10 SES 03 D, Inclusive Education
The makeup of pupils in primary schools today is changing due to migration and increased awareness that all groups of vulnerable pupils should receive the best possible education in regular classes, as well as that regular education should be based on the principle of inclusive education. In the last two decades many countries have introduced inclusion as a model for education, including Slovenia and Serbia. In this paper inclusive education is understood broadly as a process by which schools attempt to respond to all pupils as individuals by reconsidering and restructuring curriculum organisation and provision, and allocating resources to enhance equality of opportunity. This process enables schools to increase their capacity to accept all pupils from the local community who wish to attend and, in so doing, aims to reduce all forms of exclusion and degradation of pupils on the basis of disability, ethnicity, or any other factors that could render the school life of children unnecessarily difficult (Booth & Ainscow, 1998; Florian & Rouse, 2009, Pantić, Closs & Ivošević, 2010). The introduction of inclusive education requires changes at the classroom and school levels in both the education system and the wider society (Dyson, Howes, & Roberts, 2004). However, the key actors that can promote, hinder or implement inclusive education are the teachers themselves, more specifically their attitudes, beliefs, values, and their ability to accept responsibility for inclusion (Peček & Macura-Milovanović, 2012).
Teacher beliefs, defined by Johnson and Howell (2009) as the cognitive component upon which an attitude is based, may be long-standing (Holt-Reynolds, 1992), stable, deeply entrenched and resistant or difficult to change (Kagan, 1992; Johnson & Howell, 2009). The earlier a belief is incorporated into one’s belief structure, the more difficult it is to alter (Pajeres, 1992). Most student teachers (ST) upon entering teacher education, already possess a developed set of beliefs (Wubbels, 1992) that can be related to teachers and pupils, pupil learning and methods of instruction, curriculum and schools as social institutions (Pajares, 1992). According to Korthagen (2004), most students have vivid images of teaching from their past experience as pupils, and therefore it is likely that they have preconceived beliefs about characteristics of good teachers. Understanding the belief structures of teachers and STs is essential to improving their professional preparation as well as their teaching practices since the beliefs they hold influence their perceptions and judgments, which in turn, affect their behaviour in the classroom (Pajares, 1992). Moreover, research suggest that if STs’ attitudes and beliefs are not addressed during initial teacher education, they may continue to hamper the progress of inclusive education in schools (Sharma, Forlin & Loreman, 2008). Taylor and Sobel (2001) analysed graduate STs beliefs about needs of students whose backgrounds and abilities differ from their own and suggested that STs, most of whom are members of privileged society, have the tendency to see students from diverse backgrounds as problems not as resources. The fact that teachers’ beliefs are vital for implementing inclusive education stresses the responsibility of initial teacher education for preparing STs for working in inclusive classrooms.
The basic aim of the present study is to explore beliefs of STs from Slovenia and Serbia about inclusive education. Specifically, the research questions are: 1) What are STs’ beliefs about inclusive practice? 2) Are there differences in STs’ beliefs in relation to the country in which they are studying? 3) Are there any differences between first-year and fourth-year STs beliefs?
The longitudinal study was conducted in Slovenia and Serbia, countries where primary class teachers undertake their initial education at university that offers four years of basic studies. The survey took place at the beginning of the first year and at the end of the fourth year of STs’ participating in the study. The sample consisted of STs enrolled at the University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Education (Slovenia) and at the University of Kragujevac, Faculty of Education (Serbia) in the teacher education programme. In Slovenia, the questionnaire was completed in the first and the fourth year by 79 students (88.76% of the total number of fourth year STs), while in Serbia 30 students completed the questionnaire in both years (28.85% of the total number of fourth year STs). Instrument (questionnaire) contains 18 statements related to teacher practice, e.g. how a teacher should offer support to vulnerable pupils in learning and social participation. Seven statements are related to teaching strategies which are crucial for inclusive practice (differentiation and individualisation; providing developmentally appropriate content and opportunities to practice at an appropriate level of difficulty; taking account of pupils’ prior learning and experiences; matching high quality teaching to the different and developing abilities of pupils, maintaining high expectations, and establishing collaborative relationships which enable all pupils to participate), four statements describe teachers’ conduct that supports ethics of care and relates to intercultural competence and six statements refer to teachers' conduct that can be found in teaching practice but that does not necessarily contribute to inclusive practice. The questionnaire includes following definition of vulnerable pupils: ‘we will use the term “vulnerable pupils” to describe pupils who, due to their specific needs, require additional support in learning and social participation’. Vulnerable pupils are specifically defined as children with special education needs (SEN), children of immigrants, children belonging to various minority groups, children from disadvantaged families, refugees and internally displaced children. These groups represent the most vulnerable children in the educational systems both in Slovenia and Serbia. STs provided their responses to the statements by using a five-level Likert scale (‘strongly disagree’, ‘mostly disagree’, ‘I cannot decide’ ‘mostly agree’, ‘strongly agree’). Statistical analysis was conducted in SPSS 22.0. The frequencies of each response were calculated, and differences between groups were analysed with the χ² test. Differences with p<0.05 were considered to be statistically significant.
Analysis of the first year STs’ responses reveal statistically significant differences between beliefs of STs from Slovenia and Serbia regarding all statements except one: „providing additional support to a vulnerable pupil outside of regular classes“, with which majority of STs agreed with. Further, majority of first year STs from both countries agree with statements that support inclusive practices. STs, however, also agree with some statements that do not contribute to vulnerable pupils’ learning and social participation. Analysis of differences between STs from Serbia and Slovenia suggest that STs from Slovenia seem to be more oriented towards pupils’ achievements; their ethic of care is less expressed and equity is understood mainly in the sense that everyone should receive the same treatment. On the other side, responses of STs from Serbia can be understood as an intention to protect vulnerable pupils. However, tendency of STs from Serbia towards indulgence as an element of charity discourse (Symeonidou & Phtiaka, 2009) with its specific relationship of pity and lack of motivational support for vulnerable pupils, can be recognised. In regard to fourth year STs’responses, we may expect that, in comparison with first year STs’ responses, fourth year STs’ responses will not be further developed towards inclusion. We build our opinion on the similar research results, which are related to exploring the difference between first and of fourth year STs beliefs in Slovenia and Serbia (Peček, Čuk and Macura Milovanović, 2015). Further, we expect that conceptual and philosophical problems of equity and education for all are shared concerns in both countries, although differences in national contexts may produce variation in teachers' and STs’ beliefs about inclusive education. The implications of the findings will be discussed, and several ways to improve teacher education to promote inclusive education, will be suggested.
Booth, T., & Ainscow, M. (Eds.). (1998). From them to us: An international study of inclusion in education. London: Routledge Falmer. Dyson, A., Howes, A., & Roberts, B. (2004). What do we really know about inclusive schools? A systematic review of the research evidence. In D. Mitchell (Ed.), Special educational needs and Inclusive education; Major themes in education (Vol. II, pp. 280–294). London, New York: Routledge Falmer, Taylor & Francis Group. Florian, L., & Rouse, M. (2009). The inclusive practice project in Scotland: Teacher education for inclusive education. Teaching and Teacher Education, 25, 594–601. Holt-Reynolds, D. (1992). Personal history-based beliefs as relevant prior knowledge in course work. American Educational Research Journal, 29, 325–349. Johnson, G., & Howell, A. (2009). Change in pre-service teacher attitudes toward contemporary issues in education. International Journal of Special Education, 24, 35–41. Korthagen, F. A. J. (2004). In search of the essence of a good teacher: Towards a more holistic approach in teacher education. Teaching and Teacher Education, 20, 77–97. Kagan, D. M. (1992). Implication of research on teacher belief. Educational Psychologist, 27, 65–90. Pajares, M. F. (1992). Teachers’ beliefs and educational research: Cleaning up a messy construct. Review of Educational Research, 62, 307–332. Pantić, N., Closs, A., & Ivošević, V. (2010). Teachers for the future. Teacher development for inclusive education in the Western Balkans. Torino: European Training Foundation Peček, M., & Macura-Milovanović, S. (2012). Who is responsible for vulnerable pupils? The attitudes of teacher candidates in Serbia and Slovenia. European Journal of Teacher Education, 35, 327–346. Peček, M., Macura Milovanović, S., Čuk, I. (2015). Regular Versus Special Streams within Teacher Education. Croatian Journal of Education, 17 (2), 99-115. Sharma, U., Forlin, C., & Loreman, T. (2008). Impact of training on pre-service teachers’ attitudes and concerns about inclusive education and sentiments about persons with disabilities. Disability and Society, 23, 773–785. Symeonidou, S., & Phtiaka, H. (2009). Using teachers’prior knowledge, attitudes and beliefs to develop in-service teacher education courses for inclusion. Teaching and Teacher Education, 25, 543–550. Taylor, S. V., & Sobel, D. M. (2001). Addressing the discontinuity of students’ and teachers’ diversity: A preliminary study of preservice teachers’ beliefs and perceived skills. Teaching and Teacher Education, 17, 487–503. Wubbels, T. (1992). Taking account of student teachers’ preconceptions. Teaching and Teacher Education, 8, 137–149.
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