04 SES 12 B, Shaping a More Inclusive Educational Environment: Developing effective practices
In most European countries the right to be different and at the same time to accept the universal values (Delors, 1996) has been accepted and recognized. Inclusive education on an international level is perceived more as a reform that supports and salutes the differences among all students (UNESCO, 2001). This paper accepts and refers to this wider interpretation of the concept. After the decrease in questioning the need for inclusive education in schools, what followed was the question how to realize quality inclusion in schools (for example, Ainscow and Brown, 1999; Ainscow et al., 2006), and the emphasis is placed more and more on the teacher and his/her professional education and training. In that way everyday practice in class would reflect the represented values. It is precisely teachers who are the ones making everyday decisions on how to implement and apply various work methods and who are therefore perceived as the most important school factors contributing to the achievements of students, right after the individual differences of students themselves (Hattie, 2009).
The individualized approach to teaching and education of students is based on the teacher's familiarity and use of various strategies of active teaching as well as continuous monitoring of students (Forlin, 2001; Timperley and Robinson, 2001). Therefore, nowadays it is practically impossible to find national education documents in developed countries which do not emphasize the need for an active approach to teaching and education even from the earliest stage of education (Curriculum Development Council, 2002; National Research Council [NRC], 1996; Goodrum and Renie, 2007; Rocard et al., 2007). Inclusion promotes the fact that the participation of all students and class is based on liberal-arts and constructivist principles (Feiman-Nemser, 2001), awareness that education takes place through mutual interaction between children, grown-ups and children. This approach requires the teacher’s continuous professional education and training which helps him/her to rethink, self-assess and value the entire process, that is to develop his/her professional competences (Collinson et al., 2009; Tot, 2013; Kudek Mirošević, 2015). However, the teacher’s professional education and training is not unique nor linear (Huberman, 1993), and individual levels do not imply the continual growth of competences, but they do mark quality changes in the teacher’s values, attitudes, emotions and skills.
Due to the fact that it is expected of the teacher to further develop his/her competences in teaching students, during their work experiences they must adapt or change teaching strategies by using different teaching methods, procedures, materials and tools. These two hypotheses were accordingly posed in this research.
(H1) There is a statistically significant correlation between the teacher’s age and his/her assessment on the application of didactic and methodological procedures in teaching students and (H2) there is a statistically significant correlation between the number of teachers’ years of teaching experience and their assessment in the application of didactic and methodological procedures in teaching students. The sample included a total of 410 teachers from the first to the eighth grade that is 57.8% of teachers from the first to the fourth grade and 42.2% of teachers from the fifth to the eighth grade, from regular primary schools in 6 counties of the Republic of Croatia. A modified questionnaire on providing methodological and didactic support to students in class (Dover, 1994) was used. For this study, 12 variables were separately analysed, referring to the implementation of individual teaching with each student, planning individualized curriculums and activities and providing individualized support with help of modified verbal instructions and modified class contents, materials and tools, the adaptation of time and the assessment of student’s knowledge. The data collected with the questionnaire were analyzed on a descriptive and latent level. The obtained results were used to calculate the main descriptive parameters: minimal and maximum results, mean, std. deviation, variance, skewness and kurtosis and, in testing the hypotheses, the non- parameter Spearman coefficient of correlation was used. The results showed that there was a statistically significant correlation between the teacher’s age and years of teaching experience. The correlation analysis between the variables determined that later age teachers implied the teacher’s higher assessment and it was the highest at individual teaching with each student with disabilities in class, oral assessment of the knowledge of the student with disabilities and planning individualized curriculums and activities for students of typical development. With regard to the correlation between the teacher’s teaching experience, the correlation analysis between the variables determined that the teachers with more teaching experience created the most supplementary material for students with disabilities and that individual work with each student with disabilities is more represented as well as oral assessment of the knowledge of students with disabilities. At the same time, the statistically significant correlation between the teacher’s age and the realization of planned individualized curriculums and activities for students with no disabilities is visible.
The results showed that the competence in the realization of teaching strategies and better quality planning and methods of adjustment depends on the teachers’ teaching experience and their age. This hypothesis could be examined empirically by analyzing the teacher’s activities as well as the teacher’s implementation of assessment and self-assessment, which could be perceived as a new issue for future research. However, generally speaking, the obtained results follow the direction of better understanding of didactic and methodological support for students and indicate the need that, in the teacher’s initial education, more emphasis is put on competences of individualized approach to teaching and educating both the student with disabilities and the student who has no disabilities in class. At the same time, since those teachers who were educated and have experience in working with children with disabilities feel more competent (Forlin, 2001), such competences need to be further developed through continuous education and training, that is the teacher’s professional development.
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