TIES Inclusive Education Roadmap

Building Buy-in for Inclusive Education

The importance of building buy-in for inclusive education with all stakeholders cannot be over-emphasized. It is an area that is often skipped over when planning or given less attention than is needed. Increasing buy-in is not a single event. There is a continual need to champion the work of inclusive education, particularly as it relates to students with significant cognitive disabilities, because inclusive education is counter-cultural for many educational systems. 

Building buy-in focuses on increasing the understanding of the why, what, and how of equitable, inclusive education and the process of systems change. While doing this is particularly important during the Getting Started (Exploration) and the Organizing for Success (Installation) stages, it is important to revisit it each time the organization introduces or scales up a new aspect of inclusive education or brings in new stakeholders. It is also essential to review regularly to sustain the commitment to why the state, district, or school is focusing on inclusive education.

Key Areas to Consider for Building Buy-in for Inclusive Education

  • It is crucial to building commitment to the belief that all students belong and are welcomed in the organization. All students are learners and can achieve high expectations. Diversity in the organization is a strength, and all students can make valuable contributions. Beliefs related to an inclusive vision address the why of changing the current practices to achieve these outcomes in inclusive classrooms and develop a plan that supports the implementation of effective inclusive practices. This is important because the changes in teacher practice are linked to their beliefs about new ways of working collaboratively that can lead to improvements in teaching and learning for their students (Guskey, 2002b).
  • At the beginning of the change process, an organization will not have an action plan to share with others. If this is the situation, then sharing the next steps in the process (e.g., developing an equitable, inclusive leadership team, engaging multiple voices to create the action plan, and sharing the vision with multiple stakeholders) fills that temporary void and communicates that a thoughtful, systematic process is being developed.
  • Finally, staff, families, and students need to know how they will be supported and how their input into the process will be heard. 
  • Adults learn information in different ways and value differing components of the why underlying the importance of inclusive education. Providing content through multiple means makes the information more accessible and helps stakeholders to connect and challenge themselves with what is being shared with their own beliefs and experiences. 
  • Share accurate information about inclusive education. This is key for developing new knowledge, challenging assumptions, and building a commitment to inclusive education for all learners. This means sharing a mix of: 
    • research findings about inclusive education,
    • data about the impact of inclusive education on all students, both those with and without disabilities, and
    • stories from students, staff, and families and their journeys with inclusive education. All stories can be valuable, but the closer a story is to your setting (e.g., state, district, school) the greater the potential impact.
  • Build-in opportunities for adults to process the new information and envision what the change will mean for students, for themselves personally, as well as for the whole organization.

The Inclusive Education Roadmap has several resources to support readiness for building inclusive systems of education that includes students with significant cognitive disabilities. To start, review the resources at the end of the IER Introduction and this section.

When planning to meet with a group, consider: 

  • What are the key messages that you want to share? 
  • What information might this group need about inclusive education and the organization's direction? (Note: administrators, teachers, parents, instructional coaches, and students may be interested in different types of information.)
  • How and when can this information best be shared? 
  • Consider how the audience will access new information. Could a group read a short article or watch a video and then use it as the springboard for a more extensive discussion? Do some people need research to answer their questions, and do others need stories of the impact on children and families? Do some people want to hear from role-alike colleagues, such as a teacher sharing with other teachers or a parent sharing with other parents? Having a repertoire of resources helps ground both conversations related to readiness and when the conversations go deeper into your organization’s core values, mission, and vision.
  • Equally important, design ways for the audience to reflect on what they are learning. For example, include a Think-Pair-Share activity, individual journaling, rephrasing in their own words what a partner just shared, or sharing how they could apply new information to their context. 
  • One of the roles of the EILT is to take a leadership role in building buy-in and readiness throughout the organization. Members connect with others in the organization, share a common message, and bring back questions and feedback to the team. This helps to understand what is needed to meet the diverse needs of the stakeholders.  
  • The Reflecting of Inclusive Systems of Education (RISE- IER Step 2), developing the Inclusive Education Action Plan (Step 4), and the continuous improvement cycles provide multiple opportunities for the EILT to revisit the vision for inclusive education and include multiple stakeholders in its implementation.