10 SES 07 B, Preparing Teachers for Inclusion
The induction phase, that is the first years in a teaching profession, includes often challenges and several support needs for new teachers (e.g. Bezzina, 2006; Harju & Niemi, 2016; Menon, 2012). Usually principals, who work as pedagogical leaders in schools, play a central role in facilitating and developing support activities for teachers (Sergiovanni, 1998).
Teachers’ professional development can be viewed as a lifelong process that begins during pre-service teacher education and continues throughout the teaching career. This definition is also used by European Commission (2010, p. 6) that divides teachers’ professional development in three phases: initial teacher education, induction phase, and continuing professional development. The first phase concerns mastering of basic knowledge and skills. The second one includes the first years at work in school. It is the phase of confrontation with the reality when starting a career as a teacher. The third phase is about continuing professional development when teachers already have some years of working experience and they have overcome the initial challenges of becoming a teacher.
The world is constantly changing and many new demands and expectations have been set for teachers’ work (Bautista & Ortega-Ruiz, 2015). As Darling-Hammond et al. (2009, p. 7) state, ‘ensuring student success requires a new kind of teaching, conducted by teachers who understand learning and pedagogy, who can respond to the needs of their students and the demands of their disciplines, and who can develop strong connections between students’ experiences and the goals of the curriculum.’
The importance of individual support and inclusion have also been highlighted by several educational stakeholders in Europe (Budginaitė, et al., 2016; European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education, 2010). Also some countries, such as Finland, emphasize these aspects in their national curricula. In Finland, one main aim for education is to enhance equity. This means that all students are offered high-quality education regardless of their domicile, the school they attend, or their parents’ wealth or possessions. Finnish education policy also emphasizes the philosophy of inclusion. The aim is that all students are supported individually so they can complete their basic education, and students with special needs are included in mainstream schooling. (FNAE, 2017.)
As schools today are increasingly heterogeneous, complex and multifaceted competence for a teacher is needed. One aspect of carrying out inclusion is working together with partners outside the classroom. Teachers communicate and collaborate for example with parents, plan and develop work together with teachers and work together with other experts and colleagues for the benefit of students (European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education, 2010).
In this paper, we present the initial results of our research, in which we investigated newly qualified teachers’ and principals’ perceptions about the support needs of newly qualified teachers for carrying out inclusion in schools. The research questions for the study are as follows:
1) How the elements of inclusion appear among support needs that were emphasized by newly qualified teachers and principals?
2) How do newly qualified teachers and principals describe the support needed for carrying out inclusion?
By identifying the working tasks and competences new teachers need support in the beginning of their career, our aim is to offer information for initial teacher education and schools to better support new teachers to face the reality of teaching profession today. By focusing on the perspectives of new teachers and principals, we aim to form a comprehensive picture by taking into account both personal views as well as the organizational perspective.
The study was part of the European-funded Erasmus+ Key Action 2 project called the ‘Outstanding Newly Qualified Teacher Program’. The aim of the project was to find good practices to support newly qualified teachers, school leaders, and mentors in their work. In this study, we use the terms ‘newly qualified teachers’ or ‘new teachers’ to refer teachers that have less than five years of working experience as a teacher after graduation. The study was set in Finland in 2015–2016. The data was collected with an e-questionnaire. New teachers were contacted with two channels. The questionnaire was sent to new teachers who had previously participated in training for new teachers organized by the Trade Union of Education in Finland. In addition, the invitation was sent to 200 principals, who were asked to forward the questionnaire to the potential new teachers in their schools. In all, 145 teachers responded. Two channels were also used when approaching principals. First, the invitation was sent to principals who were members in Finnish principals' association. The questionnaire was also sent by email to 250 principals chosen by simple random sampling. In total, 104 responses were analyzed. The analysis combined both quantitative and qualitative methods. With this mixed-method approach, the aim was to get a comprehensive picture about new teachers’ support needs in carrying out inclusion in schools. Descriptive statistics were used to investigate the most important support needs of newly qualified teachers. The instrument contained 40 different working tasks or competences. The participants responded on a 5-point Likert scale. The questionnaire also included open-ended questions.
The ten most emphasized support needs perceived by new teachers and principals included several working tasks that can be seen as essential in carrying out inclusion and supporting students’ individual learning. Both new teachers and principals felt new teachers need support in differentiating teaching, working with a student welfare group, and evaluating students’ learning capacity. In addition, new teachers felt they would need more support in administrative tasks that can include, among other things, writing documents of student’s development. Principals also evaluated co-operation with parents and developing students’ whole personality as important support needs for new teachers. In their open-ended responses, new teachers described to need more support in teaching non-native Finnish speakers. They also wished to get more education or support in supporting students with special needs and in differentiating teaching. Teachers also described to need more information or knowledge to encounter students individually, to support students with personal problems, and to support students to develop self-confidence. Some new teachers also mentioned that teacher education should give them more experience on how to collaborate with different partners in the schools, such as school psychologists, social workers, and assistants. Principals described that new teachers need support in facilitating students’ learning and schooling. According to principals, new teachers need support in order to understand and implement support measures and school welfare plans, differentiate teaching and to collaborate with student welfare services and special education professionals. In addition, principals mentioned that new teachers need to learn how to support students’ comprehensive growth and how to recognize students’ individual needs in class. These results are in many ways similar with the results of our previous study (Harju & Niemi, 2016), in which we investigated the support needs of new teachers in four European countries: The United Kingdom, Portugal, Belgium, and Finland.
Bautista, A., & Ortega-Ruiz, R. (2015). Teacher professional development: International perspectives and approaches. Psychology, Society, & Education, 7(3), 240-251. Bezzina, C. (2006). Views from the Trenches: Beginning Teachers’ Perceptions About Their Professional Development. Journal of In-Service Education 32 (4): 411–430. Budginaitė, I., Siarova, H., Sternadel, D., Mackonytė, G., Spurga, S. (2016). ‘Policies and practices for more equality and inclusion in and through education: Evidence and policy guidance from European research projects funded under FP6 and FP7’, NESET II report, Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 2016. doi: 10.2766/300891. Darling-Hammond, L., Chung Wei, R., Andree, A., Richardson, N., & Orphanos, S. (2009). Professional learning in the learning profession: A Status report on teacher development in the United States and abroad. The National Staff Development Council and The School Redesign Network at Stanford University. FNAE (2017). Support for pupils and students. Retrieved from http://oph.fi/english/education_system/support_for_pupils_and_students. European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education (2010). Teacher Education for Inclusion – International Literature Review, Odense, Denmark: European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education. European Commission (2010). Developing coherent and system-wide induction programmes for beginning teachers: A handbook for policymakers. Brussels. Retrieved 15.01.2018 from http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/education_culture/repository/education/policy/school/doc/handbook0410_en.pdf Harju, V. & Niemi, H. (2016). Newly Qualified Teachers’ Needs of Support for Professional Competences in Four European Countries: Finland, the United Kingdom, Portugal, and Belgium. CEPS Journal 6 (3): 77–100. Menon, M. E. (2012). Do Beginning Teachers Receive Adequate Support from Their Headteachers? Educational Management Administration & Leadership 40 (2): 217–231. Sergiovanni, T. J. (1998). Leadership as Pedagogy, Capital Development and School Effectiveness. International Journal of Leadership in Education 1 (1): 37–46.
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