10 SES 02 D, Inclusivity and Inclusive Practice
Purpose of the Study
With the evolution of inclusive education policies and the continuous calls to support inclusion in schools, future teachers' capacity to practice inclusion has become one of the main concerns of national and international educational organizations (Forlin, 2010). In turn, teacher education programs, their structures, and their practices need to respond accordingly. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization UNESCO (2003) recognizes inclusive education as the approach “that looks into how to transform education systems in order to respond to the diversity of learners. This approach aims to enable both teachers and learners to feel comfortable with diversity and to see it as a challenge and enrichment in the learning environment, rather than a problem” (p. 7). Indeed, the inclusive education movement remains a leading concept towards the advancement of education policy and practice (the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development OECD, 2010). This study aims to explore the understandings and practices regarding the preparation of teachers for inclusive education of six teacher educators in one faculty of education in Ontario, Canada. The study seeks to provide an in-depth understanding of how inclusive education policy informs the educators’ practices in developing teacher candidates’ skills and capacities for inclusive teaching. Canadian and international research studies on teacher education have shown that teacher educators need to reflect on and model the best practices that pertain to inclusion and its adoption in the inclusive classroom at schools (Forlin & Nguyet, 2010; Ghosh & Tarrow, 1993; Ellis & McNicholl, 2015; Bartolo, 2010; DeLuca, 2012; Loreman, 2010; Lambe & Bones, 2006; Petrarca & Kitchen, 2017; Ainscow, 2012; Waitoller & Kozleski, 2010; Sharma, 2010).
Research Questions and Objectives
The research questions that guide this study are as follows:
1- How do university-based teacher educators relate their practices to the inclusive education approach and its related existing institutional policies?
2- What role do these practices play in supporting the future generation of teachers to practice inclusion?
This study contributes to inclusive education policy analysis research and practice in teacher education. It offers a new analytical perspective on policy practices by adopting a neo-institutional approach to understand teacher educators’ organizational and policy practices around inclusion. Further, the study explicates how inclusive education policies and the inclusion approach are viewed from teacher educators’ perspectives in a particular context. It accounts for the impact of institutions (e.g. Ministry of Education and the teacher licensing body) on the practices of policy actors in educational organizations such as the Faculty of education in this study in relation to teacher preparation for inclusive education.
The theory of Neo-Institutionalism theory (NI), also known as New Institutionalism (Powell & DiMaggio, 1991; Radaelli, Dente, & Dossi, 2012), constitutes the theoretical framework that has guided the data analysis, interpretation, and reporting stage in this study. Using this theoretical framework emerges from the belief that policy practices within organizations such as the faculty of education in this study, are not only framed by micro level systems (the social, cultural, organizational, and historical contexts) within which policy actors are situated, but also by macro level systems or the institutions (Lawrence, 2008; March & Olsen, 2006; Bidwell, 2006). According to Schmidt (2010), NI theory is a robust theoretical approach that elucidates “the actual preferences, strategies, and normative orientations of actors” (p. 1). For Radaelli et al. (2012), institutional rules and norms that inform individuals’ practices play a relevant role in the policy process. Therefore, merging both policy and the institutional analysis is a promising step towards fulfilling the new institutionalism and understanding the role of different actors (Radaelli et al., 2012).
Methodology In order to obtain a thorough understanding of teacher educators’ practices in relation to inclusion and teacher preparation in one Faculty of Education in Ontario, a qualitative single case study approach was used. According to Day Ashley (2012), “what may constitute a ‘case’ for empirical research is wide ranging: it may be an individual, such as a teacher or student; an institution, such as a school; an event, project or programme within an institution; it may be a policy or other types of system” (p. 102) that is situated in a particular context. For Patton (2002), a qualitative case study is helpful when the researcher seeks to understand the meanings or the interpretations that people make in their natural context towards a social phenomenon. A case study approach may serve as “a disciplined force in setting public policy and in reflecting on human experience” (Stake, 2005, p. 460). Methods Six university-based teacher educators have participated in this study through semi-structured interviews. A purposeful sampling technique was used to recruit teacher educators who are experienced in the areas of inclusive education, diversity, and urban education. Given the fact that a case study depends on multiple data sources (Creswell, 2013), additional data has been collected from inclusive education and teacher education policy documents as well as researcher’s reflections. The theoretical framework and the methodology used have informed the study’s findings.
Results The study revealed that teacher educators’ practices do not only emerge from institutional guidelines towards professional practice but also from their own personal beliefs about inclusion. As noted by most of the teacher educators in this study, the institutional frameworks created by the Ministry of Education, the school boards, and the teacher licensing body constitute essential resources that inform the educators’ practice. Teacher educators noted that they use multiple inclusion-embedded strategies in their teaching such as case studies, as well as many challenging open conversations to foster in future teachers the idea that all children can and have the right to learn and reach their full potential. The emphasis on students’ rights and teachers’ accountability was evident in the participants’ responses, a fact that reflected professional and ethical practices that relate to teacher education and inclusion. When asked about the incorporation of inclusive education policies into practices, teacher educators said that these resources are beneficial for newly graduated. In referring to the challenges in developing future teachers for inclusive practice, teacher educators noted that the curricular design of the teacher education program, the limited timing assigned for each course, as well as the various social and cultural beliefs among the candidates towards inclusion and students’ diversity, were the most significant difficulties in preparing teachers for inclusive practice. Further, the study highlighted how teacher educators engage teacher candidates in reflective practices so they can better conceptualize inclusive education and develop better attitudes towards all learners in the inclusive classroom. These practices, according to the teacher educators, help future teachers to be proactive in their classroom, ease their instructional challenges, and maintain a supportive learning environment for all learners. The celebration of diversity in inclusive education policy documents seem to have informed the ways teacher educators adopt inclusion in teacher education.
Ainscow, M. (2012). Developing equitable education systems. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. Bartolo, P. (2010). Teacher education online. Towards inclusive virtual learning communities. In C. Forlin (Ed.), Teacher education for inclusion: Changing paradigms and innovative approaches (pp. 120-129). New York, NY: Routledge. Bidwell, C. (2006). Varieties of institutional theory: Traditions and prospects for educational research. In H. D. Meyer & B. Rowan (Eds.), The new institutionalism in education (pp. 33-50). Albany: State University of New York Press. Creswell, J. W. (2013). Qualitative inquiry & research design: Choosing among five approaches (3rd ed.). Los Angeles: SAGE Publications. Day Ashely, L. (2012). Case study research. In J. Arthur, M. Waring, R. Coe, & L. Hedges (Eds.), Research Methods and Methodologies in Education (102-107). London: SAGE. DeLuca, C. (2012). Promoting inclusivity through and within teacher education programmes. Journal of Education for Teaching, 38(5), 551-569. doi:10.1080/02607476.2013.739792 Forlin, C. (Ed.). (2010). Teacher education for inclusion: Changing paradigms and innovative approaches. New York, NY: Routledge. Forlin, C. & Nguyet, D. T. (2010). A national strategy for supporting teacher educators to prepare teachers for inclusive education. In C. Forlin (Ed.), Teacher education for inclusion: Changing paradigms and innovative approaches (pp. 34-44). New York, NY: Routledge. Ghosh, R., & Tarrow, N. (1993). Multiculturalism and teacher educators: Views from Canada and the USA. Comparative Education, 29(1), 81-92. doi:10.1080/0305006930290106 Lawrence, T. (2008). Power, institutions, and organizations. In R. Greenwood, C. Oliver, K. Sahlin, & R. Suddaby (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of organizational institutionalism (pp. 170-197). London; Los Angeles: SAGE. Loreman, T. (2010). Essential inclusive education-related outcomes for Alberta preservice teachers. Alberta Journal of Educational Research, 56(2), 124. March J. G. & Olsen J. P. (2006). Elaborating the “new institutionalism”. In R. A. W. Rhodes, S. A. Binder, & B. A. Rockman (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of political institutions (pp. 3-22). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. OECD (2010). Educating teachers for diversity: Meeting the challenge. http://www.oecd.org/ document/38/0,3343, en_2649_35845581_44572006_1_1_1_1,00.html Powell, W. W., & DiMaggio, P. (1991). The new institutionalism in organizational analysis. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Radaelli, C. M., Dente, B., & Dossi, S. (2012). Recasting institutionalism: Institutional analysis and public policy. European Political Science, 11(4), 537. Schmidt, V. A. (2010). Taking ideas and discourse seriously: Explaining change through discursive institutionalism as the fourth ‘new institutionalism’. European Political Science Review, 2(1), 1-25.
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