04 SES 07 B, Reflecting on Special and Inclusive Education: What we know, where we are?
In most countries, the initial enthusiastic drive for inclusion has been met by a resurgent role for special education in various guises. This paper considers whether there is an underlying approach to the challenge of education which explains this resistance to inclusion and the ongoing support for special.
Expectations of teacher practice are set within a historical framework. Education has a tendency toward singular shifts, to seek urgent change, only to find that change itself is a marathon, where students are failed by an educational establishment at loggerheads with itself (Shirley & Noble 2016). As a consequence, schools experience waves of reform, that in turn challenge and return to traditional grammars of schooling (Hargreaves & Goodson, 2006). Such waves do not eradicate the contradictory impulses however. They serve as resistance to each other. In terms of policies related to the education of all students, they underlie the tensions and contradictions in how we frame our responses and solutions to the challenges of a (truly) diverse classroom population.
A key part of this challenge is that many of the terms and concepts which are used seem to have a universal shared meaning to the user or sound very similar but have quite a different heritage or meaning (Eg: Booth and Smith, 2002; Courcier, 2007; Hart, 1996; Gaitas and Alves Martins, 2017). Concepts emerging from behaviourist or socio-cultural interpretations of learning can sit alongside those from developmental psychology, constructivism and social constructivism as well as from neuroscience, and business and management theory. The different interpretations of the emergent concepts frequently put people at odds with each other and situate their thinking in ways which limit their opportunities to resolve the challenges they face.
This is a conceptual paper based upon the author’s experiences of these contradictions as a researcher, practitioner and user of services, and their consideration of key concepts associated with inclusion.
This paper explores this disjunction within our understandings of learning, in the goals of education and in our bureaucratic responses to resourcing, and contends that it represents struggles between our need for certainty and our capacity to doubt, or inversely, our fear of doubt and our experience of uncertainty.
References Booth, T. & Smith, E. (2002) in Black-Hawkins, K., Florian, L. and Rouse, M. (2007) Achievement and Inclusion in Schools, Abingdon, Routledge. Courcier, I. (2007). Teachers’ Perceptions of Personalised Learning. Evaluation & Research in Education, 20(2), 59–80. Gaitas, S., & Alves Martins, M. (2017). Teacher perceived difficulty in implementing differentiated instructional strategies in primary school. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 21(5), 544-556. Hart, S. (1996). Beyond Special Needs: enhancing children's learning through innovative thinking. SAGE. Hargreaves, A., & Goodson, I. (2006). Educational change over time? The sustainability and nonsustainability of three decades of secondary school change and continuity. Educational administration quarterly, 42(1), 3-41. Shirley, D. and Noble, A., 2016. The marathon of educational change. Journal of Educational Change, 17(2), pp.141-144.
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