04 SES 05 A, Helping Pre-Service Teachers Understand And Promote Inclusive Practice
Since the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Germany, there are numerous questions concerning the implementation of inclusive learning processes in primary school. One important question concerns the enhancement of pre-service and in-service teachers’ competencies for inclusive learning processes in schools. In particular, collaboration such as team-teaching processes of primary school teachers and special needs teachers is regarded as an important prerequisite for children’s successful learning processes in primary schools (European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education, 2012). However, team-teaching also plays an important role in regular primary school classrooms in order to ensure that all students are reaching their individual academic potentials (Friend & Bursuck, 2014). Following Ferguson and Wilson (2011), team-teaching in regular and inclusive classrooms occurs when two or more teachers equally manage learning processes and assume the responsibility for all children. In this type of teacher collaboration, two or more teachers plan, perform and evaluate the lessons together in teams.
Teachers’ successful collaboration in inclusive primary education is influenced by various prerequisites. Arndt and Werning (2013) distinguish three different conditions in their theoretical model that have an impact on teachers’ successful collaboration in class (see also Bronstein 2003). Individual prerequisites represent, for instance, teachers’ competencies, their self-perceptions and their attitudes towards team-teaching. Institutional prerequisites comprise the school system, the school culture but also spatial and financial resources in (inclusive) schools. Interpersonal prerequisites include the teachers’ interpersonal relationships and their communicative exchange processes. In various studies, the prerequisites for teachers’ successful collaboration were investigated. For instance, successful collaborations are related to the teachers’ individual personality level (e.g., teachers’ self-efficacy, teachers’ attitudes towards inclusion; e.g., Hamman, Lechtenberger, Griffin-Shirley, & Zhou, 2013) and the team level, such as the quality and the quantity of collaboration in inclusive classes (Schwab, Holzinger, Krammer, Gebhardt, & Hessels, 2015). Additionally, it could be shown that teachers’ collaboration in class is combined with specific difficulties, such as different ideas about the effective composition of students’ individual learning processes, concrete working agreements, competencies, responsibilities in the classrooms and role-clarities (e.g., Arndt, 2014; Nel, Engelbrecht, Nel, & Tlale, 2014; Shaffer & Thomas-Braun, 2015; Stefanidis & Strogilos, 2015). Teachers consider cooperative working as little avail, if essential structures are missing and if personal relationships in teams are perceived as difficult (Arndt & Werning, 2013; Gurgur & Uzuner, 2011; Kritikos & Birnbaum, 2003). Currently, the role of teachers’ positive mutual relationships for their successful collaboration in class is under-researched. Arndt and Werning (2013) assume that teachers’ positive mutual relationships are one of the most important conditions of successful collaborative teaching in (non-)inclusive schools.
Against this theoretical background, we examine if primary school students who were taught by pre-service teachers in freely selected teams have a significant knowledge growth in comparison to primary school students who were taught by pre-service teachers in not freely selected teams. On the basis of our study, we investigate the role of teachers’ personal relationships in team-teaching for children’s learning processes in regular and in inclusive primary school science lessons.
In our study, N=142 pre-service primary school teachers and pre-service special needs teachers in the ‘Master of Education’-program from a university in Germany (North Rhine-Westphalia) participated in our study. Students’ average age was approximately 24 years. Additionally, N=804 third and fourth grade primary school students were taught in regular science lessons by the pre-service primary school teachers and the pre-service special needs teachers. The primary school students participating in our study came from 71 learning groups of 35 primary schools. The average group size was approximately 11 children (M=11.32, SD=6.38, Min=4.00, Max=26.00). In 20 learning groups, there were primary school students with special educational needs. The pre-service teachers participated in a training to acquire competencies concerning their cooperation in inclusive education. Afterwards, the pre-service teachers were assigned to one of our study groups. Half of the pre-service teachers could choose their tandem partner. The other half of the pre-service teachers was assigned in pairs randomly. The pre-service teachers planned in tandems science lessons on the subject ‘renewable energies’ and taught groups of children in inclusive or non-inclusive primary schools over a period of three lessons. In detail, the pre-service teachers received the task to plan science lessons on the subject ‘renewable energies’ on the basis of a catalogue of learning objectives for third and fourth grade primary school students. Taking account of these learning objectives, the pre-service teachers could decide upon the concrete contents as well as the didactical and methodical arrangements of their learning units. On the basis of a pre- and post-test, we investigated primary school students’ competence development. The pre- and post-instruments were designed as parallel versions in each case. The primary school students who participated in our study were asked to fill in a science knowledge test on renewable energies. The science knowledge test on renewable energies was oriented towards the preassigned learning objectives of the learning unit on renewable energies. For the verification of our hypotheses, an analysis of variance (ANOVA) for repeated measures and analyses of covariance (ANCOVA) were calculated in SPSS (Version 26). In the evaluation of the results, we calculated the development of the dependent variable from the first to the second measurement point and the tandem type (freely selected versus assigned) as main effects as well as the interaction effect. The class level and the type of setting (inclusive versus non-inclusive) were incorporated as covariates in the analyses.
Primary school students from both study groups benefit from the science lessons concerning their knowledge about renewable energies. However, primary school students who were taught by pre-service teachers in freely selected teams have a significant knowledge growth in the test on the subject ‘renewable energies’ compared to primary school students who were taught by pre-service teachers in not freely selected teams. The results from an analysis of variance reveal that both of the main effects (main effect ‘time’: F=2003.19, p≤.001, η2=.74, d=3.33/ main effect ‘tandem type’: F=4.13, p≤.05, η2=.01, d=.15) and the interaction effect (F=9.52, p≤.01, η2=.01, d=.23) are significant, so that our hypothesis is confirmed. If the class level and the type of setting (inclusive versus non-inclusive) are included in the analysis as covariates, it becomes evident that the class level has a significant impact on primary school students’ development of their knowledge about renewable energies (F=37.25, p≤.001, η2=.05, d=.46). However, the type of setting (inclusive versus non-inclusive) does not influence the children’s development of their knowledge about renewable energies from measurement point 1 to measurement point 2 (F=0.01, p=.91, η2=.00, d=.01). This means, the effect is present whether or not the students participated in inclusive or regular learning groups. Overall, the results of our study give indications that the well-considered composition of teams who plan lessons and teach in inclusive and in non-inclusive classrooms is an important prerequisite for students’ competencies in inclusive science education in primary schools. Therefore, our findings underline the role of positive mutual relationships for successful team-teaching processes in inclusive and regular primary school classrooms.
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