04 SES 08 A, Innovating Teacher Training To Promote Inclusive education: Case Analyses
This paper reports on the evaluation of a national, government-funded cascaded project in England, designed for in-service teachers to develop a ‘neurodiversity’ approach as an alternative model to ‘teaching to the label’ for students with Specific Learning Difficulties, in order to approach each learner holistically. The work of Kaplan et al (2001) suggests that ‘pure’ types of specific learning difficulty are the exception and that co-morbidity with other ‘conditions’ in individuals is the rule. The work of Macintyre and Deponio (2003) further problematizes the notion of discrete categories of Specific Learning Difficulties, finding that, in designing differentiation strategies in the classroom, there was no ‘one size fits all, in supporting different children given the same categorical label (e.g. dyslexia, ADHD, etc.) They propose, instead, a ‘dimensional’ approach to teaching and learning, considering each learner’s cognitive and affective profile relating to their individual strengths and weaknesses.
The need for this approach is echoed in the conclusions of Hulme and Snowling (2009) in their major work on developmental disorders of language, learning and cognition. This approach informed the design of the in-service training package for teachers and teaching assistants considered in this paper. The training introduced 12 key strategies (a box of tools) which could be used in different combinations to support the diversity of learners in schools colleges: an approach that acknowledges neurodiversity amongst people as unique individuals (Masataka, 2016)
The approach described in this paper aligns with guidance given to schools through the European Commission Erasmus plus European Toolkit for Schools (2017), which emphasises the central importance of a ‘an environment that accommodates learners’ diversity, including varied learning needs, to maximise each young person’s potential. Quality education should be designed to fit learners rather than requiring them to fit into an existing system’.
A series of 48 one day training event were held around the country attended by 2,067 teachers representing 1,4666 primary and secondary schools and colleges. Surveys were conducted at the start (Survey 1) and end (Survey 2) of each day to measure the impact of the training on teachers’ knowledge, skills and confidence in meeting diverse needs in the classroom. This training was then cascaded back to the schools and colleges by the teacher delegates at the events. After 3 months a third survey (Survey 3) was completed by all staff to measure the medium-term impact of training on their practice. From these data, 6 schools and colleges showing highest impact were selected for more in depth case studies using semi-structured interviews with staff.
Statistically significant levels of gain in knowledge skills and confidence from the training events were found in Survey 2 (Wilcoxon signed ranks p=<0.001). For Survey 3, Likert scales reported high levels of impact for two-thirds of schools, with staff reporting changed attitudes to the diversity of learners (seeing them in a new way as individuals) and new techniques and resources added to their professional repertoires. The implications of how nationally rolled out ‘cascaded training’ models can work are considered in this paper. The current researchers feel that this model could be adopted in different national settings and already initial interest in adopting this model has been expressed in both Ireland and Malta. Just as importantly, the study reported in this paper raises questions for discussion as to whether the traditional neat categorisation of different specific learning difficulties might be more of a hindrance than a help for teachers in planning the teaching for the diversity of learners in their classrooms.
European Commission, Erasmus plus: Schools Education Gateway (2017) European Toolkit for Schools.https://www.schooleducationgateway.eu/en/pub/resources/toolkitsforschools/area.cfm?a=3 accessed January 27th 2019 Hulme, C. & Snowling, M. (2009) Developmental disorders of language, learning and cognition. Oxford, Wiley-Blackwell. Kaplan, B.J., Dewey, D.M., Crawford, S.G. & Wilson, B.N. (2001). The term comorbidity is of questionable value in reference to developmental disorders: data and theory. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 34(6), 555–565 Masataka, N. (2016) Implications of the idea of neurodiversity for understanding the origins of developmental disorders. Phys Life Rev 2017;20:85–108. Macintyre, C. & Deponio, P. (2003) Identifying and supporting children with specific learning difficulties: looking beyond the label to assess the whole child. London, Routledge Falmer.
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