10 SES 08 B, Inclusive Education: Teacher attitudes, self-efficacy and professional learning
What is the impact of teacher professional development on teachers’ collaborative practices for inclusion?
Planning for individual learning needs has long been a key feature of educational programmes internationally (UNESCO, 1994). It is reflected in the practice of personalising learning to the abilities and interests of each student, pursued by schools committed to school improvement (Ferguson, 2008), and a fundamental tenet of differentiation (Griffin & Shevlin, 2011). Illustrative of planning for individual learning needs is the individual education plan, adopted by many countries as a tool for individualising teaching and learning for students with special educational needs (SEN). Indeed, the policy status of individual education plans is directly linked to legislation in a number of countries (see Rose, Shevlin, Winter, O’Raw & Yu Zhao, 2012). In Ireland, the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act (Ireland, 2004) was introduced to make individual education plans mandatory for all children with SEN. However, amidst economic recession in 2008, there was a deferral on commencement of certain sections of the Act including those pertaining to individual assessment and education plans. In the intervening decade, there is increasing evidence to suggest that schools are taking the initiative in developing individual education plans, though with variability and inconsistency in practice (Bergin & Logan, 2013; Douglas et al., 2012; Ní Bhroin, King & Prunty, 2016; Rose et al.). A recent policy development saw the introduction of a more equitable system of resource allocation for children with SEN in mainstream schools, underpinned by the principles of inclusion (NCSE, 2014). The significance of this policy development is that it was accompanied by a departmental directive on educational planning, stipulating that the student’s ‘support plan should include clear, measurable learning targets, and specify the resources and interventions that will be used to address student needs’ (DES, 2017, p.21). It also requires that the plan is developed through a ‘collaborative process involving relevant teachers, parents/guardians, the pupils themselves and outside professionals’ (DES, 2017, p.21), emphasising a commitment to securing individually relevant learning for students with SEN.
A key principle underpinning the development of individualised educational planning is collaboration. Indeed, collaborative decision-making and problem-solving is at the core of inclusive education for students with SEN (Clarke, 2000), crucial to quality of student’s plan (Cooper, 1996). However, challenges of collaboration in the individualised educational planning process are widely documented (Riddell, 2002; Tennant 2007) with Stroggilos and Xanthacou (2006) reporting that individual education plans were not being used as a collaborative tool between parents, teachers and other educational professionals. Additionally, very low levels of student involvement and complexities of delivering on this in practice have been highlighted (IRIS, 2015).
Drawing from a larger study examining the impact of professional development related to the individual education plan process on the knowledge and practice of teachers in Ireland, the focus of this paper is the research which explored collaborative practices in the individualised educational planning process supporting inclusion. The theoretical framework for the collaborative aspect of the study is informed by literatures from interprofessional development and education, and underpinned by constructs of collaboration, communication, and values and ehtics, cross referenced with exposure, immersion and competence (Centre for Interprofessional Education, 2011) in the knowing, believing and doing (Rouse, 2009) of collaborative practice for inclusive education. This aspect of the study is of relevance to those who are involved in the individualised educational planning process for inclusion of students with SEN, to those who prepare teachers for engagement with this process, and to policy makers who have it in their power to devise and influence policy to create and sustain meaningful collaborative practices that support inclusion.
Methodology combined quantitative and qualitative approaches and consisted of two phases. Participants For phase one, participants were 165 teachers who completed a Graduate Diploma in Special Educational Needs during each of three consecutive academic years in one third level institution in Ireland. For phase two, the participants were five students, three school principals, five special education teachers, five class teachers from mainstream primary schools and three subject teachers from post-primary school, five special needs assistants and five parents/guardians of student participants. Methods Phase one was a quantitative survey and involved administering a questionnaire to elicit teachers’ perceptions of the impact of professional development on the process of individual educational planning on their knowledge, skills, understanding and practice and on their use of the individual education plan to measure and improve learning outcomes for pupils with SEN. Response rate was 50.3%. On return of completed questionnaire, all responses were coded and entered into SPSS for statistical analysis. Phase two was qualitative and involved conducting case studies in five mainstream schools, four primary and one post-primary. Each case study incorporated the following methods of data collection: A focus group interview with school principal, student’s special education teacher(s), student’s class teacher(s), student’s special needs assistant and other relevant personnel to elicit adults’ experiences, understanding and use of the individual education plan; five focus group interviews in total. Individual interviews with parent/guardian and with student to elicit their experiences of the individual education plan; ten individual interviews in total. Document analysis to investigate the use of the individual education plan in planning, learning and recording/monitoring outcomes; documents included the individual education plan, teachers’ plans, assessment records, school report for student with SEN, and school policy on special needs and inclusion. Observation of teacher’s practice and student’s learning to document the use of the individual education plan in planning, teaching, learning and recording/monitoring outcomes; one visit per school, totalling five school days. Qualitative data were converted to text form, and using NVivo 10, data sets were coded using a combination of deductive and inductive coding (Miles & Huberman, 1994). The coding process led to 125 codes contributing to 14 categories across all data sources and supporting the emergence of four distinct but interrelated key themes; inclusion, collaboration, student experience and professional development. The findings reported in this presentation focus on the impact of professional development on teachers’ collaborative practices for inclusion.
The extent of improvement reported by teachers on indicators relating to assessment, planning and teaching to address specific learning needs was high but less so on critical elements of the individual educational planning process concerned with collaboration. The majority of teachers reported that planning meetings were held for students with SEN and that mainstream class teachers and support teachers attended these meetings. Parental attendance at planning meetings was high, and furnishing parents and class teachers with a copy of the student’s plan appeared common practice. However, teachers were less likely to report that the student’s learning targets were incorporated in class teacher plans. Additionally, data from interviews, classroom observations and analysis of documentation indicated little contextualisation of individualised educational planning into whole-school planning and classroom practice, supporting a need to further develop collaborative skills for implementation; such skills contribute to contextualisation of the student’s plan into whole school planning and delivery of curriculum which is crucial to quality of the individual education plan with implications for inclusion (Blackwell & Rossetti, 2014; Cooper, 1996). Results indicate that knowledge, beliefs and skills related to the introduction and development of collaboration for inclusion were evident with less evidence of competencies related to effective team functioning in practice. Challenges were identified within the construct of communication: listening, giving and receiving feedback, sharing information effectively, using a common language and dealing with conflict. There was an absence of knowledge, beliefs and skills on the use of frameworks to develop shared team values and to guide collaborative decision-making and collaborative practices for inclusion. The paper argues for teacher educators to have increased focus on knowledge, beliefs and practices relating to collaboration and communication in professional learning programmes for teachers. It provides a framework for introducing, developing and enhancing competencies in collaborative practice for inclusion.
Bergin, E. & Logan, A. (2013). An individual education plan for pupils with special educational needs: How inclusive is the process for the pupil? REACH Journal of Special Needs Education in Ireland, 26(2), 79-1. Blackwell, W.H. & Rossetti, Z.S. (2014). The Development of Individualized Education Programmes: Where Have We Been and Where Should We Go Now?, Sage Open, DOI: 10.1177/2158244014530411, pp. 1-15. Centre for Interprofessional Education. (2011). Core competencies for interprofessional collaborative practice. Toronto: Author. Clark, S.G. (2000). The IEP process as a tool for collaboration. Teaching Exceptional Children, 33(2), 56-66. Cooper, P. (1996) Are Individual Education Plans a Waste of Paper?, British Journal of Special Education, Vol. 23 (3), pp. 115-119. Department of Education and Skills (DES). (2017). Circular to the management authorities of mainstream primary schools: special education teaching allocation (0013/27). Dublin: Author. Douglas, G., Travers, J., McLinden, M., Roberstson, C., Smith, E., Macnab, N., Powers, S. Guldberg, K., McGough, A., O'Donnell, M., & Lacey, P. (2012). Measuring educational engagement, progress and outcomes for children with special educational needs: A review (National Council for Special Education, Research Report No. 11). Trim: National Council for Special Education. Ferguson, D.L. (2008). International trends in inclusive education: The continuing challenge to teach each and every one. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 23(2), 109-120. Griffin, S. & Shevlin, M. (2011). Responding to special educational needs: An Irish perspective (2nd ed.). Dublin: Gill & McMillan. Ireland (2004) Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004. Dublin: The Stationery Office. Miles, M.B. & Huberman, A.M. (1994). Qualitative data analysis (2nd ed.). London: Sage Publications. Ní Bhroin, Ó., King, F., & Prunty, A. (2016). Teachers’ knowledge and practice relating to the Individual Education Plan and learning outcomes for pupils with special educational needs. REACH Journal of Special Needs Education in Ireland, 29(2), 78-90. Rose, R., Shevlin, M., Winter, E., O’Raw. and Zhao, Y. (2012) Individual Education Plans in the Republic of Ireland: An emerging system. British Journal of Special Education, 39(3), 110-116. Rouse, M. (2009). Developing inclusive practice: A role for teachers and teacher education. . Education in the North, 16 , 6-13. Stroggilos, V. & Xanthacou, Y. (2006) Collaborative IEPs for the education of pupils with profound and multiple learning difficulties. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 21(3), 339 - 349. Tennant, G.D. (2007). IEPs in mainstream secondary schools: an agenda for research. Support for Learning, 22(4), 204-208.
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