04 SES 09 F, Collaborative Practices In And Out-Of-Class: What Is The Teachers’ Perspective?
Research shows that teachers are increasingly in trouble proposing effective educative and didactic paths, but what is more concerning is the constant awareness, as stated by D’Alonzo (2016), that students are less and less willing to endure a life of class that appears often meaningless. In several works (D'Alonzo, 2016; Demo, 2015; Heacox, 2012; Kahn, 2011; Tomlinson, 2003) the authors have stated that one of the possible reasons of this crisis could be the lack of sensitivity and attention that school has towards each student. As a consequence, school practice is characterized by a standardization of the teaching contents and strategies. On the contrary, heterogeneity is the element that appears if we begin to consider each individual student presents in the classroom (UNESCO, 2017; Blankstein, Noguera, Kelly, 2015; European Agency for Special Need and Inclusive Education [EASNIE], 2012; Dodge, 2005; Booth, Ainscow, 2002). Therefore, the essential step to be taken to rethink the educational and the teaching practice is represented by the concept of heterogeneity, or even better of variability (Meyer, Rose, Gordon, 2014). Variability allows to make a semantic change in the representation of a class group: each class is a heterogeneous reality in which it is necessary the coexistence between a common proposal and the uniqueness of each student (Kahn, 2011). This plural approach should not make us think of a lack of attention and sensitivity towards children with difficulties or disabilities. Instead, according to the paradigm of special normality (Ianes, 2006), it can be seen as a way to increase a dialogue between Special Education and Inclusive Education. In this direction, the difference of each student is protected, guaranteed and promoted in a climate of normality (Miur, 2018). This research project focused on a particular path that the school should implement to transform its vision and the way of considering educational and didactic activity. This path is offered by the educational philosophy of Differentiated Instruction (D’Alonzo, 2016; Gregory, Chapman, 2013; Tomlinson, 2010, 1999; Heacox, 2001). Differentiated Instruction can be thought as a concrete proposal for a plural teaching that is based on the concepts of universality and equity. In the American context, the differentiated education has more than twenty-years of tradition, while, in Italy, it is only currently starting to devolep (e.g. Avangurdie Educative National Project, INDIRE). This educational philosophy focuses on the uniqueness of each student as well as on the common elements present in the classroom context (Tomlinson, 2003, 2010). Moreover, Differentiated Instruction proposes an in-depth analysis of the concept of variability. Leading of the class in a differentiated way offers teachers the possibility to design the educational didactic itineraries supported by a careful consideration and enhancement of the present heterogeneity. This research was an exploratory qualitative study whose aim was to preliminary investigate how primary teachers first consider (culture’s level) and then daily work (practices’ level) with the heterogeneity. In this sense our objective was made explicit through the following research questions: 1. What is the culture that emerges, linked to the theme of differences in the classroom, from teachers’ narrations?2. Which practices do teachers implement to respond and to manage classroom heterogeneity?3. Which elements of the Differentiated Instruction model are present in the daily practice of primary school teachers?
In order to answer to the research questions a semi-structured narrative interview was developed. In detail each interview was composed by three sections, each of them related to one precise research question. In the first and second part, questions were designed to ask teachers to narrate their cultures and their practices (Booth, Ainscow, 2002) connected to the topic of heterogeneity. In the third section, questions were linked to the differentiated instruction model of Carol Ann Tomlinson. The interviews implemented were considered as flexible investigation devices focused on the description of teachers’ cultures and educational practices. The participants were thirty-five primary school teachers. Each interview was around one hour. A mixed approach for data analysis was followed, approaching it in an inductive and deductive way. This approach ensured the respect of the empirical base (bottom-up approach) and allowed a consistent reading of data on the basis of a unitary understanding of the concepts involved (top-down approach). The Data analysis was divided in different phases. The first one was represented by the transcription of the contents of the audio-tapes. The second phase of the analysis was supported by CAQDAS (Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis) Atlas.ti. Remaining consistent with the mixed approach, the functions In vivo coding and Free and Open coding were used. In the specific, the first one to keep faith with the data; the second one to associate selected quotations with codes created by the researcher on the basis of the conceptual framework (Denzin, Lincoln, 2008). This textual level analysis, based on the previous process of segmentation and coding of the material, was followed by a conceptual level analysis. In this part we built networks with different families of codes, producing a clear visualization of the data. In order to guarantee all the methodological and research priorities, a three-dimensional reading of the results was implemented. The first was called vertical, because it offered a perspective of vertical comparison of each interview: the relationship between culture and practice (Booth, Ainscow, 2002). The second was called horizontal, because it highlighted the educational culture and teaching practices, connected to the heterogeneity that emerged from all the contributions. The third one was focused on the data that appear from the last part of the interview.
The results of the data analysis can be read on several levels. From the cultural-practical comparison it emerged that although there was a sensitivity and awareness of the heterogeneity present in the classroom, this attention was not transferred into the practices. In Italy, in fact, there is still a very high percentage of traditional teaching (Cavalli, Argentin, 2010) where is not possible to have space for a differentiated vision. Moreover, the practices referred toby the teachers during the interviews were not originally designed for heterogeneous class leading, but rather teachers adapted strategies already known based on a sensitivity to the present heterogeneity. Teachers stated that their practices developed mainly from comparisons with colleagues and personal experiences. Furthermore, it emerged that the element that would help them most in managing differences in the classroom would be the presence of an extra teacher. Finally, the Differentiated Instruction model was not experienced by teachers. Inclusion is heterogeneity (Ianes, 2015), therefore we really need to begin thinking that inclusive school should represent a relevant possibility for a differentiated education. With this study, it is outlined an inclusive approach proposing a way of designing educational and teaching actions in school contexts, focusing on the respect and promotion of the singularity of each student (UNESCO, 2017). The challenge is therefore to enhance the value of all, to overcome the linear-standardized logic typical of industrial processes, to definitively root educational-school work in a complex terrain where space and time expand and open up prospects for the development of all (Tomlinson, Brimijoin, Narvaez, 2008). In this sense, the valorization of all is in terms of equity, equity to offer everyone the tools necessary to be achieved (OECD, 2008) and of universality, as plurality of the proposal.
A guide for ensuring inclusion and equity in education. UNESCO: France. Retrieved from https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000248254, Last access 29/01/2019 Blankstein, A. M., Noguera, P., Kelly, L. (2016). Excellence through equity: five principles of courageous leadership to guide achievement for every student. Virginia: ASCD Booth, T., Ainscow, M. (2002). Index for Inclusion: Developing learning and participation in schools. United Kingdom: CSIE Cavalli, A., Argentin, G. (2010). Gli insegnanti italiani: come cambia il modo di fare scuole. Bologna: Il mulino D’Alonzo, L. (2016). La differenziazione didattica per l’inclusione. Metodi, strategie, attività. Trento: Erickson. Demo, H. (a cura di). (2015). Didattica delle differenze: Proposte metodologiche per una classe inclusiva. Trento: Erickson. Denzin, N. K., Lincoln, Y. S. (2008). Strategie of qualitative inquiry (3rd Ed.). London: Sage Dodge, J. (2005). Differentiation in action. New York: Scholastic European Agency for development in Special Needs Education, (2012). Profile of Inclusive Teachers. Retrieved from https://www.european-agency.org/sites/default/files/Profile-of- Inclusive-Teachers.pdf , Last access 29/01/2019 Gregory, H. G., Chapman, C. (2013). Differentiated instructional strategies. One size doesn’t fit all (3rd Ed.). USA: Corwin Heacox, D. (2011). Differentiating instruction in the regular classroom: How to reach and teach all learners, Grades 3-12. Minneapolis: Free Spirit Kahn, S. (2011). Pedagogia differenziata: Concetti e percorsi per la personalizzazione degli apprendimenti. Brescia: La Scuola. Ianes, D. (2006). La speciale normalità: Strategie di integrazione per le disabilità e i Bisogni Educativi Speciali. Trento: Erickson. Ianes, D., (2015). L’inclusione: una questione di classe. Retrieved from http://www.convegni.erickson.it/qualitaintegrazione2015/mozione/, Last access 29/01/2019 Meyer, R., Rose, H. D., Gordon, D. (2014). Universal design for learning. Theory and practice. Massachusetts: CAST MIUR, L’autonomia scolastica quale fondamento per il successo formativo di ognuno, 17/05/2018. Retrieved from http://www.miur.gov.it/ricerca OECD, (2008).Ten steps to equity in education. Retrieved from https://www.oecd.org/education/school/39989494.pdf, Last access 29/01/2019 Tomlinson, C. A. (2003). Fulfilling the promise of the differentiated classroom: Strategies and tools for responsive teaching. Virginia: ASCD Tomlinson, C. A. (1999). The differentiated classroom: Responding to the needs of all learners. Virginia: ASCD. Tomlinson, C. A., Imbeau, M. B. (2010). Leading and managing a differentiated classroom. Virginia: ASCD Tomlinson, C. A., Brimijoin, K., Narvaez, L. (2008). The differentiated school: making revolutionary changes in teaching and learning. Virginia: ASCD.
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