04 SES 06 D, Are Training Programmes Improving Teachers’ Ability to Deal with Inclusive Education? Three case studies
Art and design is a disciplinary domain that has its own integrity and role in all educational settings. One feature of Its educational potential is its possible impact in special educational needs (SEN) settings. It is now a feature of second-level teaching in many countries in the world, including the Republic of Ireland, that teachers will encounter pupils with SENs. In order to best prepare them for this, it is imperative that universities should provide educational opportunities for pre-service teachers to work with groups of children experiencing various challenges. One higher education institute (HEI) has designated SEN placements during initial teacher education in order to ensure that new teachers are equipped, at least with an appropriate disposition, to meet the challenges of integrating pupils with SEN into mainstream. Immersing the students in adults or pupils with disabilities through the medium of art and design has been shown to produce positive dispositional and art and design outcomes for both the student teachers and the individuals in the centres in which they have been placed.
This research set out to investigate the outcomes and benefits (if any) of a specific teaching placement opportunity provided by a Higher Education Institute (HEI) in Dublin, Ireland in terms of potential for collaboration between student art and design teachers at post graduate and undergraduate levels with pupils/service-users with special educational needs in specialised settings. The experience has a reach outside the Irish context with implications for initial teacher education (ITE), for art and design and for education policy and practice in relation to inclusive practice. Three case studies were conducted using a qualitative approach in order to identify the possible benefits to stakeholders. The outcomes, qualitative reflections of student teachers and their hosts were analysed in order to ascertain if a placement such as this was ‘successful’ and if found successful in promoting positive attitudes regarding inclusion and in addressing the art & design elements of self-expression and creativity while working collaboratively, what made it so? The explicit objective of this placement is to promote attitudinal change and positive dispositions among the student teachers towards working with SEN learners. It was sought to discover if the placement achieved this objective. This is similar to an intervention reported by La Porte with student teachers in Arkansas (2015). Corbett’s (1999) idea that special schools can be ‘centres of expertise’ (p.68) is true of the partner placement centres used by the HEI.
This research set out to describe and evaluate a specific teaching placement opportunity provided by a higher education institute (HEI) in Dublin, Ireland, in terms of the potential for collaboration between student art and design teachers at postgraduate and undergraduate levels and pupils/service-users with SEN in specialised settings. The research involved analysis using a case study approach, collecting qualitative data via a written questionnaire from all the partners and analysing evaluations and reflections through thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006) as well as looking at the finished 'products'. The qualitative reflections of student teachers and hosts were used to ascertain if a placement such as this was ‘successful’ in promoting positive attitudes towards inclusion, and to address the art and design elements of self-expression and creativity while working collaboratively. An on line before and after questionnaire (via Survey Monkey) was also issued to all students (n=300) over 3 year with a view to establishing if the placement had any effect on attitude. The study was within the HEI’s ethical guidelines, inviting participants to do what they would routinely be doing as part of their course of study, and making that available for analysis. The student teachers all met Garda (police) vetting requirements for working with children and vulnerable adults. Permissions were sought from the host institutions and individuals and their families for participation in the project, and to photograph consenting service-users and work. No personal or identifying information were used in the study.
This research project provides unambiguous evidence, similar to Lambe (2007), that the placement, through the experience of engaging with people with SEN in a safe, supported and structured way, offered significant potential to influence positive attitudes. Thematic analysis identified that it was through ‘group work’, ‘collaborative engagement’, ‘learning by doing’, and the opportunity for ‘critical reflection’, student teachers thought that they developed in their journey to become better teachers of all pupils. The placement experience appears to have had significant success in achieving the learning outcomes for students in ITE; and in attaining the awareness reported by the student teachers, the placement can be deemed highly successful from the viewpoint of the HEI. Likewise, host organisations expressed satisfaction with the outcomes from the perspective of their service-users/pupils. The findings reaffirm the importance of positive engagement with individuals with disability in order to affect attitudinal change and overcome fear and prejudice. Intensive and dedicated immersion within a variety of exclusively special educational needs (SENs) settings and subsequent sharing of experience was consciously adopted as the platform for attitudinal development and the exposure produced evidence of positive attitudinal change and improved perception toward the idea of inclusion (Mullaney, 2017). The placement also displayed the significance of art and design processes in empowering SEN students’ creative expression and indicated the positive potential of collaboration between undergraduate and postgraduate students working with pupils and adults with a variety of SENs. The art work produced was of a high quality and gave voice to the pupils and the service-users (Wexler, 2009; Karkou & Glasman, 2004). Pre-placement anxieties diminished and confidence increased among the student teachers post this placement (Mullaney, 2017). The students and pupils met curricular outcomes while addressing multiple layers of learning. Results from the questionnaire are currently being analysed.
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