04 SES 03 D JS, Action Research in School Development
Joint Paper Session NW 04 and NW 15
Despite the potential of schooling to establish an inclusive and democratic society, the struggle to dismantle the barriers to inclusion seems to bump onto the legacy of special education ideology (Symeonidou & Phtiaka, 2009). Thereby the quest for implementing inclusive policy and practice is an endeavour to radically de- and reconstruct the educational system so as to provide equal opportunities to quality education for all students, regardless ability and diversity (Barton & Armstrong, 2001). Even though access to quality education is a fundamental right, learners with disabilities have usually low levels of educational achievement and are less likely to go on to further education and employment after school, compared to their peers (Vlachou, 2004; Barr & Smith, 2009).
Raising educational achievement for all learners is an important factor that, in the long term, may affect the competitiveness and the well-being of a society (European Commission, 2010). For this reason, it is important to find ways to engage with making schools inclusive, so as to enable learning for all students and affirm their right for quality education (Barton, 2008). Teachers have a key role to provide quality education, albeit they are often trapped in their own ignorance and prejudice that hinders inclusive teaching approaches (Erevelles, 2000). Contextualized and meaningful teacher education programmes may enable teachers become self-confident and skilled enough to follow inclusive teaching practices, while at the same time,scrutinize unhelpful and segregating attitudes rather than fallprey to them (Barr & Smith, 2009; Symeonidou & Phtiaka, 2009).
In the context of Cyprus, even though the importance of continuing professional development is fully acknowledged by both the Ministry of Education and Culture (MoEC, 2013) and the Committee for Cyprus Educational Reform (2004), the plans for effective professional development programsthat enhance inclusive teaching approaches are still at a preliminary stage. In this framework, Greek-Cypriot teachers do not pursue further learning and MoEC does not offer adequate support for such activities (Eurydice, 2009; OECD, 2010). Although, this is in line with most European countries, where incentives to encourage participation in CPD appear few, whereas penalties for no participation are rare (Caena, 2011), this practice seems to have serious implications for students and the development of their full potential (Symeonidou & Phtiaka, 2014). Thus, according to current research findings (e.g. Angelides, Stylianou & Gibbs, 2006; Symeonidou & Phtiaka, 2009), Greek-Cypriot teachers tend to think on the basis of a medical and charity model, while they favor special education in segregating settings (either in special or mainstream schools) for specific groups of students.
Our study aimed to design a professional development program that would attract teachers and be in line with the literature of Inclusive Education. Our guiding principle was that CPD programs need to be carefully planned and delivered to all teachers, so as to address both theoretical and practical aspects of inclusive education effectively (Symeonidou & Phtiaka, 2014).By balancing theory and practice, weexpected that teachers would be motivated to attend the program and be inspired to inclusive teaching approaches for all students, including students with disabilities.
Within this framework, we tried to answer the following research questions: a) What characteristics make a CPD program alluring and engaging? b) What is the effect of such a program on the provision of quality education by teachers?
Angelides, P., Stylianou, T. & Gibbs, P. (2006). Preparing teachers for inclusive education in Cyprus. Teaching & Teacher Education: An International Journal of Research and Studies, 22(4), 513-522. Barr, S. & Smith, R. (2009). Towards educational inclusion in a transforming society: some lessons from community relations and special needs education in Northern Ireland. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 13(2), 211-230. Barton, L. (2008). Education and the struggle for change: the necessity of a critical politics of hope. In H. Phtiaka (Ed.), Will you Join us for a Coffee? Home-School Relations at the Edge of Difference. Athens: Taxideutis. [in Greek] Barton, L. & Armstrong, F. (2001). Disability Education and Inclusion: Cross-cultural issues and dilemmas. In G. Albrect, K. Seelman and M. Bury (Eds.), International Handbook of Disability Studies (pp. 693-710). London: Sage Publications. Caena, F. (2011). Quality in teachers’ continuing professional development. Brussels: European Commission. Cohen, L., Manion, L. & Morrison, K. (2000). Research methods in education. London: Routledge. Committee for Cyprus Educational Reform (2004). Democratic and human education in the European state of Cyprus. Nicosia: MoEC. [in Greek] Erevelles, N. (2000). Educating unruly bodies: critical pedagogy, disability studies and the politics of schooling. Educational Theory, 50(1), 25-47. European Commission (2010). Europe 2020: A European Strategy for Smart, Sustainable and Inclusive Growth. Brussels: European Commission. Eurydice (2009). Organisation of the education system in Cyprus 2008/2009. Available at http://www.moec.gov.cy/eurydice/anakoinoseis/Cyprus_education_system_2008_2009.pdf Ministry of Education and Culture (MoEC) (2013). Annual report. Nicosia: MoEC. OECD (2010). Teachers’ professional development: Europe in international comparison. Belgium: European Union. Sagor, R. (2000). Guiding School Improvement with Action Research. Virginia: ASCD. Symeonidou, S. & Phtiaka, H. (2009). Using teachers’ prior knowledge, attitudes and beliefs to develop in-service teacher education courses for inclusion. Teaching and Teacher Education, 25, 543-550. Symeonidou, S. & Phtiaka, H. (2014). ‘My colleagues wear blinkers . . . If they were trained, they would understand better’. Reflections on teacher education on inclusion in Cyprus. Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs, DOI: 10.1111/1471-3802.2012.01234. Vlachou, A. (2004). Education and inclusive policy-making implications for research and practice. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 8(1), 3-22.
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