04 SES 08 C, Working In The Inclusive Classroom: Are Teachers Really Prepared?
This paper will focus on Inclusive Education and the role of pre-service teacher preparation. Teacher preparation has been stressed as being vital to the continued development and success of inclusive educational practices. Numerous studies have engaged in measuring and describing (often isolated) factors that impact on competences of teachers, inclusive attitudes towards students with disabilities and/or have made observations of the enactment of inclusion in diverse educational settings. Repeatedly research has pointed out how teachers’ ability to address differences in students’ abilities in learning whilst avoiding the stigmatizing effects of “marking some children as different“ (Black-Hawkins & Florian 2012, 571) is subject to a wide variation. These practices range from what Mäkinen (2013) observed as a continuum of „One-Size fits all teaching“, „pedadgogic-didactic teaching“ to „transformational teaching“. She concludes that teaching practices are strongly influenced by a particular teaching stance and belief system, and that current research cannot answer the question of what influences their development. Whilst the development and display of favourable attitudes and beliefs towards the importance of including all learners has been marked as a cornerstone of successful (inclusive) educational practice, most research has focused on how certain groups of teachers respond and what kinds of beliefs they hold in relation to children marked as being different. It has not to the same extent taken into account how these exact same teachers view teaching and learning for ALL children (Sheehy 2017). This in return, as Iannacci (2018, 52) writes, continues to reproduce the same idiosyncratic binaries that inclusive education aims to overcome.
An emerging body of research (Brownlee, Schraw, & Berthelsen, 2011) shows how personal epistemologies, understood as a relatively stable but potentially transformable set of attitudes and beliefs about the nature of ability, knowledge, and learning in general, impact on students´ learning and educational practitioners’ sense of agency to work in such complex settings. Teachers´ epistemological beliefs direct their personal conceptions of teaching and learning and thus impact the way they plan and implement their work. Within this research tradition, several studies have shown that teachers’ epistemological beliefs of both pre- and in-service teachers can transform and become more sophisticated through critical reflection about teaching and learning. As Sheehy (2017, 61) writes, epistemological beliefs thus form the very heart of teaching, but the importance of epistemological beliefs have been hardly explored in inclusive education. A remarkable exception are the frequently cited works of Anne Jordan and colleagues (e.g. Jordan et al. 2009), who have shown that beliefs around dis/ability both relate to general epistemological beliefs about learning and teaching and on teachers´ perceivable ways and abilities of enacting inclusion in classrooms in non-stigmatizing ways. Thus she concludes that more sophisticated and complex epistemological beliefs appear to be better suited for working in inclusive classrooms. Yet also the work of Jordan and colleagues is not able to answer how such sophisticated beliefs for (effective) inclusion develop and transform. Or, as Iannacci (2018) puts it, how currently held belief systems can be disrupted to make place for a more inclusive mindset. We want to bridge this gap by employing Transformative Learning theory as analytical framework that positions the transformation of epistemological “frames of reference” (Taylor & Cranton, 2012) as the cornerstone of adult education. We understand pedagogical work in heterogeneous settings as environments that are characterized by a high degree of social and emergent complexity (Osberg & Biesta 2010). From such a theoretical vantage point, the transformational demands for pre- and in-service teachers seem to be a very tall order and thus impact on many teachers´ feelings of being ill prepared (Danforth 2017).
The focus of our paper is on reconstructing and interlinking the process and the outcomes of students’ learnings towards inclusion. For two semesters we have been collecting comparable and systematic data in the form of anonymous pre-post, procedural, summative reflection as well as interview data from students who have participated in four university seminars (three at bachelor and one at master level). Though differing in their didactical and methodological approach, these seminars have been intentionally structured to allow students a redirection of their attention on their own learning processes and to help them make implicit beliefs explicit through engaging in continuous reflection processes. Both seminars intentionally tried to disrupt currently held beliefs though a differing exposure to the many facets of difference. Half of the seminars had been structured as inclusive and highly self-directed learning environments involving people with intellectual disabilities as fellow learners. The other two seminars focused on intercultural understandings of inclusive education and disability from an international perspective (master level) and diversity, difference and inclusive education (bachelor level). To a different degree, all seminars utilized various structured reflective exercises throughout the course of the semesters. In our analytical approach we are trying to combine and integrate two sets of data. With a pre-post design students had to fill in the“Epistemological Development in Teaching Learning Questionnaire” (Kjellström et al. 2016) as well as as a self-designed sentence completion test for a pre-post evaluation of epistemological complexity and the development of their understandings towards inclusion. This allows for an evaluation if students exhibit shifts in epistemological complexity at the end of the semester and whether these can be linked to patterns in their developing understanding of inclusion. As the first data set cannot take into account the various influences that might have impacted changes in students, the second more qualitative data set utilizes procedural and summative data to find out whether and how students´ outcomes were linked to the process within the seminars. Data sources consist of students having submitted “Critical Incident Questionnaire” after every seminar unit (Brookfield 2017) as well as voluntary qualitative interview data. The second approach uses Transformative Learning Theory as well as Pizzolato`s (2005) concept of Provocative Moments as analytical lenses. The latter concept refers to the experience of irritating situations, which in turn lead a person to initiate or mediate a transformative learning process.
With our research we want to start closing the gap between inclusive education and related fields of research of which we believe upholds the potential for synergetic theoretical and practical contributions and advancement of the inclusive education agenda: research on personal epistemologies and their impact on teacher education and agency and transformative learning theory. To work inclusively in heterogeneous settings stresses the abilities (i) to handle complex and dilemmatic situations involving interacting epistemologies related to the concept of inclusive education and learning in general, (ii) to critically reflect on and challenge institutional discourses and practices, and (iii) to occasionally develop new sets of practices. In this sense we hope to elaborate evidence to suggest that the students’ ability to self-reflect on pedagogical practices and personal epistemologies, together with acquiring knowledge and developing practical skills for working with children and adults in heterogeneous settings conducted in a supportive context, is linked to an increase in educational practitioners’ sense of agency to influence and widen institutional discourses and practices on inclusion.
Black-Hawkins, K., & Florian, L. (2012). Classroom teachers’ craft knowledge of their inclusive practice. Teachers and Teaching, 18(5), 567-584. Brookfield, D. (2017): Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher. San Francisco: Jossey Bass Brownlee, J., Schraw, G. J., & Berthelsen, D. (Eds.). (2011). Personal epistemology and teacher education. New York: Routledge. Danforth, S. (Ed.). (2017). Becoming a great inclusive educator. Peter Lang. Iannacci, L. (2018). Reconceptualizing Disability in Education. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield. Jordan, A.; Schwartz, E. & McGhie-Richmond, D. (2009): Preparing teachers for inclusive classrooms. In: Teaching and Teacher Education 25 (2009) 535–542 Kjellström, S., Golino, H., Hamer, R., Van Rossum, E. J., & Almers, E. (2016). Psychometric Properties of the Epistemological Development in Teaching Learning Questionnaire (EDTLQ): An Inventory to Measure Higher Order Epistemological Development. Frontline Learning Research, 4(5), 1-33. Mäkinen, M. (2013). Becoming engaged in inclusive practices: Narrative reflections on teaching as descriptors of teachers' work engagement. Teaching and Teacher Education, 35, 51-61. Osberg, D. & Biesta, G. (Eds.) (2010): Complexity Theory and the Politics of Education. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers Pizzolato, J. E. (2005). Creating crossroads for self-authorship: Investigating the provocative moment. Journal of College Student Development, 46(6), 624-641. Sheehy, K. (2017). Ethics, Epistemologies, and Inclusive Pedagogy. In: Gajewski, Agnes (ed). Ethics, Equity, and Inclusive Education. Bingley: Emerald, 59-78 Taylor, E. W., & Cranton, P. (Eds.). (2012). The handbook of transformative learning: theory, research, and practice (1st ed). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
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