Diversity and inclusion in school materials

What do we do to include each and every student?


Come possiamo aiutare alunne, alunni e insegnanti a sentirsi davvero “inclusi”, nella più ampia accezione del termine? Come possiamo praticare davvero l'inclusione? Questo articolo vi accompagna alla scoperta di alcune delle risorse offerte da Pearson, con suggerimenti pratici ed esempi di attività di educazione civica per i docenti di inglese.

di Ciaran Logan, Laura Papetti

In Pearson’s latest range of publishing for schools, we demonstrate how we have embraced the challenge of exposing students to activities related to the United Nations Sustainable Goals. Some of the goals are obviously a part of our DNA: we strive to support the Goal Number 4, Quality Education for all in everything we do. But in even more recent projects, we have also demonstrated a commitment to bringing a sense of equality and inclusiveness to our publishing, thereby supporting Goal Numbers 10 (Reduced Inequalities), 5 (Gender Equality) and 3 (Good Health and Wellbeing).

For a long time now, we have supported teachers with materials for students classified as DSA or BES, but we have been careful not to create a sense of isolating those students or making them feel excluded, from achieving learning goals along with the rest of their classmates, or from feeling the right to express themselves as they really want to. Rather, our ambition has been to ensure that everyone is included in the learning process, can achieve key skills to the best of their abilities and potential. This means we have activities that draw on a student’s creativity, give opportunities for collaborative activities in order to allow everyone the chance to learn from each other. And we provide materials and tools to support this.

So, for example, we have tools like the Easy Learning components for our coursebooks. These are materials that run parallel to the course books – the same content, objectives, outcomes and expectations, but designed in a way which makes it easier for a student with certain learning needs to perform well and understand notions and content more easily.

There are means of checking this, too, thanks to the Quick Check feature of Pearson’s MyApp, and the DSA- or BES-formatted Tests which are designed to ensure that as many students as possible demonstrate their progress and acquisition of learning.

A truly significant contribution for all students’ needs has been Pearson’s development of the Libro Liquido which allows students to view the material coursebook in a way which suits them and on any device that suits them, as being ‘liquido’, the material adapts to the size of the screen a student is using, be it a computer, a tablet of a smartphone.

But we have made an extra effort lately to bring inclusiveness directly onto the page of the materials the students use, using content to reflect all sorts of personalities in the classroom, with a balance for gender, interests and preferences. The students meet characters with diverse skills sets and personalities, and so we nurture an attitude of acceptance of others with skills or personalities different from their own. This creates a safe space for children to accept diversity and be inclusive.

Billy Bot, for example, is a new 5-level course book for students aged 6 to 11. The first thing to notice is that the characters that accompany the children through their English lessons is the diversity of race and gender, so we have a balance between boys and girls, each with an equal role in the story lines, and a balance of Caucasian, Asian and African origins playing, learning and interacting together. As the children grow and learn together, we find numerous examples where diversity is celebrated: even a story for Christmas gives a chance to declare that ‘It’s OK to be different’

Tips for the teacher

The classic story of Rudolph the Reindeer gives teachers and children a chance to reflect on inclusion and respect of differences. Rudolph has a red and shiny nose. It’s different from all the other reindeer. This peculiarity is embarrassing to him. And reindeer laugh at him because they just find it weird. However, Santa Claus turns this problem into a resource and Rudolph becomes very proud of his shiny nose.

  1. Ask the kids if they have ever felt weird or uncomfortable about their looks or their feelings. If they’re shy, you can allow them to write their embarrassing or uncomfortable characteristic on an anonym piece of paper (they obviously can use L1 for this activity). Nobody should feel forced to do this exercise, but they’d rather feel free to contribute if they want to. The idea behind this activity is to encourage kids to understand that everybody is different in some way and that sharing this understanding makes us feel we’re never alone.
  2. Brainstorm all the factors (words, gestures, behaviours, friends’ attitude, family love…) that can help someone feel good and respected though different in some way.
  3. Children can make a group poster showing Santa Claus and his team of reindeer (every reindeer with a different detail, from the colour of their nose to the size of their ears or the colour of their eyes…) with the message: EVERYBODY IS DIFFERENT!

Another example might be a Smart story about the power of sharing. People might feel different and inadequate when they lack something. Among friends it is a good and natural thing to share.

Tips for the teacher

  1. Encourage the pupils to think about episodes in their lives when they were in need / lacking something or somebody they know had a problem and people around them helped through sharing: was it among friends, family, or relatives? What did they feel? How was the atmosphere? How sharing made them/the person in need feel better?
  2. Have the class collaborate to make the ‘Big Book of Sharing’, with illustrated examples of little things that friends and schoolmates can do to help each other.

Yet another example might be a story which challenges stereotypes of what boys or girls are ‘supposed’ to enjoy. So we encourage an expectation that is good for girls to enjoy and be good at science subjects and have ambitions in this area; likewise, it is important to show that a boy who loves dancing should not be considered odd, unusual or bullied for expressing himself creatively and achieving his ambitions.

Tips for the teacher

  1. Have a class conversation about hobbies, games or sports that children like to play. Show them games or toys or equipment for sports that are usually considered for boys or for girls. Encourage them to say why, in their opinion, people think some games/sports/toys are ‘for boys’ and some others ‘for girls’.
  2. Ask the girls to try and think how they could enjoy a game/sport that is typically considered ‘for boys’. Ask the boys to think how they could enjoy a game/sport that is typically considered ‘for girls’. Ask the children if they are sure those games/sports are just for boys or for girls.
  3. Encourage children to spend their break time trying as many different games and experiences as they can, sharing their time and then reporting their feelings about it.
  4. Show the class an example of a talented girl/woman that has succeeded in something considered ‘for men’. Show the class the story of a famous boy/man that has reached success in a field normally considered ‘for girls’.

All children studying English with a Pearson book should feel comfortable and accepted, and will find someone in their courseware who expresses him/herself in the same way he or she wants to and doesn’t feel ostracised or treated differently for doing so.

Il progetto Pearson per la parità di genere

#GenerazioneParità è il progetto che riassume l'idea di parità e inclusione che noi di Pearson vogliamo portare concretamente nella scuola, attraverso la produzione editoriale, le attività di formazione, le ricerche sul campo, i progetti speciali e le attività di comunicazione.

Scopri di più >>


Ciaran Logan è ELT Director di Pearson Italia dal 2017. Le sue aree di ricerca sono CLIL, bisogni educativi speciali e nuove tecnologie per l'apprendimento delle lingue.

Laura Papetti è autrice e consulente editoriale per Pearson Italia. Attualmente insegna alla Scuola primaria nella provincia di Monza e della Brianza. Ha insegnato per diversi anni inglese in scuole di diverso ordine e grado.

Ti è piaciuto l’articolo?