Many educators and many school professionals define it directly or indirectly as the location in which students with disabilities are educated (Idol, 2006). That is, they note that inclusion is the practice of placing students with disabilities in general education classes. Individuals who use this definition also sometimes talk about full inclusion and use this term to refer to keeping students with disabilities in general education settings all day, with no services offered in a separate location such as a resource room or special education classroom. Recently, this definition of inclusion has been expanded to also encompass the practice of placing students with other special needs, including those who are English language learners, in general education classrooms (Acrey, lohnstone, & Milligan, 2005).
The dilemma with this definition of inclusion is that it presumes that the mere act of changing the location in which students with disabilities or other special needs are educated somehow makes them true members of their classroom learning communities. Many situations exist to demonstrate that this is not the case. For example, in an elementary school priding itself on being inclusive the students in Ms. Robinson's third-grade class are participating in language arts instruction. Ms. Jenkins, the special education teacher, is also in the class. Ms. Jenkins pulls to the corner of the classroom a group of six students, four of whom have disabilities and two of whom are struggling readers. At a small table, these six students and Ms. Jenkins complete their reading lesson using materials written at a first-grade level. Ms. Robinson teaches reading using third-grade curriculum materials to the rest of the students. In this situation, the students with disabilities are seated in the general education setting, but they are not members of the classroom community. Their instruction could just as easily have been delivered in a special education setting.
A different, but still significant, dilemma can occur in middle and high schools. Mr. Ramirez is a social studies teacher, and the roster for his third-period class includes six students with disabilities. Mr. Ramirez proudly notes that he does not want to know who the students are because he expects all students to meet the same standards and complete assignments and assessments similarly. The result is that the special needs of the six students with disabilities are not met in the general education setting. The specialized instruction and supplementary aids and services they should receive are not provided, despite Mr. Ramirez's good intentions to be fair. Some professionals have called this type of practice as the dumping of students into situations in which they have failed previously without offering support essential to foster their success.
The vocabulary that accompanies a definition of inclusion as a place is usually telling. Teachers and administrators may refer to “the inclusion class,” “the inclusion team,” or the willingness of the English Department to “do inclusion.” They may refer to teachers (whether general education or special education) as “inclusion teachers” and to the students as “inclusion ...