04 SES 01 B, Fostering Inclusive Education in School Through Organisational Change
Paper/Pecha Kucha Session
Nowadays inclusion is increasingly recognized as a major driving force for educational reforms and an inescapable goal of the worldwide political agenda. In this respect, the Education 2030 initiative (UNESCO, 2015) represents an important step forward, where the priority is clear: to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. However, in countries such as Spain, UNICEF (2017) highlighted the austerity among children, focusing on the impact of the deep economic recession on child poverty and also its unfavorable consequences for inclusion. Elsewhere, at this stage, it is important to clarify the meaning of inclusion. The influential work Improving Schools, Developing Inclusion, suggests a typology of six ways of thinking about inclusion, so helping to understand its conceptualization better (Ainscow, Booth and Dyson, 2006): (1) inclusion as a concern with disabled students and others categorized as ‘having special educational needs’, (2) inclusion as a response to disciplinary exclusion, (3) inclusion in relation to all groups seen as being vulnerable to exclusion, (4) inclusion as developing the school for all, (5) inclusion as ‘Education for All’, and (6) inclusion as a principled approach to education and society.
At the same time, some authors use the metaphor of the ‘journey towards inclusion’. For example, Nguyen (2015) thinks of inclusion as a journey that questions societies’ values and policies. Meanwhile, Messiou (2012), in Confronting Marginalisation in Education, offers an interesting framework to promote inclusion through collaborative journeys. Staying with this idea of inclusion as a journey, researchers from University of Murcia (Spain) and University of Manchester (England) were involved on the project ‘Guiding schools on their journey towards inclusion' with the purpose to develop a new instrument to this field (Azorín & Ainscow, 2018). In this proposal, it is presented a trial of the instrument Themis, designed for teacher reflection and developed to help schools from Murcia to review themselves in order to take action to become more inclusive. In so doing, we explore its potential, as well as identifying the challenges involved in its use. A strong theme that permeates the analysis presented in the paper is the importance of developing review instruments that relate to particular contexts and take account of the varied ideas of those involved.
The assessment of schools is usually conducted using instruments (mainly questionnaires and scales) which have been designed specifically to guide schools on their journey to becoming more inclusive (Azorín, 2017). A helpful list of indicators and questions in relation to this is provided by the Index for Inclusion (Booth and Ainscow, 2011), a framework for examining school factors that may create barriers to learning and participation. These are organized in relation to three dimensions: ‘cultures, policies and practices’. The Index has been used across the globe, which makes it a world reference tool where information is collected from various sources (teachers, students, families, politicians and others). Drawing lessons from this earlier initiative, Themis (which name is inspired on the Greek goodess) symbolizes the view of inclusion through social justice. From this point of view, the paper focus on the following research question:
- What are the challenges involved on the journey to inclusion?
We have used a mixed method approach. An initial draft of the instrument was developed, drawing on the literature review of existing instruments in the inclusion field (e.g. the Index for Inclusion). This draft was reviewed by 31 British and Spanish researchers to ensure its content validity. These professionals were asked to draw on their knowledge and experience on inclusive education and research methodology. Themis was defined as a tool to promote teacher reflection on inclusion. Finally, the tool is composed of twenty-seven reflective questions, a questionnaire with sixty-five items and five response options to rate the degree of agreement or disagreement about each of the questions posed, and an open final part for respondents to indicate three positive and negative aspects regarding response to diversity in the classroom/school. In designing the structure of Themis, we were influenced by the CIPP Model developed by Stufflebeam (1971). We choose three dimensions for its dimensional structure: contexts, resources and processes. The aim of the Themis trial developed in this research was to value the use and assistance provided by this instrument during the journey towards inclusion undertaken by schools involved. It was conducted during the second term of the school year 2015/2016. Themis was administered to 38 schools (25 from nursery and primary education, and 13 from secondary education). The strategy for school practice with this tool contains the following steps: • Step 1. Starting with reflective questions. • Step 2. Filling out a questionnaire. • Step 3. Analyzing the data (quantitative and qualitative). • Step 4. Choosing improvement lines. Following Themis’ trialing in schools, we have drawn several lessons about the main challenges schools face to be more inclusive. These issues will be exposed below according to the research question formulated.
If we want to help schools to review their progress in terms of inclusion, we need to know where they are on their journey. Improvements have to be planned jointly and based on the strengths and weaknesses found in each scenario according to the contexts, resources and processes valued. Regarding to the research aim of this work, some of the challenges involved in the use of Themis were the practicalities of generating credible evidence and the problem of making sense of this evidence. We agree with Nkwake (2015), who affirm that the aim of any research is to generate evidence, from which people can learn and can base their decisions. As far as our work is concerned, the Themis trial in schools has facilitated the creation of evidence in order to promote lines of change and improvement oriented towards more inclusive practices. Other question is the need to develop trust among stakeholders. Our experience with schools tell us that stakeholders must feel that their engagement in data collection and use processes are respectful to their interests and needs. Indeed, the European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education (2016) insists on the importance to promote trusting and collaborative climates during the different steps programed on the inclusive route. A big challenge that emerge when schools take action to become more inclusive is appearance of contradictions and tensions in current educational environment, which limits progress towards inclusion (Winter and O’Raw, 2010). Deciding on priorities for moving forward and dealing with the inevitable turbulence that will occur are issues to be considered in this type of research too. In conclusion, Themis can be understood as an example of a range of similar instruments that all attempt to help schools to review themselves in order to take action to become more inclusive.
Ainscow, M., T. Booth, and A. Dyson, with P. Farrell, J. Frankham, F. Gallannaugh, A. Howes, and R. Smith. 2006. Improving Schools, Developing Inclusion. London: Routledge. Azorín, C.M. 2017. “Análisis de instrumentos sobre educación inclusiva y atención a la diversidad [Analysis of instruments on inclusive education an attention to diversity]”. Revista Complutense de Educación 28 (4): 1043-1060. Azorín, C.M., and M. Ainscow. 2018. Guiding schools on their journey towards inclusion. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 1-19. Booth, T., and M. Ainscow. 2011. Index for Inclusion. Developing learning and participation in schools. Bristol: CSIE. European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education. 2016. Raising the Achievement of All Learners in Inclusive Education. Denmark: European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education. Messiou, K. 2012. Confronting marginalisation in education. A framework for promoting inclusion. London: Routledge. Nguyen, X.T. 2015. The Journey to Inclusion. Rottherdam: Sense Publishers. Nkwake, A.M. 2015. Credibility, Validity, and Assumptions in Program Evaluation Methodology. Switzerland: Springer International Publishing. Stufflebeam, D.L. 1971. The use of experimental design in educational evaluation. Journal of Educational Measurement 8 (4): 267-274. UNESCO. 2015. Education 2030. Incheon Declaration and Framework for Action. Towards inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning for all. Paris: UNESCO. UNICEF. 2017. Children of Austerity. Impact of Great Recession on Child Poverty in Rich Countries. Oxford: UNICEF. Winter, E., and O’Raw, P. 2010. Literature Review of the Principles and Practices relating to Inclusive Education for Children with Special Educational Needs. Leinster: Nacional Council for Special Education.
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