10 SES 02 D, Inclusivity and Inclusive Practice
In this paper we provide an analysis of how an initial teacher education course has been using community-based learning experiences to enable preservice teachers’ growth as inclusive practitioners, by challenging tacit assumptions that can result in deficit theorising of diverse learners. From their position as teacher educators, the authors consider how a community engagement practicum, as part of an undergraduate teaching and learning degree, supports preservice teachers in developing action competence for inclusion. The course enables successful teaching in the contemporary educational context by focussing on the relational framework that underpins a strengths-based pedagogy of teaching.
The concept of ‘action competence’ is essential to the context of excellent teaching (Fickel, Abbiss, & Astall, 2016). This concept resonates with ideas of social justice and sustainability in education, and supports a vision for ethical resolve that will address educational inequities and injustices. Acquiring and sustaining a repertoire of valuable pedagogical tools for action in practice, is an essential quality of initial teacher education. This demands of preservice teachers, the ability to genuinely ‘see’ children and their families in the context of community (MacDonald, Bowman & Brayco, 2013). With this understanding, they know how to act in such a way that social and cultural assumptions accumulated over a lifetime, are no longer the default mechanism for educational reaction, or, alternately, they are identified, acknowledged and addressed before action. A conscious movement away from theoretically deficient models, ensures an inclusive, safe, and productive, strength-based learning environment (Bishop, Ladwig & Berryman, 2013).
In Europe, within the context of diversity, there is a challenge for educators in teacher preparation, to ensure preservice teachers are receptive to the need to explore strategies that include rather than exclude learners. This is reflected in calls for the development of intercultural competencies and culturally responsive practice in initial teacher education (see, for example, Caena & Margiotta, 2010; Pecek, Macura-Milovanovic & Vujisic-Živkovic, 2014). There are comparable calls for changes in teacher education programmes in New Zealand to better support increased diversity, albeit in specific national and cultural contexts. Community experiences have been found to support preservice teachers (Sleeter, 2000) as they learn to negotiate the minefield of challenging previously learned assumptions and preconceived notions of people different from themselves (Ranieri & Fabbro, 2016). Therefore, community engagement, supported by a theoretical framework for critical reflection, becomes a counterpoint to deficit thought and to subsequent adverse practice.
Theoretically this study is situated within a socio-cultural constructivist framework of knowledge and learning as it connects to initial teacher education. The notion that people actively construct knowledge through social interaction, is central to this theoretical perspective as opposed to the idea that knowledge is randomly discovered. The social context for learning is therefore paramount for determining new learning that is also shaped by cultural understandings, a previous knowledge base, and personal and professional identity (Esteban & Moll, 2014; Hargreaves, 2010). Exploration of the community and community services by our preservice teachers is confirmed by social interaction, critical engagement with reflection and theory. These experiences support and lead to the development of action competence and enable their construction of a relational approach to pedagogy for future practice.
As teacher educators we take a practitioner-inquiry stance to our work (Cochran-Smith & Donnell, 2006) where our critical investigation of our practice is guided by a socio-cultural framework amalgamated with elements of a Māori world view perspective, pertinent to the cultural mores of New Zealand (Macfarlane, A., 2015; Macfarlane, A., Macfarlane, S. & Gillon, 2015). The framework for this study is grounded in research on community engagement experiences as essential foundations for inclusive practices in early childhood centres or primary school settings (Ponciano & Shabazian, 2012; Walters, Garii & Walters, 2009). This encompassed a reflective lens, where novice pre service teachers provided evidence for their learning where they examined, and analysed their experiences in the community. They also provided theoretical concepts, stemming from their community experiences, for application to practice in their early childhood setting or school. The data was gathered from 157 second year teachers’ critically reflective practice portfolios. The portfolios were generated from a newly developed community engagement course within an undergraduate teacher education programme that sought to integrate community practicum experiences as a means of developing action competence in relation to inclusive practice. The reflective portfolios include written self-reflections responding to prompts around New Zealand national standards for beginning teachers, the university’s graduate attribute of community engagement, and the learning outcomes for the course. The data analysis uses a grounded theory approach (Chamaz, 2011), strongly embedded in constructed interpretations by preservice teachers’ as they make sense of their experiences in the community, and explore their newfound understandings of inclusive practice.
Data analysis is ongoing due to the quantity of evidence. This means that the initial ideas and subsequent conclusions are cautious and fluid. The emerging themes emphasise the thought processes pertinent to preservice teachers' changing understandings about themselves as they discover that they are predisposed to making assumptions from deficit positions. They will understand that approaching teaching with a deficit lens will impact what they do as teachers, by actively excluding many of the children in their care. Further expected outcomes explore the changes to preservice teachers thought processes and the new concepts they will take with them into their future practice and will be documented in an appropriate international journal.
Bishop, R., Ladwig, J. & Berryman, M. (2013). The centrality of relationships for pedagogy: The whanaungatanga thesis. American Educational Research Journal, 51(1), 194-214. Caena, F., & Margiotta, U. (2010). European teacher education: A fractal perspective tackling complexity. European Educational Research Journal, 9(3), 317-331. Charmaz, K. (2011). Grounded theory methods in social justice research. In N.K. Denzin, & Y.S. Lincoln (Eds). The Sage handbook of qualitative research (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Cochran-Smith, M. & Donnell, K. (2006). Practitioner inquiry: blurring the boundaries of research and practice. In J. Green, G. Camilli, & P.B. Elmore (Eds.) Handbook of Complementary Methods Education Research (pp. 503-518) Mahwah, N.J. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Esteban-Guitart, L. & Moll, L. (2014). Funds of identity: A new concept based on the funds of knowledge approach. Culture and Psychology, 20(1), 31–48. Fickel, L.H., Abbiss, J. & Astall, C. (2016). Developing initial teacher action competence with diverse learners. Paper presented at the European Conference on Educational Research, Dublin, Ireland, 22-26 August, 2016. Hargreaves, E. (2010). Knowledge construction and personal relationships: Insights about a UK university mentoring and coaching service. Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, 18(2), 107-120. Macfarlane S., Macfarlane A. & Gillon G. (2015). Sharing the food baskets of knowledge: Creating space for a blending of streams. In A. Macfarlane; S. Macfarlane; M. Webber. (Eds.). Sociocultural realities: Exploring new horizons (pp. 52-67). Christchurch, New Zealand: Canterbury University Press. McDonald, M., Bowman, M., & Brayko, K. (2013). Learning to see students: Opportunities to develop relational practices of teaching through community-based placements in teacher education. Teacher’s College Record, 115, 1-35. Pecek, M., Macura-Milovanovic, S., & Vujisic-Živkovic, N. (2014). The cultural responsiveness of teacher candidates towards Roma pupils in Serbia and Slovenia. Journal of Education for Teaching: International Research and Pedagogy, 40(4), 359-376. Ponciano, L., & Shabazian, A. (2012). Interculturalism: Addressing diversity in early childhood. Dimensions of Early Childhood, 40(1), 23-30. Ranieri, M. & Fabbro, F. (2016). Questioning discrimination through critical media literacy. Findings from seven European countries. European Educational Research Journal, 15(4), 462-479. Sleeter, C. E. (2000). Strengthening multicultural education with community-based service learning. In C. O’Grady (Ed.), Integrating service learning and multicultural education in colleges and universities (pp. 263-276). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Walters, L. M., Garii, B., & Walters, T. (2009). Learning globally, teaching locally: Incorporating international exchange and intercultural learning into pre-service teacher training. Intercultural Education, 20(S1-2), S151-158.
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