04 SES 02 D, Collaborative Models in the Inclusive School
Purpose of this qualitative case study is to explore the relationships between forms of collaboration and organizational cultures in the school and the practices of inclusive education. The research question is how and to what extent organizational, collaborative structures and participation of different stakeholders (teachers, students, parents, educators, school heads) can play an effective role in improving the quality of inclusive education and in reducing forms of marginalization in schools.
This study adopts a wide concept of inclusive education, just as formulated in the UNESCO documents, which address all children, pupils and students “regardless of their physical, intellectual, social, emotional, linguistic or other conditions” (UNESCO, 1994, p.6). In promoting positive attitudes within the school-community towards inclusive education a crucial role is there attributed to school-leaders “School heads have a special responsibility in promoting positive attitudes throughout the school-community and in arranging for effective co-operation between class teachers and support staff” as well as skills in collaborating with parents and specialists (UNESCO, 1994, p.24). A subsequent UNESCO document stresses the need of “participatory analysis of exclusion at household, community and school levels, and the development of diverse, flexible, and innovative approaches to learning and an environment that fosters mutual respect and trust” (UNESCO, 2000, p.20). One of the crucial question in promoting “education for all” is therefore: “How do teachers in mainstream schools support each other and work together on problem-solving activities in their own schools?” (UNESCO, 2011, p.6): which is in other terms the question of “how do teachers organize form of collaboration in order to promote more inclusive practices?”
For the purpose of the research question, it is useful to adopt a framework describing the space in which relationships of mutual support among teaching and non-teaching personal of the school (e.g. parents) take place as “community of practice”, according to the definition given by Etienne Wenger (1998, 2011). In every human activity and system, everywhere people are expected to participate and to give their contribution to already defined practices, high or low level of individual’s participation to common practices coexist. People who are in a peripheral position should be encouraged to participate to common practices, activities and languages, which are located in the center of the system. This is also true for school organizations considered as “holistic systems”, which are on the way to improve inclusive practices by reducing form of marginalization, either at the micro-level (the classroom) or at the macro-level (school organization). The study starts from a critical review of some fundamental studies on the role that organizational, cultural and leading factors play in promoting inclusive practices in schools, showing how the topics of inclusive culture, inclusive leadership and processes of participation closely link with each other in promoting inclusive processes. Following, the author presents some steps of a participatory action research actually carried out in a School District of an Italian school in South Tirol. The School District Bolzano I, located in the historical Centre of Bolzano has accepted in the school year 2015/2016 to participate in a collaborative action research project involving the Free university of Bolzano and the school community. Main purpose of this collaborative project was to support the school community by enhancing the quality of inclusive education.
This study adopts the method of “Case Study” described by Yin (2014, p. 4): The case study is the preferred method when examining contemporary events, but when the relevant behaviours cannot be manipulated.” Case studies require a multi-level approach by integrating different methods and sources of evidence: observations, documents, artefacts, interviews with people involved into the research process. They contribute “to our knowledge of individual, group, organizational, social, political and related phenomena (…) and allows investigators (…) to retain a holistic and real-word perspective.” The present study focusses on the steps, which a school community in South Tirol undertakes in order to enhance the quality of inclusive practices by putting priorities into the development plan. This action has been taking the form of an action research as illustrated in the Index for Inclusion (Booth & Ainscow, 2016) with the following steps: • Phase 1: Starting the Index process. • Phase 2: Finding out together. • Phase 3: Producing a plan. • Phase 4: Taking action. • Phase 5: Reviewing development. The model of the cooperative-enquiry described by Heron and Reason (2006) as a research “with” rather than “on” other people has been guiding all phases of the action research project at the school level. The research design and the findings reported in the present study attempt to bring together both the insiders and the outsider perspectives on the same research process without ignoring their dialectical relationship.
The study aims to contribute to the actually growing area of research in inclusive education, which investigates relationships between values, culture, organizational factors in schools and inclusive education. Exploring on a deeper level and analyzing the voices of the participants it shows what really and concretely works in improving inclusive practice and what are the obstacles with which teachers are still faced in inclusive settings. In particular, the data show how the openness of school organizations to change by enhancing the quality of inclusive practices and their ability react to challenging situations, co-exist with their constant efforts to avoid resorting to “separated” educational settings, as highlighted by the studies of Ianes on “pushing and pulling out phenomena in Italian schools” (Demo, 2015, Ianes, 2014). This dialectic between “inclusive” response capability of schools through collaboration among teachers and systemic resistance to change is the question, from which School Administrators should re-think inclusive policies in Italian Schools.
Some references: Ainscow, M., & Miles, S. (2008). Making Education for All inclusive: where next? Prospects, 38(1), 15-34. Ainscow, M., & Sandill, A. (2010). The big challenge: leadership for inclusion, Elsevier. Booth, T., & Ainscow, Mel. (2016). Index for inclusion : A guide to school development led by inclusive values (Fourth ed.). Cambridge: Index for Inclusion Network. Demo, H., (2015) Dentro e fuori dall’aula: cosa funziona davvero nella classe inclusiva? (Inside and outside: what really works in italian inclusive classrooms?) - Italian Journal of Special Education for Inclusion, 3(1), 53-70. Dorczak, R. (2013), Inclusion through the Lens of School Culture. In: Leadership for Inclusive Education. Studies in Inclusive Education, vol. 18. Sense Publishers, Rotterdam Ekins A. (2013) Special Education within the Context of an Inclusive School. In: Leadership for Inclusive Education. Studies in Inclusive Education, vol. 18. Sense Publishers, Rotterdam Fournier E., Scott S., Scott D.E. (2016) Effective Leadership for Inclusionary Practice: Assessment Considerations for Cognitively Challenged Students. In: Scott S., Scott D., Webber C. (eds) Leadership of Assessment, Inclusion, and Learning. The Enabling Power of Assessment, vol. 3. Springer, Cham Heron, J., & Reason, P. (2006). The practice of co-operative inquiry: Research ‘with’ rather than ‘on’ people. Handbook of action research, 2, 144-154. Ianes, D. (2014). L'evoluzione dell'insegnante di sostegno: Verso una didattica inclusiva (The evolution of support teachers; towards an inclusive didactic), (Nuova ed.). Trento: Erickson. Loreman, T., Deppeler, Joanne, & Harvey, David. (2010). Inclusive education: Supporting diversity in the classroom (2.nd ed.). London, Routledge. Mitchell, D. (2010). What really works in special and inclusive education: Using evidence-based teaching strategies (1. publ., reprint. ed.). London: Routledge. O'Hanlon, C. (2003). Educational inclusion as action research. McGraw-Hill Education (UK). Ryndak, D., Lehr, D., Ward, T. and DeBevoise, H., (2014), Collaboration and teaming in effective inclusive schools, in: McLeskey, J., Waldron, Nancy L, Spooner, Fred, & Algozzine, Robert. (2014). Handbook of effective inclusive schools: Research and practice. New York: Routledge, (p. 395-409). Theoharis, G. (2012). Leadership for Increasingly Diverse Schools. Routledge. Yin, R. K. (2014). Case study research: Design and methods. Sage publications. UNESCO, 1994, The Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on special needs education, in: http://www.unesco.org/education UNESCO, 2000, The Dakar framework for action, in: http://www.unesco.org/education UNESCO, 2011, Open files on inclusive education. Paris: UNESCO. Wenger, E., 1998, Community of practice, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Wenger, E. (2011). Communities of practice: A brief introduction.
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