01 SES 03 C, Professional Learning for Inclusive Practice
This study considers the problematic and complex issue of developing inclusive practice within a compulsory school. Inclusive practice here relates to a broad conceptualization of inclusion as a just education system that enables all pupils to participate, access, make progress and enjoy learning. As a coordinator for support for pupils with special needs I recognize that inclusion cannot be achieved by transferring special education thinking and practice onto the mainstream setting; rather the school system has to be transformed to make space for everyone. Clark, Dyson, Millward and Robson (1999) identified the need to focus on organisational features of schooling to promote inclusive practice, rather than compensatory measures for individual learners.
The purpose of this self-study was to understand my role as a Coordinator for Support Services in developing the support service in Waterfront Compulsory School so that it reinforces inclusive practice. This self-study research was driven by the following over-arching question: How can I as a Coordinator for Support Services improve the practice of support services in an inclusive school?
The conceptual framework of the study is shaped by important foundations for inclusive practice (Meijer, 2003), with key concepts of leadership, collaboration and reflective practice in focus. Research on leadership for inclusion has placed emphasis on a strong leadership in the inclusive school where the principal is seen as “the leader of leaders” (Ainscow & Miles, 2008, p. 28), who shares leadership and delegates responsibility among middle managers and school staff. Leading for inclusion is centred on equity and justice within the school and must involve both having the desire to engage in critique and being willing to take constructive responsible action (Ryan, 2006). Hence, the school community needs to foster and encourage critical consciousness in its members, who then reflect on ideas and practices – both their own and others (ibid.). Research on effective inclusive schools has shown that the disposition and aptitude of staff towards working together was seen as critical for accommodating diverse pupils’ needs (Kugelmass & Ainscow, 2004). This collaboration refers to how practitioners and others interact and work cooperatively to accomplish a task or series of tasks in and for various situations, such as in meetings, in teams, for pupil learning and for their overall well-being. Through collaboration the parties should be able to reach mutual understanding about how to solve problems and settle complex practical and ethical dilemmas (Devecchi & Rouse, 2010).
By reflecting on self in practice, the teacher is able to associate her believes with how she expresses those beliefs through actions (Tidwell & Heston, 1998). Thus, reflection offers to make sense of the dynamics within practice, revealing the fundamental assumptions represented within and “inspires coming to know not only what I do, but why [italics original] I may act in particular ways” (Wilcox et al., 2004, p. 280).
The researcher’s knowledge of the culture, history and actors involved in organisations presents a unique perspective in exploring their practice as insiders. The resources a self-study practitioner researcher brings to research are based on the knowledge source of teachers but also on personal attributes, such as empathy, patience, sensitivity to the feelings of others and the ability to listen attentively.
This research is "a personal situated inquiry" based on a self-study methodology (Samaras, 2010, p. 72). More than an approach to doing research or a way of knowing, the self-study methodology is a "stance that a researcher takes towards understanding or explaining the physical or social world" (LaBoskey, 2004, p. 1173). The personal in self-study means that my voice is an important valued source of knowledge in my professional setting as the goal is to increase understanding of practice and my role as a practitioner and bring about essential improvements or even transformation of practice. This is a study in and of my practice that was divided into three distinct phases: reconnaissance phase, enactment phase, and reflective phase. During the reconnaissance phase I conducted focus group interviews as well as individual interviews to gain an insight into how the school staff perceived inclusive practices in the school, as well as their ideas about how the support system could be improved. In the enactment phase, the organisation of the support service was transformed according to analysis of the data from the reconnaissance phase and I recorded the process in a self-reflective research journal. Furthermore, I engaged with parents, pupils and teacher assistants in order to gather their viewpoints on inclusive practices in the school and how that could be improved from their standpoint. During the reflective phase, my reflection on practice involved an active and "personal process of thinking, refining, reframing and developing actions" (Loughran & Northfield, 1998). Through the analytical process, all verbal data were transcribed and analysed through a grounded theory analysis. The trustworthiness of this study is founded in collecting data systematically, reflecting on the data process and analysis with critical friends, articulating motivation, making visible the process of reframing practice and the ongoing reflection of the support system and inclusive practice in the school (Samaras, 2010).
The findings cast a light on the factors that serve to further or constraint inclusive practices in school. My idea was that leadership for inclusion would influence collaboration between professionals, define roles and responsibilities, and lead to inclusive practice. All of this should take place by engaging in a reflection on practice, where practitioners question their actions and look for improvements in practice to benefit pupils and parents. Through engaging with my data, I have found that this is an over-simplified representation; the process to inclusive practice is far more complicated and iterative in nature. I have found that in order to reach an overview of how to develop and construct an inclusive education system it is helpful to distinguish between inclusive education, inclusive practice and inclusive pedagogy (Florian & Black-Hawkins, 2011; Florian & Spratt, 2013). These three interlocking parts of the system are coexisting and constantly influencing each other to different degrees and they help explain the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders in creating inclusive schools and school systems at each level. I have created a systemic view of inclusive education (figure 1- not included) to sort out the complexities and interconnectedness of the levels in the inclusive education system. This systemic view is based on ideas from Anderson, Boyle, and Deppeler (2014) as well as Florian and Black-Hawkins (2011) and builds on the learning I acquired from my research findings. The model shows how the learner is at the centre and how the levels of inclusive education, inclusive practice and inclusive pedagogy influence the pupil directly or indirectly. Furthermore, the model can be used by those within the system to examine and develop inclusive practices at the classroom, school or local government level, as well as in forming teacher education courses.
References Ainscow, M., & Miles, S. (2008). Making education for all inclusive: Where next? Prospects, 38(1), 15-34. doi:10.1007/s11125-008-9055-0 Anderson, J., Boyle, C., & Deppeler, J. (2014). The ecology of inclusive education. In H. Zhang, P. W. K. Chan, & C. Boyle (Eds.), Equality in education: Fairness and inclusion (pp. 23-34). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers. 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. Devecchi, C., & Rouse, M. (2010). An exploration of the features of effective collaboration between teachers and teaching assistants in secondary schools. Support for Learning, 25(2), 91-99. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9604.2010.01445.x Florian, L., & Black-Hawkins, K. (2011). Exploring inclusive pedagogy. British Educational Research Journal, 37(5), 813-828. doi:10.1080/01411926.2010.501096 Florian, L., & Spratt, J. (2013). Enacting inclusion: A framework for interrogating inclusive practice. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 28(2), 119-135. doi:10.1080/08856257.2013.778111 Kugelmass, J., & Ainscow, M. (2004). Leadership for inclusion: A comparison of international practices. Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs, 4(3), 133-141. doi:10.1111/j.1471-3802.2004.00028.x LaBoskey, V. (2004). Afterword moving the methodology of self-study research and practice forward: Challenges and opportunities. In J. J. Loughran, M. L. Hamilton, V. K. LaBoskey, & T. Russell (Eds.), International handbook of self-study of teaching and teacher education practices (Vol. 12, pp. 1169-1184). Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers. Loughran, J. J., & Northfield, J. (1998). A framework for the development of self-study practice. In M. L. Hamilton (Ed.), Reconceptualizing teaching practice: Self-study in teacher education (pp. 7-18). London: Falmer Press. Meijer, C. J. W., Soriano, V., & Watkins, A. (Eds.). (2003). Special needs education in Europe. Odnese: Europen agency for development in special needs education. Ryan, J. (2006). Inclusive leadership and social justice for schools. Leadership and policy in schools, 5, 3-17. Samaras, A. P. (2010). Self-study teacher research: Improving your practice through collaborative inquiry. New York: Sage. Tidwell, D. L., & Heston, M. L. (1998). Self-study through the use of practical argument. In M. L. Hamilton (Ed.), Reconceptualizing teaching practice: Self-study in teacher education (pp. 45-66). London: Falmer Press. Wilcox, S., Watson, J., & Paterson, M. (2004). Self-study in professional practice. In J. J. Loughran, M. L. Hamilton, V. LaBoskey, & T. Russell (Eds.), International handbook of self-study of teaching and teacher education practices (pp. 273-311). Dordrecht: Kluwer academic publishers.
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