04 SES 01 C, Inclusion and Quality in Preschool Education
It is widely recognized that inclusion and participation into the society are essential human right, for both adults and children (UNESCO 1994). Although this concept is fully shared, it is not always easy for children with special educational needs to be included in social and school life. The participation in the school activities increase the opportunities for children with special needs to reach the same theoretical and social knowledge as other children (Bronson et al. 1995; Gustavsson 2004). Moreover Inclusion promote independence and social participation (Simeonsson et al. 2001), is reported as essential for learning (Simeonsson et al. 2001), is considered one of the health components in the International Classification of Functioning, Health, and Disability (WHO 2001), and is crucial for later positive outcomes (Finn and Cox 1992). According to International Classification of Functioning, Health, and Disability participation can be seen as engagement in everyday situations (WHO 2001).
Even if it is a large consensus that children with special needs should participate to the school life and not segregated into special school (Holt 2003), it is clear that they often need more support than other children in order to participate in different school activities. Teacher should find the right educational strategies to favor the inclusion of these children and their participation.
The European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education has developed in this sense the profile of Inclusive Teachers, as one of the main outputs of the Teacher Education for Inclusion (http://www.european-agency.org/agencyprojects/Teacher-Education-for-Inclusion).
The objective of this study is to present the results of some observations on the part of middle/secondary school teachers regarding the measures they take in order to include students with special needs in the classroom, especially those with learning disabilities.
In particular, we wanted to explore the variables which could either be weaknesses or strengths over the course of the scholastic year, taking into consideration the opportunity to guarantee students inclusion within the classroom and the possibility of reaching their learning potential.
It is accepted that students with learning disabilities (LD) demonstrate lower performance compared to other students on individual domains such as achievement motivation, academic self-efficacy, and academic achievement (Jenkins, Leslie, 2014). Teachers have need of strategies to promote inclusion and participation for the special needs student in the general education classroom (Gore, 2004).
The concept of inclusion within a classroom is associated with the concept of equality and is consistent with a school’s capacity to take care of all those with special needs.
From this point of view, the model proposed by the ICF document (International Classification of Functioning) from the OMS is considered a relevant approachwhen taking into consideration the person as a whole.
Both these factors (individual and context) create the conditions necessary to guarantee inclusion and therefore participation in social life.
On this premise it can be asserted that there is a lack of both studies and research investigating "good practices" in schools which teachers put into place to respond to the emerging issues one finds in teaching Special Needs students. The study objective is to understand if, in the opinion of teachers, the academic achievment depends only by the student (and assistance that directly receives), or rather from the context that surrounds it (hindering or facilitating).
Method This contribution is a part of a larger project carried out by our research group. The project was aimed at teachers who work with middle and secondary school students (11-13 yrs, 14-18 yrs) in an area of north-east Italy. The duration of the project was two years and it provided a reconnaissance phase of teachers’ experiences on the topics of LD, a teachers’ needs analysis and practices, as well as a semi-structured observation of some cases, and later focus group discussion. This presentation concerns the semi-structured observation of “a case identified” by teachers. Teachers were requested to submit a brief written report regarding some observations held based on their own classroom experiences. The items they were asked to include in their report were: - the student with a LD (achievement motivation, academic self-efficacy, awareness of their problems … ) - the student with a LD in the classroom (any limitations and restrictions, any facilitators), - the student with a LD and opportunities found outside the classroom (as well as family, friends, other adults, and any environmental factors facilitating or hindering progress). Subjects 98 teachers were involved at this stage and the distribution was as follows: middle school (58 teachers) secondary school (40 teachers)
Results The analysis began with coding the categories proposed by researchers in order to explore each theme more in depth and have a list of variables which could either be weaknesses or strengths in fostering inclusion. The main objective was to assess how the personal dimensions of students intersect with the general conditions of the classroom in order to ensure an acceptable level of inclusion. Inclusion is based first of all upon a condition in which the student feels a state of well-being. Some points of interest: The most perceived and discussed issues by the teachers were: - The high levels of motivation and self-esteem are critical for the students with LD, but also when these are positive, their self-esteem and motivation can be damaged by behaviors of classmates - dealing with classmates (creating a cooperative atmosphere to contain derisive attitudes, encouraging acceptance from non LD students who may perceive allowances made for LD students as being “unfair” or “showing favoritism”) Conclusion Learning Disabilities are a significant area of academic disadvantage for those students who find themselves on the borderline or who are not considered severe enough to merit a teacher’s aid to help them, regardless of the fact that they nevertheless require special attention from the teacher. In these cases, it is the classroom teacher who must provide special attention/education to those students with special needs, while dealing with mainstream students at the same time. In conclusion, we can say that instruction can not only be thought of in relation to teacher / pupil. It has to do with a set of dimensions in the world of school, interacting with each other and these determine the success or failure of a training program.
References Jenkins, Leslie R. (2014) Examining the relations between cognitive-motivational variables and the academic achievement of secondary students with learning disabilities. Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences, Vol 75(2-A)(E). Gore, M. C.; (2004) Successful inclusion strategies for secondary and middle school teachers: Keys to help struggling learners access the curriculum. Publisher: Corwin Press. UNESCO (1994). The Salamanca statement and framework for action on special needs education. World conference on special needs education: access and quality. Salamanca, Spain, 7–10 June, 2004. Bronson, M. B., Hauser-Cram, P., & Warfield, M. E. (1995). Classroom behaviors of preschool children with and without developmental disabilities. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 16, 371–390. Gustavsson, A. (2004). Delaktighetens språk [the language of particiaption]. Lund, Sweden: Studentlitteratur Simeonsson, R. J., Carlson, D., Huntington, G. S., Sturtz McMillen, J., & Brendt, J. L. (2001). Students with disabilities: A national survey of participation in school activities. Disability and Rehabilitation, 23, 49–63. WHO (2001). International classification of functioning, disability and health. Geneva: World Health Organization. Finn, J. D., & Cox, D. (1992). Participation and withdrawal among fourth-grade pupils. American Educational Research Journal, 29, 141–162. Holt, L. (2003). (Dis)abling children in primary school micro-spaces: Geographies of inclusion and exclusion. Health and Place, 9, 119–128.
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