04 SES 04 B, Fostering Inclusion In Higher Education: What Are Supportive Practices?
This paper is part of a project funded by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness, "Inclusive Pedagogy at the University: faculty members` narratives" (MINECO, EDU2016-76587-R, IP. Anabel Moriña). This study aimed to analyse the knowledge, beliefs, designs and actions of faculty members who develop inclusive practices. In particular, in this paper we intend to analyse the educational actions that Arts and Humanities faculty members design and develop to achieve the total inclusion of students with disabilities.
Two research questions guided this analysis:
1) How do faculty members consider the students’ needs during the course?
2) What methods and strategies do faculty members use to ensure the participation of all students?
The literature shows how students with disabilities still encounter barriers that hinder their academic careers at the university (Anderson, Carter, & Stephenson, 2018). In most developed countries, various policies have been implemented for the inclusion of students with disabilities in Higher Education (HE). The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2008) or the Europe 2020 Strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth (2014) are examples of actions that seek to fulfil the right of all people to pursue university studies.
Although access to university for students with disabilities is being ensured, there is a lack of educational actions to enable their permanence and academic success (Gibson et al., 2016). Students with disabilities identify the faculty members as the greatest barrier they encounter at the university. They point out, among other aspects, negative attitudes towards disability, lack of willingness to make adjustments or lack of training to meet their needs (Collins, Azmat, & Rentschler, 2018). Similar conclusions have been drawn in studies involving faculty members who state that they have little experience with students with disabilities, little specific training and little knowledge of inclusive educational practices (Langørgen, Kermit, & Magnus, 2018). Taking this reality into account, it becomes a priority for universities to have an informed, trained and aware university teaching staff (Moriña & Carballo, 2017; Vickerman & Blundell, 2010).
In HE, as in previous levels, the traditional approach to working with special educational needs (SEN) has been special education. However, inclusive education has developed strongly in HE in the last few years (Moriña, 2017). As opposed to special education, and as a differentiated approach to inclusive education, the concept of inclusive pedagogy emerges later (Florian & Black-Hawkins, 2011; Florian & Kershner, 2009). Inclusive pedagogy is based on recognizing the individual differences of all students and avoiding pointing out some students as different from the rest. To this end, it aims to develop educational processes in which all students can participate. Hence, students have an active role and can choose how, where, when and with whom to learn (Florian & Black-Hawkins, 2011).
Studies on inclusive pedagogy have been developed primarily in pre-university stages. As for HE, there are some studies such as the one of Gale and Mills (2013) or Gale, Mills, and Cross (2017), where they present the concept of ‘social inclusive pedagogy’ and the application of its three principles in HE:
(1) a belief that all students bring things of value to the learning environment; (2) a design that values difference while also providing access to and enabling engagement with dominance; and (3) actions that ‘work with’ rather than ‘act on’ students and their communities (Gale & Mills, 2013, p.8).
This paper aims to bring knowledge to the field of inclusive pedagogy in HE, showing what and how teachers who develop this educational approach do to achieve inclusion for all their students.
The study involved 119 faculty members from 10 Spanish public universities. With regard to the Arts and Humanities areas, 24 faculty members participated. Through the disability support services of the universities, we contacted students with disabilities. These services asked students to recommend faculty members who had positively marked their academic careers and were characterized by being inclusive faculty. In addition, the snowball technique was used. The research team contacted university students with disabilities who had previously collaborated on other projects. Furthermore, we disseminated the information to colleagues and students of different universities so that it could reach other students with disabilities who could recommend faculty members. In relation to the profile of the participants, 12 faculty members belonged to Fine Arts faculties, five to the area of Philology, two to Philosophy, one to Sociology, and four to Geography and History. In terms of gender, 14 of them were men and 10 were women. Regarding the age of the participants, five faculty members were between 30 and 40 years old, seven were between 41 and 50 years old, another six were between 51 and 60 years old, and two of them were over 60 years old. Four of them decided not to indicate their age. The design of this study is based on a qualitative approach, being the main instrument for data collection the individual semi-structured interview. Two interviews were conducted with each participant. The aim was to find out the practices and strategies that participants developed to address the diversity of their students. Some of the questions that guided the interview on inclusive actions were: What do you do to find out the students' needs or difficulties to successfully follow your subject? Which ones do you consider to be the most important elements in the teaching-learning process in relation to students with disabilities? What learning methods and strategies do you consider to be most effective for all students? The duration of each interview was around one and a half hours. Most of the interviews were conducted in person, although three of them were conducted via Skype, and two by telephone. All the information from the interviews was recorded in audio and verbatim. A structural data analysis was carried out, using a categories and codes system created inductively, following the proposal of Miles and Huberman (1994). The analysis was carried out using the data analysis software MaxQDA12.
The importance of students' opinions An important conclusion lies on the importance of creating and maintaining a close relationship and fluent communication between faculty and students, considering their opinion (Vickerman & Blundell, 2010). Knowing the student body is a fundamental starting point for adjusting the teaching-learning process to their personal interests and preferences. In order to encourage motivation and participation, it is important to give students, both with and without disabilities, the opportunity to make proposals and suggest changes in methods, materials and contents. As the inclusive pedagogy recognizes (Florian, 2010), although practices are designed to ensure the highest number or participants possible, adjustments are sometimes needed for some of them. In fact, the participants of our study sometimes had to do some adjustments for students with a specific need. In these cases, the participants state that dialogue with the student and an open disposition to help him/her is fundamental in order to know his/her real needs and be able to respond to them. Teaching strategies for all Inclusive pedagogy is based on ensuring student’s achievement through classroom participation, starting with the recognition of individual differences (Florian, 2010). Similarly, the faculty members who have participated in this study base their teaching strategies on the active participation of the students. On the other hand, faculty members who develop inclusive teaching agree on the use of group learning methods, which is an important key for social inclusion (Scanlon, Schreffler, James, Vasquez, & Chini, 2018). In this way, it is possible to generate spaces and opportunities for students to learn from each other, which is a characteristic of inclusive faculty members. Other features that define the teaching keys of the participants are the practical scope they use, the relation of the contents with the professional reality and the continuous evaluation.
Anderson, A., Carter, M., & Stephenson, J. (2018). Perspectives of university students with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 48(3), 651-665. Collins, A., Azmat, F., & Rentschler, R. (2018). ‘Bringing everyone on the same journey’: revisiting inclusion in higher education. Studies in Higher Education, 1-13. doi: 10.1080/03075079.2018.1450852 Florian, L. (2010). Special education in the era of inclusion: The end of special education or a new beginning? The Psychology of Education Review, 34(2), 22-29. Florian, L., & Black-Hawkins, K. (2011). Exploring inclusive pedagogy British Educational Research Journal, 37(5), 813–828. doi: 10.1080/01411926.2010.501096 Florian, L., & Kershner, R. (2009). Inclusive pedagogy. In: H. Daniels, H. Lauder & J. Porter, (eds.), Values and Educational Policy: A Critical Perspective (pp. 173-183). London: Routledge. Gale, T., & Mills, C. (2013). Creating Spaces in Higher Education for Marginalised Australians: Principles for Socially Inclusive Pedagogies. Enhancing Learning in the Social Sciences, 5(2), 7-19. doi: 10.11120/elss.2013.00008 Gale, T., Mills, C., & Cross, R. (2017). Socially Inclusive Teaching: Belief, Design, Action as Pedagogic Work. Journal of teacher education, 68(3), 345-356. doi: 10.1177/0022487116685754 Gibson, S., Baskerville, D., Berry, A., Black, A., Norris, K., & Symeonidou, S. (2016). 'Diversity' 'Widening Participation' and 'Inclusion' in Higher Education: An International study. Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning, 18(3), 7-33. doi: 10.5456/WPLL.18.3.7 Langørgen, E., Kermit, P., & Magnus, E. (2018). Gatekeeping in professional higher education in Norway: ambivalence among academic staff and placement supervisors towards students with disabilities. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 1-15. doi: 10.1080/13603116.2018.1476599 Miles, M.B., & Huberman, A. M. (1994). Qualitative data analysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Moriña, A. (2017). Inclusive education in higher education: challenges and opportunities, European Journal of Special Needs Education, 32(1), 3-17. doi: 10.1080/08856257.2016.1254964 Scanlon, E., Schreffler, J., James, W., Vasquez, E., & Chini, J. J. (2018). Postsecondary physics curricula and Universal Design for Learning: Planning for diverse learners. Physical Review Physics Education Research, 14(2), 020101. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevPhysEducRes.14.020101 Vickerman, P., & Blundell, M. (2010). Hearing the voices of disabled students in higher education. Disability and Society, 25, 21-32. doi: 10.1080/09687590903363290
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