04 SES 06 B, Leading From The Front: Leadership And School Administration As Agents For Inclusive Change
There is an increasing acknowledgement of cultural diversity as the norm in societies around the world, which creates further challenges for the educational systems, especially the teachers. Europe and, particularly, Italy are not the exceptions. In fact, the Italian peninsula has become a destination for immigration and this has had an impact on the linguistic and cultural diversity of school populations.
Within this scenario, the Italian school system has now acquired a multicultural trait while teacher education has become the key to support to the development of a quality inclusive education system. In fact, teacher education plays a pivotal role in assuring an inclusive school environment and in preparing teachers in multicultural classrooms. In fact, the necessary and possible changes towards a culture of collaboration and an inclusive society can only be achieved by paying attention to a carefully planned professional development of teachers. In this sense, it should be also noted the embedded or situated nature of teacher professional learning and development: within the school environment and its culture, and in relation to how educational systems and policies affect their work lives.
The role of teachers in multicultural contexts is central in determining educational and didactical processes and practices based on the principles of an open and inclusive intercultural school. In fact, perceptions and attitudes towards the cultural diversity influence the design of teaching/learning paths from an intercultural perspective, requiring an inclusive educational leadership which promotes a genuine culture of hospitality. Within this context, the educational and intercultural leadership of teachers play a crucial role, in order to promote a growing awareness of the "dialogue" as a formative model in schools.
In recent years, the Italian pedagogical research has shown that the growing intercultural educational demand does not correspond to a sufficiently structured response in terms of teachers training. While the topic of inclusion of foreign students in schools is largely explored, the "good" teaching leadership practices to manage complex multicultural situations are still under investigated themes. In addition, teachers often lack a specific training on intercultural training while school leaders need to take a pro-active stance in assisting teachers create inclusive classrooms, especially when insufficient training is provided by the government’s university.
In this context, greater investment in the teachers intercultural training is needed in order to promote an ethic of professionalism based on openness and mutual recognition, as well as on a collective assumption of responsibility.
It is necessary to focus not only on the cognitive level and on competencies, but also on the emotional and relational levels which can be developed through the experience of contact, the sharing of common purposes and collaborative practises. In this way, it could be possible to promote, beyond a 'rhetorical idea of welcoming', an authentic inclusive culture.
Given these premises, the purpose of this paper is to present a critical analysis of the Italian pedagogical literature along with ideas from a range of international literature with the aim of highlighting that leadership practice is a crucial element in gearing education systems towards inclusive values. More specifically, the following research questions will be addressed:
- What kind of educational practices should educational institutions implement to address the emerging issues related to intercultural education?
-Which teacher leadership models are more effective to create inclusive classrooms and multicultural schools?
-What kind of teacher leadership competences are important to promote intercultural dialogue and cultural diversity?
This contribution reviews international studies that have touched upon the merits of teacher leadership for inclusion in schools, barriers or challenges encountered to successfully implement teacher leadership models, factors influencing effective educational practices, in-service and pre-service teachers' attitudes, perceptions on teacher leadership, as well as the importance of school culture. This review will be discussed in light of the national literature. In this sense, it discusses research gaps and the directions that future studies may take to address these gaps.
Inclusion is a never-ending search to find better ways of responding to diversity and is about learning to live with difference and learning how to live with difference. How then can schools accommodate student differences? To this end, it is important to advance teacher leadership practices and energize the collective leadership of teachers in schools. In fact, leadership actions can transform teaching and learning in schools, connect schools and communities together on behalf of inclusive values, facilitates principled action to achieve inclusive schools. In multicultural and inclusive schools, teacher leaders reflect on and discuss about intercultural issues, plan their work, shares good practices with other teachers and educators, and disseminate the positive solutions Teachers should recognize that intercultural dialogue is a tool for inclusive democratic participation and empowerment of citizens. In fact, school represents a cultural and educational agency for building a pluralist and socially cohesive democracy, and an example of inclusive citizenship. Finally, the focus of the reflection should be on the personal and professional responsibility, on an ethical choice and on an existential self- re-positioning, by considering the common interrelatedness and of the relational quality of the human condition. This implies loving what teachers get to do, getting to care for and serve others. The goal as teacher leaders is to form the human person, and so by forming the person-in relationship. It is through these educational values that teachers, as individuals and as a community, become capable of meeting with, entering into dialogue, create a multicultural society. Finally, it is a call for “caring in education” which can be seen as a “vital necessity” of any intercultural training course and professional development for teachers.
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