04 SES 06 D, Are Training Programmes Improving Teachers’ Ability to Deal with Inclusive Education? Three case studies
This paper aims to contribute to existing literature on inservice faculty training in inclusive education and disability. Through a qualitative evaluation of the process and results, the paper gives voice to participants in a training program. These faculty members expressed their satisfaction with the training received, and identified both the strengths and weaknesses of the program. In turn, these indicators enable us to rethink the training program and introduce improvements in the future.
This paper explores three research questions: What are the strengths or key successful elements of the training program?; What are the weaknesses or negative aspects of the program and how can the training provided be improved?; How satisfied were faculty members with the training program?
Studies which give voice to students with disabilities have not only identified the need for faculty training in this area, but have also concluded that this is a key factor for guaranteeing inclusive education within the university sphere (Cunningham, 2013; Hong, 2015). Students with disabilities demand that their faculty members be properly trained and capable of providing them with accessible materials. They also ask that they use active methodologies which encourage participation, be aware of their legal obligations and make the reasonable accommodations required. Several studies have emphasized the need for training in student-centered pedagogic practices, as well as in teaching and learning methods which incorporate the principles of universal design for learning (Sakiz & Saricali, 2017; Stein, 2014).
Similarly, faculty members themselves also recognize this need for training, stating that their lack of preparation makes them feel insecure and raises doubts about how to respond adequately to their students' needs (Kendall, 2017; Lombardi, Vukovic, & Sala-Bars, 2015; Martins, Morges, & Gonçalves, 2017).
Some universities have evinced an interest in designing and developing training programs to help faculty members respond more effectively to the needs of students with disabilities. Although the majority of training initiatives never move past the design phase, with no assessment being carried out of their implementation and/or impact, some of those that have been assessed coincide in concluding that faculty training in disability and inclusion has a positive impact on students, regardless of whether or not they have a disability (Cunningham, 2013). Several studies have established that the training provided helps to improve faculty members' knowledge of and sensitivity towards students with disabilities, as well as their general attitude (Davies, Schelly, & Spooner, 2013). Moreover, it also makes them feel more comfortable responding to students’ needs (Davies, et al., 2013).
The training program is targeted at faculty members and aims to train them to provide an inclusive educational response to students with disabilities. The program was implemented using the blended learning method. The training itself lasted six months , with a total of 54 hours. The face-to-face training was divided into three four-hour sessions, one held at the start, one halfway through and one at the end. During these sessions, any doubts that had arisen during the online sessions were resolved, and in each one, a student with a disability was invited to come and talk to participants directly about their experience at the university, describing the helps and barriers that they had encountered. For its part, the online training, which was provided through the Blackboard platform, was based on a series of learning modules with both theoretical and practical contents and activities designed to apply the contents and enable participants to interact in the debate forums. To make up the sample group (n= 20), the course was advertised online through the university's training center. No financial incentive was offered to potential participants, but those who successfully completed the course were awarded a certificate issued by the university's training center, acknowledging the training hours accumulated. The six criteria used to select the sample were published in all advertisements: faculty members from all areas of knowledge (Health Sciences, Experimental Sciences, Technical Fields, Humanities and Social and Legal Sciences); faculty members of both genders; variety in relation to years of teaching experience; experience with students with disabilities; commitment to introducing changes in the classroom; and availability for active participation. All except two of the criteria were complied with. These two were: experience with students with disabilities, since six participants had never taught disabled students; and diversity in fields of knowledge, since no one from either the Experimental Sciences or Technical subjects expressed any interest in participating in the program. A qualitative evaluation was conducted of the training program. The instruments used to gather the data, both in the formative and summative evaluations, were semi-structured group and individual interviews, and an open-ended written questionnaire. All the information was recorded and transcribed verbatim. The data were analyzed using a system of categories and codes developed inductively by the research team in accordance with the proposal made by Miles and Huberman (1994). This was then used to conduct a comparative analysis of all the information gathered, with the help of the computer program MaxQDA12.
One way of planning training policies is to learn from experience. Evaluating what already exists, and analyzing what works what does not, enables you to make decisions and schedule training activities that are adapted to the real situation and faculty members' needs. Faculty' opinions should be taken into consideration in order to avoid designing training programs on the basis of abstract ideas. The results of our study indicate that the blended learning model is ideal for faculty members, since it combines the advantages of both face-to-face sessions and online training. Also, is the importance of including first-hand accounts in the face-to-face sessions. The participants in this study clearly stated that the more practical the course the better. They recommended focusing on the resolution of real case studies during the face-to-face sessions and engaging in simulations to help them put themselves in students' shoes, thus ensuring that what they learned during the program would have a real impact on their own syllabuses. Another key element is to have a clear structure, with contents that meet participants' real needs and materials designed from a pedagogical perspective. The key points outlined above enable us to think in terms of inclusive education in relation to an aware, well-informed and well-trained faculty. All participants in the study agree on this point and highlight the value of the program in which they took part. One final idea is that training should be compulsory rather than voluntary. The faculty members in this study leave no room for doubt, and clearly recognize the need to review university training policies, not only to ensure that training programs be compulsory in nature, but also to guarantee that they include actions designed to provide an inclusive response to students' needs.
Cunningham, S. (2013) Teaching a diverse student body – a proposed tool for lecturers to self-evaluate their approach to inclusive teaching. Practice and Evidence of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 8(1). 3-27. Davies, P.L., Schelly, C.L. & Spooner, C.L. (2013). Measuring the Effectiveness of Universal Design for Learning Intervention in Postsecondary Education. Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, 26(3), 5-37. Gunersel, A. B., & Etienne, M. (2014). The Impact of a Faculty Training Program on Teaching Conceptions and Strategies. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 26(3), 404-413. Hong, B. S. S. (2015). Qualitative Analysis of the barriers college students with disabilities experiences in higher education. Journal of College Student Development, 56(3), 209-226. doi: 10.1353/csd.2015.0032. Miles, M. B., & Huberman, A. M. (1994). Qualitative Data Analysis (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Sakız, H., & Sarıcalı, M. (2017). Including Students with Visual Difficulty within Higher Education: Necessary Steps. Exceptionality, 1-17. doi: 10.1080/09362835.2017.1283627 Stein, K. F. (2014). Experiences of College Students with Psychological Disabilities: The Impact of Perceptions of Faculty Characteristics on Academic Achievement. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 26(1), 55-65.
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