ERG SES D 09, Inclusive Education
Purpose of the Study
With the increasing recognition of students’ diversity in the classroom, it has become crucial to understand how teacher candidates are being prepared for inclusive education. Insufficient training for inclusive teaching (Forlin, Loreman, Sharma, & Earle, 2009; Florian, Young, Rouse, 2010) has led recently graduated teachers to face instructional challenges accommodating students’ individual learning needs in the inclusive classroom, a fact that contributed to the perpetuation of unjust practices at schools (López-Torrijo & Mengual-Andrés, 2015; Subban & Mahlo, 2016). These unjust practices can ultimately prevent the inclusion of students who have been historically marginalized on the basis of their abilities, their linguistic, cultural, religious, ethnic, sexual orientation, or their socio-economic backgrounds and immigration status (Mitchell, 2017). This study is situated within the areas of teacher education and inclusive education. It aims to identify how teacher candidates conceptualized inclusive education and its practices while completing their teacher education program and how they view themselves as future professional inclusive practitioners enacting inclusion-related policies in schools.
The research questions that have guided this study are:
1) How does a teacher preparation program incorporate inclusive education and its related policy into its practices, from the perspective of the teacher candidates?
2) How do teacher candidates in a teacher preparation program conceptualize inclusion and view themselves as future inclusive practitioners in the classroom?
At the global level, the Salamanca Statement titled Education For All (EFA) has called upon the educational institutions to consider inclusive education as a matter of law and human rights issue that ensures the right to education for all individuals (UNESCO, 1994). The Statement aimed to enhance the access for all learners to a quality and equitable education. This study aimed to shed light on the perspectives of teacher candidates about their preparation for inclusive education, which may assist in designing inclusive-oriented teacher education programs. Prospective teachers will benefit from more sophisticated teacher preparation programs that adopt inclusive education principles and foster the international movement towards inclusion. At the school level, the study is anticipated to reveal some of the instructional and working challenges that novice teachers experience in the inclusive classroom and contribute to their retention in the field.
This study draws from the perspectives of Stephen J. Ball and his colleagues (Braun, Maguire, & Ball, 2010; Braun, Ball, Maguire, & Hoskins, 2011; Ball, Maguire, & Braun, 2012; Maguire, Braun, & Ball, 2015) on policy enactment. The idea of policy enactment highlights how policy actors, teacher candidates in this study, interpret and translate mandated policies such as those that relate to inclusive education in a particular context. Policy enactment is viewed as “creative processes of interpretation and recontextualisation – that is, the translation of texts into action and the abstractions of policy ideas into contextualised practices” (Ball, Maguire, & Braun, 2012, p. 4). Relatedly, Koyama (2015) views policy enactment as the ways people’s practices, their shared beliefs, values, and imaginations can collectively inform how policies are translated into contextualized practices. Thus, policy enactment becomes a complex network of context-sensitive practices that are continually reconstituted (Heimans, 2012). The policy actors and the context, Sin (2014) argues, are important factors in the process of negotiating, constructing, and enacting policy. She contends that the policy actors’ beliefs regarding a particular policy are subject to the policy’s contextual circumstances and therefore their beliefs influence both the enactment of policy and its outcomes. Ball (2015) reminds us that exploring how policy actors see themselves in schooling, student development, and teacher education is crucial towards understanding the enactment of policies such as those of inclusive education.
Methodology An exploratory, qualitative single case study was used to address the research questions. A case study, according to Yin (2014), is a suitable method of inquiry “in situations where (1) the main research questions are “how” and “why” questions, (2) a researcher has little or no control over behavioral events, and (3) the focus of study is a contemporary phenomenon” (p. 2). For this study, the phenomenon under investigation is the teacher candidates’ perceptions of inclusive education and its practices during their teacher education program. To better understand a current social phenomenon through case study research, Creswell (2013) believes that the researcher must rely on multiple sources to collect detailed information over a given period of time. Case study methodology has been defined by Robson (2002) as the “strategy for doing research which involves an empirical investigation of a particular phenomenon within its real-life context using multiple sources of evidence” (p. 178). Therefore, data sources comprised inclusive education and teacher education policy documents, semi-structured interviews with teacher candidates, as well as researcher’s reflections. Methods Eleven teacher candidates from a two-year teacher education program in Ontario, Canada, attending their second year of the program, constituted the study’s participant sample. A purposeful sampling was used due to the fact that second-year teacher candidates have more theoretical and practical learning experiences than their peers who are attending their first year in the program. Semi-structured interviews have been conducted with the participants, illuminating issues around how inclusive education and related policies are put into practice and how the candidates view their role as equity-oriented and inclusive practitioners in the classroom. The idea of policy enactment has served as a theoretical framework that guided the research questions, methodology, and the outcomes of the study. According to Stake (2005), case study approach may serve as “a disciplined force in setting public policy and in reflecting on human experience” (p. 460). That is, by recognizing and addressing the experiences of the policy actors involved in the case, this methodological approach advances the transformation of policies and structures, which in turn can enhance policy practice.
Results The teacher candidates interviewed highlighted the crucial impact of the program’s practical component in schools on their readiness to practice inclusion in the classroom. They noted that the Associate Teachers (AT), with whom they work during their practical experience in schools, are the most significant individuals to learn from about inclusion. When asked about inclusive policy practices and accommodating students’ diverse needs in schools, they highlighted the importance of human resources and the technological means in supporting all students’ learning. These means included having more educational assistants in the school, more parents’ engagement in children’s learning, and more tech-based devices to support those with special educational needs. Educational assistants (EA) are those who work with a teacher in the inclusive classroom and help in planning and delivering classroom activities. Teacher candidates noted that the limited and unequal funding, could either enable or disable the practice of inclusive education and its policy requirements. One of the factors that inform government funding processes for schools is the number of students identified with special learning needs. This factor as noted by the teacher candidates influenced the number of EAs assigned in each school. Also, teacher candidates claimed that teachers’ beliefs towards inclusion and the socio-economic context such as the school location are central factors that affect how successfully inclusion can be practiced. To further advance their preparation to practice inclusion, teacher candidates believed that more training on diversity-oriented lesson planning and assessment strategies and more case studies and discussions about inclusion need to be incorporated in teacher education programs. Following the methodological procedures described above, a case study report has been developed detailing the study’s findings.
Braun, A., Maguire, M., & Ball, S. J. (2010). Policy enactments in the UK secondary school: Examining policy, practice and school positioning. Journal of Education Policy, 25(4), 547-560. doi:10.1080/02680931003698544. Creswell, J. W. (2013). Qualitative inquiry & research design: Choosing among five approaches (3rd ed.). Los Angeles: SAGE Publications. Florian, L., Young, K., & Rouse, M. (2010). Preparing teachers for inclusive and diverse educational environments: Studying curricular reform in an initial teacher education course. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 14(7), 709-722. doi:10.1080/13603111003778536 Forlin, C., Loreman, T., Sharma, U., & Earle, C. (2009). Demographic differences in changing pre-service teachers' attitudes, sentiments and concerns about inclusive education. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 13(2), 195-209. doi:10.1080/13603110701365356 Heimans, S. (2012). Coming to matter in practice: Enacting education policy. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 33, 313–326. doi:10.1080/01596306.2012.666083 Koyama, J. (2015). When things come undone: The promise of dissembling education policy. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 36(4), 548–559. López-Torrijo, M., & Mengual-Andrés, S. (2015). An attack on inclusive education in secondary education. limitations in initial teacher training in Spain. Journal of New Approaches in Educational Research, 4(1), 9-17. doi:10.7821/naer.2015.1.100 Maguire, M., Braun, A., & Ball, S. (2015). 'Where you stand depends on where you sit': The social construction of policy enactments in the (English) secondary school. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 36(4), 485-499. doi:10.1080/01596306.2014.977022 Mitchell, D. R. (2017). Diversities in education: Effective ways to reach all learners. New York, NY: Routledge. Sin, C. (2014). The policy object: A different perspective on policy enactment in higher education. Higher Education, 68(3), 435-448. doi:10.1007/s10734-014-9721-5 Stake, R. E. (2005). Qualitative case studies. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln, The SAGE handbook of qualitative research (Eds.) (3rd ed.) (pp. 443-466). Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications. Subban, P., & Mahlo, D. (2016). ‘My attitude, my responsibility’ investigating the attitudes and intentions of pre-service teachers toward inclusive education between teacher preparation cohorts in Melbourne and Pretoria. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 1-21. doi:10.1080/13603116.2016.1197322 United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) (1994). Salamanca statement and framework for action on special education needs. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from http://www.unesco. org/education/pdf/SALAMA_E.PDF Yin, R. K. (2014). Case study research: Design and methods (5th ed.). Los Angeles: SAGE.
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