04 SES 08 C, Effective Leadership Models and Practices for Inclusive Education
What kind of leadership characterizes a school organization with a high capacity for inclusion? This study is concerned with developing leadership and a school organization in which equity, tolerance and appreciation of diversity are striven for, and where students’ rights are not only respected but fulfilled in practice. However, creating a more inclusive school practice is not seldom described as the biggest challenge for the education system (Ainscow & Sandill, 2010). Leaders in schools are often ambivalent and uncertain about how to deal with diversity and inclusion issues (Lindqvist, 2013; Villa et al, 1996 and Barnett & Monda-Amaya, 1998). An American meta-analysis (Cobb, 2015) points out that principals spend a lot of time on inclusion issues, but up to 75% of them experience insecurity about inclusion and consider their solutions to be inadequate.
Previous studies have shown that principals often explain failure in equity in education with students’ individual shortcomings (Lindqvist & Nilholm, 2013). The first research question in this study, how school leaders understand inclusion and an inclusive learning environment, is of great consequence to students’ rights and participation. For a successful school, which sees diversity as a potential for growth, rather than as an obstacle to students' results; ethos, knowledge and an organization is required that can continually back up teachers in meeting a variety of student needs. Inclusion and exclusion are structured by teaching practices. However, the objective of this study is to empirically contribute to an understanding of inclusive practices, such as inclusive instruction, additional adjustments and special support, as matters also of leadership and organization.
When leadership and practice specifically focus on the success of all children and students, I choose to talk about the organization's capacity for inclusion. At the heart of inclusion lays that differences between students is a basic condition that education and teaching must be adapted to. This also implies the need for flexibility through organizational adaptation to what students and their teachers require to succeed. This might take a certain kind of leadership. Therefore, the other two research questions concern success factors in building capacity for inclusion through leadership and development organization.
With an institutional perspective on organization, as advocated by Mathew B. Miles and Mats Ekholm, leadership is a complex social process, where the organization's history and culture can facilitate or prevent inclusion and improvements (Blossing et al., 2012). Well-functioning cultural and structural systems can increase the capacity for inclusion by providing the infrastructure that improvement processes need. An organization's infrastructure and its improvement processes, as shown below, are key aspects of school improvement (Blossing et al., 2012):
- The organization's infrastructure; with grouping systems, communication systems, power and responsibility systems, decision-making systems, audit systems and value systems
- Improvement processes; with improvement roles and organization improvement history
When these systems explicitly target a high capacity for inclusion, teachers aren’t left alone with the challenging task of inclusive education, and all students are given the opportunity to develop to the maximum of their abilities.
With a radical view on inclusion, it concerns learning environment, all students and the entire school (Nilholm, 2006). In fact, in a wider democratic perspective inclusive education can have far reaching societal consequences. UNESCO (2009, principal 2) stated that “regular schools with an inclusive orientation are the most effective means of combating discriminatory attitudes, creating welcoming communities, building an inclusive society and achieving education for all.” Inclusive education, and understanding the role of leadership and organization, thereby becomes instrumental in shaping social inclusion and social sustainability (Widigson, 2010; 2013 & Widigson et al., 2015).
At the end of 2016, 23 interviews, were conducted in four regions of the city of Gothenburg. In each region two units, a school and a preschool, were interviewed using semi-structured interviews. In each unit, the school leader, special educator and a group of teachers were interviewed. (One special educator was lacking, hence 23 and not 24 interviews). Each interview lasted one and a half hour. They were recorded and transcribed, and then encoded and analyzed using NVivo software. The methodological reason for a design not only interviewing school leaders, was to get a deeper understanding of school culture, infrastructure and leadership. Leadership is obtained by all those who work in the organization and is shaped in relation to structures and processes. Interview studies are well suited for a deeper interpretation of the informants' understanding of their activities. It is humbling and inspiring to listen to a combined professional experience well over 250 years. Restrictions to the design lies in not knowing how students experience inclusion. Furthermore, interviews only provide indirect access to actual performance and goal attainment. These restrictions make contrast valuable. It makes it possible to abstract mechanisms and analytically well-founded assumptions about what provides inclusion that benefits children and students. In addition to contrasting interviews with theory and prior research, the design gave an opportunity to analytically challenge the informant's statements in conducting three interviews with different professions at the same unit. Contrast is also achieved between pre-school and school and between regions with different district management and conditions based on socio-economic factors. The teachers were interviewed in focus groups, which stimulates multiple perspectives to emerge. As in many qualitative studies, data analyses where conducted by abductively switching between approaches and techniques (Kvale, 2009; Miles & Huberman, 1994). This is a procedure that gives more freedom than striving for a definite coding based on either theory or empirically grounded codes alone. In this way, the coding became a shift between more inductive empirical coding and theory-directed ditto, but also between the whole and the part. Ethical considerations where taken to the fact that a research interview is not a conversation between equal parties. It is the researcher who defines and controls the situation (Kvale, 2009). The Swedish Research Council's (Vetenskapsrådet, 2002) guidelines have been followed where the research requirement has been weighed against the individual protection requirement.
In accordance with McLeskey & Waldron (2015), school leaders understanding of inclusion is crucial to achieve shared core values. School leaders’ ethos is prominent, but so is a lack of precision in the understanding of the concept of inclusion. It is often based on spatial inclusion. At preschool level inclusion is frequently understood as social inclusion, and informants where less secure in regarding it as teaching and didactics. At secondary school level, social inclusion is challenging. Leaders need to navigate between conflicting interests. This corresponds to the theoretical view taken by Clark et al. (1999), who argues that practice, policies and shared values is a political struggle between supporters of inclusion and its overt or covert opponents. The leader’s ethos facilitates coherence (Fullan, 2016). Leadership must be inclusive in relation to staff in the same manner as teacher's leadership is expected to be inclusive in relation to students. Headmaster Adam says: "Why do we think that grownups are different?". When ethos for inclusion is regarded as a crucial factor, it is necessary to regard it as malleable, rather than as a personal trait. The study shows that inclusive education is a stress test for flexible organization. If inclusion isn’t to be regarded solely as assimilation, it is a reciprocal process. This process requires a relational leader who makes possible a stably functioning infrastructure and the flexible organization needed to answer to student’s needs, without attributing failure to individual students. Strengthening the capacity for inclusion entails practicing democracy. In accordance with Ainscow (2006), school improvement for inclusive education is far more than a technical process of raising the capacity of schools to generate measurable outcomes. One principal says: “The way we take care of students with the greatest difficulties, tells what type of school we want to be. It is important”.
Ainscow, M., Booth, T., Dyson, A., & Farrell, P. (2006) Improving schools, developing inclusion. London [etc.]: Routledge. Ainscow, M., & Sandhill, A. (2010) Developing inclusive education systems: the role of organisational cultures and leadership. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 14(4), 401-416. Barnett, Carol; and Monda-Amaya Lisa E. (1998). "Principals' Knowledge of and Attitudes Toward Inclusion." Remedial and Special Education 19(3): 181-192. Blossing, U., Nyen, T., Söderström, Å., & Hagen Tønder, A. (2012). Att kartlägga och förbättra skolor: sex typskolor. Lund: Studentlitteratur. Clark, C., Dyson, A., Millward, A., & Robson, S. (1999). Theories of Inclusion, Theories of Schools: deconstructing and reconstructing the ‘inclusive school‘. British Educational Research Journal, 25(2), 157-177. Cobb, C. (2015) Principals play many parts: a review of the research on school principals as special education leaders 2001 – 2011. International journal of Inclusice Education, Vol 19 nr 3, 213- 234. Fullan, M. & Quinn, J. (2016) Coherence: The Right Drivers in Action for Schools, Districts, and Systems. Corwin, SAGE. Kvale, S. (2009) Den kvalitativa forskningsintervjun. Lund: Studentlitteratur. Lindqvist, Gunilla (2013) Who should do What to Whom? Occupational Groups´ Views on Special Needs. Avhandling Högskolan I Jönköping. Dissertation Series No. 22. Lindqvist, G & Nilhom, C. (2013) Making schools inclusive? Educational leaders' views on how to work with children in need of special support. International Journal of Inclusive Education. Volym 17, Nr 1. 95 – 110. McLeskey, J. & Waldron, N. L. (2015) Effective leadership makes schools tuly inclusive. Miles, M. B., & Huberman, A. M. (1994) Qualitative data analysis: an expanded sourcebook. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Nilholm, C. & Myndigheten för skolutveckling (2006) Inkludering av elever "i behov av särskilt stöd"- vad betyder det och vad vet vi? Stockholm: Myndigheten för Skolutveckling, forskning i fokus nr 28. UNESCO (2009) Policy Guidelines on Inclusion in Education. Vetenskapsrådet (2002) Forskningsetiska principer inom humanistisk- samhällsvetenskaplig forskning. Villa, Richard, A.; Thousand, Jacqueline S.; Meyers, Herman and Nevin, Ann (1996). "Teacher and Administrator Perceptions of Heterogeneous Education." Exceptional Children 63(1): 29-45. Widigson, M. (2010) Kunskapsstadens barriärer. Göteborg utforskat: studier av en stad i förändring. H. Holgersson. Göteborg, Glänta produktion: 203-208. Widigson, M. (2013) Från miljonprogram till högskoleprogram - plats, agentskap och villkorad valfrihet. Doktorsavhandling. Gothenburg, Department of Sociology and Work Science, University of Gothenburg. Widigson, M., Paulsson, L., Olofsson, G., Lorentzi, Å., & Allelin, M. (2015) Ungas Medskapande: lärande av ungas erfarenheter. 2015:1.
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