floor to the more kinesthetic learners in the class. Platforms such as Google Classroom, Mentimeter and even Quizlet for Teachers can make this a lot easier, and be integrated easily into lesson plans.

Use technology to your favour, instead of confiscating it

A study from the Department of Education suggests that students who take even a small part of lessons online do in fact perform better in tests. However, keeping momentum and consistency is always a challenge. Interactive programmes such as Mentimeter can be used to achieve this in a way that will reach multiple learners simultaneously through portable devices.

Multiple-choice quizzes and the option for students to ask anonymous questions during class opens a new channel of discussion for all students to interconnect, with a degree of anonymity. The involvement of technology and quizzes gives students the feeling of participation, therefore boosting inclusion and engagement with the subject at hand, whilst breaking up the more traditional learning models.

Movement in the classroom

The VARK (visual, auditory, read/write and kinesthetic) modalities is a well-known and respected theory of learning by most practitioners:

  • V: A visual learner may require pictorial diagrams
  • A: An auditory learner will require a conversational breakdown
  • R: Read  /write will work well with a traditional teacher and book work model
  • K: Kinesthetic learners require a physical action to grasp the information.

However, adopting all four of these considerations into everyday lessons can be difficult, especially when literacy, numeracy, and science subjects often take precedence over daily lesson plans.

One such way is to completely shake up a traditional lesson plan and get everyone involved – get the whole classroom up out of their seats and moving.

Adding movement into the classroom will boost initial enthusiasm, whilst conversation amongst students will allow others to help those who may be struggling to understand the subject matter in a new way. Moreover, this method avoids any one individual being singled out as it promotes the whole group working together.

Students who may be struggling more to grasp the material can openly discuss this with their peers and have the open forum of anonymous quizzes to question the materials they find challenging, as the lesson progresses.

Acknowledgement is key

It may seem cliché or somewhat obvious to most, but often the best way to create a stable foundation for open conversation and rapport is to build respect. This is especially evident amongst students who have traditionally struggled, stayed quiet, or even misbehaved in the past.

Giving praise and recognition to these students develops a positive association to behaviours that can otherwise be lost in a sea of noise, therefore enhancing respect and reducing the fear of giving an opinion.

Top Tip: Set aside time on a Friday so that you and your students can praise each other for achievements during the week.

By ensuring there is trust between you and the students, it will encourage them to talk more openly to you if there is a problem. Research from the University of Rhode Island has shown that listening to students is critical in the development of the student/teacher relationship. It helps students to feel connected to the school, builds trust and in turn motivates learning.

Holding reflection sessions or allowing extra time for one-on-one sessions will allow students to name any problems they may have inside or outside of school and will make them feel acknowledged. Regular contact with your students will make them feel more comfortable and more likely to contribute to class.

Today’s students have grown up in the era of social media, helping individuals to broadcast their previously-ignored opinions. As is often the case, the pendulum is expected to swing the other way as we enter a new decade, with a premium being attached to active listening and empathy over self-obsession.

As proven, this should also be reflected in the classroom using a forum format, with interactive channels of communication that gives a voice to everyone and supports the inclusion of marginalised students. A small change in dynamics can make an otherwise intimidating classroom setting into a place where everyone is included, acknowledged and listened to.

Johnny Warström, CEO and co-founder of interactive presentation platform Mentimeter

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