04 SES 07 D, Applying the Concept of Competence to Inclusive Settings
Teachers’ competencies and attitudes have been regarded as essential factors to implement inclusive education. Teachers and student teachers are often expected to act as change agents to establish new school cultures and practices. Several empirical studies indicate that most of the teachers acknowledge the general idea and philosophy of inclusion. A majority agrees that every child should be entitled to participate in general education. Nevertheless, many teachers are sceptical towards the practicability and quality of inclusive schooling and they are reluctant to teach in inclusive classes (Avramidis & Norwich, 2002; De Boer, Pijl & Minnaert, 2011). General education teachers often criticize a lack of human and material resources that would be necessary to guarantee inclusive education of high quality. Some of them express that they feel overwhelmed by the challenges of inclusive education. They state that their professional training did not prepare them to deal with the wide array of student diversity in inclusive classrooms (Forsa, 2015). Taking into account teachers’ ambivalent feelings and concerns with regard to inclusion, the presented research project will examine the following questions: What does it take to be and to become an inclusive teacher? What professional competencies are necessary to design inclusive learning environments from a teacher’s perspective? How do pedagogical orientations (e.g. with regard to a strength-based pedagogy and a dynamic understanding of intellectual abilities) and professional motivations relate to favourable attitudes towards inclusive schooling?
The presentation will give an overview of different models of teacher competencies in the context of inclusive education. First, these models underline the relevance of positive attitudes towards student diversity: Student heterogeneity should be welcomed and understood as a resource for learning. Teachers are supposed to hold a strong conviction in every student’s capacity to learn and develop personal capabilities (Hart, Dixon, Drummond & McIntyre, 2004). In this context, subjective beliefs about intelligence and disability prove to be fundamental: Empirical findings suggest that teachers are less committed to supporting children with special educational needs when they understand intelligence as a stable and invariable entity that is hardly altered by effort. The same is true for teachers who construe disability as a pathological deficit located in the disabled person and who neglect conditions in society that restrain people with disabilities from full participation (Jordan, Glenn & McGhie-Richmond, 2010). In addition, empirical studies have repeatedly shown that a high level of teacher self-efficacy correlates with positive attitudes towards inclusive education.
Besides these attitudinal factors, models of inclusive pedagogy regard a well-orchestrated combination of diagnostic and didactic competencies as crucial to adequately support different learners: Teachers should be qualified to diagnose students’ current level of knowledge, skills and abilities and to use this diagnostic information to adapt their lessons to individual needs and requirements (Beck et al., 2008). To allow for individualized ways of learning, inclusive pedagogy specifically emphasizes constructivist and open approaches to learning which focus on different dimensions, e.g. on cognitive, social and emotional learning goals. In addition to this call for individualized teaching, schools and their teaching staff are expected to establish an inclusive school identity promoting a strong sense of community and mutual peer support (Booth & Ainscow, 2011). Moreover, inclusive pedagogy highlights teachers’ social competency to form stable and emotionally warm relationships to children and adolescents. Classroom management is a further facet of inclusive teaching competencies. It should help to structure learning activities, to develop shared norms of behaviour and to deal with disruptive behaviour in class. Finally, inclusive pedagogy stresses the importance of a constant professional development, the ability to work in multi-professional teams and to question personal worldviews (Florian & Linklater, 2010).
The research project consisted of two questionnaire studies with a cross-sectional design. The surveys were conducted among teachers and student teachers from Germany and employed both quantitative and qualitative methods (e.g. correlational analyses and systematic text analyses). The first survey collected data from 201 primary school teachers who had gained experience in teaching children with special educational needs for several years (Kopmann, 2016). Empirical studies and research instruments in German or English language that dealt with teachers’ inclusive attitudes served as a basis to develop the questionnaire (Loreman, Earle, Sharma & Forlin, 2007). The newly developed instrument conceptualized inclusive attitudes as a multi-dimensional construct encompassing several components, as for instance: teachers’ opinion on the practicability of individualized teaching and on instructional quality in inclusive classrooms. Potential effects of inclusion on the social learning of all children and concerns about teaching in inclusive classrooms constituted further attitudinal aspects of interest. Moreover, pedagogically relevant beliefs about the changeability of intelligence and about disability were measured. Furthermore, the study investigated pedagogical orientations in terms of a strength-based pedagogy highlighting student autonomy, student cooperation and the individual learning progress (Scheunpflug, Stadler-Altmann & Zeinz, 2012). All items dealing with inclusive attitudes and pedagogical orientations were in a closed format und were rated on a Likert scale. To explore how teachers construe professional competencies in inclusive contexts, participants received five case vignettes. These vignettes portrayed children with special educational needs. First, teachers read about a boy showing symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, like a serious lack of concentration and impulse-control. The further vignettes presented learners with cognitive impairments, physical disabilities or symptoms of autism. After reading, teachers should develop intervention strategies to support students’ academic and social development. Answers were analysed according to qualitative content analysis, using a system of theoretically derived categories (Mayring, 2010). The second survey was carried out among 117 student teachers. It focused on the relation between students’ motivation for the teaching profession and their attitudes towards inclusion. Professional motivation was conceptualized as multi-dimensional construct and operationalized through an empirically validated questionnaire (Pohlmann & Möller, 2010). The research instrument encompassed several motivational variables, as for instance: the interest in the subject to be taught in school and the pedagogical motivation to work with children and adolescents. In addition, the questionnaire measured rather extrinsic motivations, like expecting the teaching profession to be a secure option offering financial security and job safety.
Concerning professional competencies, the participants highlighted didactic interventions to adapt teaching to different learners. Most of the ideas generated in response to the case examples described varying ways to individualize learning, e.g. by reducing task complexity and differentiated learning materials. To deal with disruptive behaviour, teachers often referred to strategies of classroom management (e.g. token economies to reinforce positive behaviour). Furthermore, teachers stressed peer support and cooperative learning. Emerging tensions in inclusive education are discussed, as for instance, between individualization and student cooperation or between student autonomy and direct instruction by the teacher. Moreover, the studies revealed substantial links between pedagogical orientations, professional motivations and inclusive attitudes: Teachers who regarded cognitive abilities as modifiable through effort showed more favourable attitudes towards inclusion, in particular with respect to the individualization and quality of learning in inclusive contexts. Similarly, teachers held a more positive opinion when they were aware of social barriers disabled people suffer from and did not reduce disability to a pathological deficit within the person. Regarding a strength-based pedagogy, an emphasis on student autonomy, peer cooperation and individualized learning was significantly associated with pro-inclusive attitudes. The survey among student teachers showed significant links between different motivations for the teaching profession and opinions on inclusion. While students’ interest in the subject they will teach in school did not show any significant relation with their inclusive attitudes, the pedagogical motivation to work with children and adolescents was related to an optimistic view on inclusive education (e.g. with regard to individualized learning). Student teachers who highlighted extrinsic motivational factors (e.g. financial security, the expected ease of university studies) were more sceptical towards inclusive schooling. In conclusion, the research project underlines motivational and competence-related factors that are important to advance inclusive education and that should be targeted in teacher training and professional development.
Avramidis, E. & Norwich, B. (2002). Teachers’ attitudes towards integration/inclusion: a review of the literature. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 17(2), 129-147. Beck, E., Baer, M., Guldimann, T., Bischoff, S., Brühwiler, C., Müller, P., Niedermann, R., Rogalla, M. & Vogt, F. (2008). Adaptive Lehrkompetenz. Analyse und Struktur, Veränderung und Wirkung handlungssteuernden Lehrerwissens. Münster: Waxmann. Booth, T. & Ainscow, M. (2011). Index for Inclusion: developing learning and participation in schools. Bristol: CSIE. De Boer, A., Pijl, S. J. & Minnaert, A. (2011). Regular primary schoolteachers’ attitudes towards inclusive education: a review of the literature. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 15(3), 331–353. Florian, L. & Linklater, H. (2010). Preparing teachers for inclusive education: using inclusive pedagogy to enhance teaching and learning for all. Cambridge Journal of Education, 40(4), 369-386. Forsa - Politik- und Sozialforschung (2015). Inklusion an Schulen aus Sicht der Lehrerinnen und Lehrer– Meinungen, Einstellungen und Erfahrungen. Repräsentative Lehrerbefragung von Forsa im Auftrag des Verbandes Bildung und Erziehung. Berlin. Hart, S., Dixon, A., Drummond, M. J. & McIntyre, D. (2004). Learning without limits. Maidenhead: Open University Press. Jordan, A., Glenn, C. & McGhie-Richmond, D. (2010). The Supporting Effective Teaching (SET) project: The relationship of inclusive teaching practices to teachers’ beliefs about disability and ability, and about their roles as teachers. Teaching and Teacher Education, 26, 259-266. Kopmann, H. (2016). Einstellungen und Kompetenzen von Lehrpersonen im Kontext inklusiver Bildung: Eine empirische Erhebung inklusionsrelevanter Einstellungskonstrukte auf Lehrkraftseite und des schülerperzipierten Klassenklimas. Dissertation, Universität Münster. Loreman, T., Earle, C., Sharma, U. & Forlin, C. (2007). The Development of an Instrument for Measuring Pre-Service Teachers’ Sentiments, Attitudes, and Concerns about Inclusive Education. International Journal of Special Education, 22(1), 150-159. Mayring, P. (2010). Qualitative Inhaltsanalyse. Grundlagen und Techniken. Weinheim, Basel: Beltz. Pohlmann, B. & Möller, J. (2010). Fragebogen zur Erfassung der Motivation für die Wahl des Lehramtsstudiums (FEMOLA). Zeitschrift für Pädagogische Psychologie, 24, 73-84. Scheunpflug, A., Stadler-Altmann, U. & Zeinz, H. (2012). Bestärken und fördern - Wege zu einer veränderten Kultur des Lernens in der Sekundarstufe I. Seelze: Friedrich.
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