04 SES 12 E, Reflecting on Practices To Build More Inclusive Schools
The inclusion of students with various levels of ability in mainstream classrooms is a worldwide trend. A shift in speaking about inclusion can be traced to the international agenda through the Salamanca Inclusion Statement (United Nations, 1994) and the UN Convention on the rights of Persons with Disability (United Nations, 2007). According to national educational policies, Saudi Arabia is one of the countries seeking to move towards more inclusive schools. This is done by way of a model for inclusive practice deriving from the U.S., referred to as the Tatweer project. Tatweer, supported by the Saudi government to develop education, presents itself as aiming to improving all students’ education and outcomes, including those with different abilities. It locates inclusive education at the centre of the development agenda, with Goal 3 focusing on access to quality and equal education, and giving support to all students based upon their needs, regardless of race, sex, or social and economic circumstances (t4edu, Tatweer, 2007).
This study, based on my doctoral dissertation, aims to examine this model and to discuss the nature of the inclusive practice that Tatweer has introduced to create effective practice which includes students with different abilities. Empirically, this study relies on 31 semi-structured interviews with Tatweer staff, headteachers, teachers and teaching assistants from both Tatweer schools and Tatweer project. These interviews allow for an enhanced understanding of the ways in which these representatives of Tatweer speak of inclusion, define inclusive practice and view pupils with additional support needs. Because of the substantial role played by teachers in the implementation of an inclusive educational process, their understandings and attitudes are crucial to achieving successful inclusion (Kozub & Lienert, 2003). Several studies have previously explored the attitudes which teachers have towards inclusive education. Some of these studies indicate that teachers are positive regarding the general philosophy of inclusive education (e.g. Boer, Pijl & Minnaert, 2011; Abbott, 2006; Avramidis, Bayliss & Burden, 2000; Avramidis & Norwich, 2002), but other research reports that teachers have questioned the effectiveness of inclusive education in practice (e.g. Boer, Pijl & Minnaert, 2011; Florian, 1998). Considering teachers’ attitudes towards the inclusion of disabled students, studies have shown that teachers’ attitudes differ according to several variables. Avramidis & Norwich (2002) indicated that these variables can be divided into three main categories. First are student-related variables based on the type or severity of disability; second are environment-related variables; third, and the variables that could be considered as the most important here, are teacher related variables such as age, gender, teaching experience, grade level taught, experience with children with special needs, level of training, and contact with family or friends with perceived special needs. The present paper focuses on teacher-related variables, stressing that the gender of teachers in this study appears to be one of the factors influencing teachers’ perceptions of students with disabilities, and therefore their approach to inclusion. Male teachers tend to be more open to accept students with disabilities. Also, as could be expected, special education teachers generally have a better understanding of the situations faced by students with disabilities and the best ways to deal with these As they have been trained to work with disabled students.
Qualitative methods were used in this study to gain in-depth understanding and insight into teachers’ perspectives of inclusive practice in light of sociocultural theory. Participants were purposively selected from among teachers who are teaching in inclusive classrooms in four primary schools in Riyadh which implement inclusive practice. Purposive sampling was employed to identify possible eligible candidates for participation in the study (Bryman, 2008). The criteria for participant selection focused on teachers involved in the implementation of inclusive education managed by Tatweer. Ultimately, a total of 12 teachers participated in interviews. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews as a study tool because interviews are a relevant and helpful method when the researcher seeks to understand the thoughts, views, and beliefs of individuals (in this case, teachers), and to investigate issues more thoroughly in a specific context (in this study, Saudi Arabia). The interview guide centred on three major themes at the classroom level. The first theme related to the layout of the classroom and aimed to gain a picture of the nature of inclusive education practices. The second theme asked teachers about their understanding of, and views on, inclusive education practice. Finally, they were asked about their preparation and abilities to teach in an inclusive classroom as well as about the challenges faced, and the adjustments which the inclusive process made necessary. This study adopted a social constructivist perspective to investigate teachers’ understanding of, and perspectives on, the implementation of inclusive education practice, their views towards students with disabilities, how they understand the purpose of inclusion, and finally, the challenges they face, particularly in relation to the inclusion model introduced by Tatweer. From the social constructivist perspective, the teachers in this study shaped their understandings and perspectives of inclusive education based on their interpretations of their own experiences of students with disabilities in inclusive schools. The goal of the study was to rely as far as possible on the teachers’ views of inclusive education, as the concept being studied (Creswell, 2009).
The preliminary finding from this study is that teachers’ perspectives differ based on different factors. These themes build on the following typology that was developed by Salvia and Munson (1986). Teacher related variables include teacher education, teacher gender, and background. Furthermore, the data revealed some of the challenges that most teachers struggle with in inclusive classrooms. A variety of obstacles to implementing inclusive education were emphasized. The most commonly cited factors were class sizes, workload, and lack of knowledge and skills (regarding training in special education). Further analysis and implications of the findings will be presents at the conference.
Abbott, L. 2006. Northern Ireland headteachers’ perceptions of inclusion. International Journal of Inclusive Education 10: 627–43. Avramidis, E., Bayliss, P., & Burden, R. (2000). Student teachers’ attitudes towards the inclusion of children with special educational needs in the ordinary school. Teaching and Teacher Education, 16(3), Avramidis, E., & Norwich, B. (2002). Teachers attitudes towards integration/inclusion: A review of the literature. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 17(2), 129–147. Boer, Pijl & Minnaert (2011) Regular primary schoolteachers’ attitudes towards inclusive education: a review of the literature, International Journal of Inclusive Education, Bryman, A., 2008. Social research methods. Oxford university press. Creswell, J. (2009). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed method approaches. (3rd ed.) London: Sage. Florian, L. 1998. An examination of the practical problems associated with the implementation of inclusive education policies. Support for Learning 3: 105–8. Kozub, M., & Lienert, C. (2003). Attitudes toward teaching children with disabilities: Review of literature and research paradigm. Adopted Physical Activity, 20(4), 20-3 T4edu.com. (2018). Tatweer Co. for Educational Services - Home Page. [online] Available at: https://www.t4edu.com/en [Accessed 9 May 2018]. UNESCO. (1994). The UNESCO Salamanca statement and framework for action on special needs education. Salamanca: United Nations. UNESCO (2007) EFA Global Monitoring Report: EFA. Strong Foundations: Early Childhood Care and Education (Paris, UNESCO).
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