04 SES 05 A, Helping Pre-Service Teachers Understand And Promote Inclusive Practice
The 2030 Agenda (ONU, 2015) proposes inclusion as a basis for addressing social, cultural and economic barriers, not only of pupils with specific educational needs, but of all pupils. The paradigm shift to full educational inclusion and its benefits (Sharma and Jacobs, 2016) was begun by several countries through theoretical legislative developments proposing inclusive practices and a regulatory framework promoting social justice (Tiwari et al., 2015). However, inclusive education discourses appear not to have reached the educational context and practice in the whole European scenario. Inclusive principles driven by neo-liberal policy principales (Allan, 2008) could be contributing to maintain exclusion and discriminatory practices (Liasidou, 2015).
Research literature has shown that teachers´ attitude is one predictor of successful inclusive education (Coates et al, 2020). Research in general education teachers reveals positive attitudes (Guðjónsdóttir and Óskarsdóttir, 2020) but also negative attitudes (Orr and Hammig, 2009). Special education teachers play a critical role in this process (Gavish, 2017). However, the role of special education teachers sometimes displays deficit-orientated and assimilationist perspectives that could contribute to “exclusionary inclusion” that consolidate segregating practices (Liasidou and Antoniou, 2013).
In this context, beliefs, values and meanings towards inclusion and diversity by preservice special education teachers will be crucial. Despite this, we know little about how they construct different cultural meanings of inclusion. While the literature on preservice teachers is well supported, that of preservice special education teachers is limited (Nonis and Tun, 2011). The review of the literature indicates the need to investigate and to reflect on preservice special needs teachers´ beliefs, values and meanings to face ideological barriers that subvert attempts to implement inclusive education in higher education (Liasidou, 2014).
Aim of the research. This study set out to explores preservice special needs teachers´ beliefs and meanings towards diversity and inclusive education recognizing their role in achieving the principles of inclusive education. By using ethnography, my aim is to generate new knowledge on initial teacher education (ITE) practices that can contribute to a better understanding of the initial teacher education process on diversity and educational inclusion in the European context. Participants were 27 preservice special needs teachers enrolled in a semester-long course at a Human and Social Science University in Teruel (Spain) in the fourth year of a four-year primary teacher education. Data sources included written essays, reflection papers, audio taped individual interviews, discussion groups and the notes of the researcher.
The theoretical framework for this study is based on the ideas of Giroux (1988, p. 5), specifically that ideology is interpreted as a dynamic construct, characterised by the ways in which ‘meanings are produced, mediated, and embodied in knowledge forms, social practices, and cultural experiences’. The notion of Critical Pedagogy focuses on the importance of university students becoming critical teachers and participating in their own education and process of change.
Results from this study indicate that preservice cultural constructions meanings of inclusion seem mostly mediated by the ideology of normality and the neoliberal principles of market demands (Norwich, 2008; Slee, 2012). The existence of several dichotomies and resistances needs to be addressed and faced in ITE with the aim to enhance inclusive education programmes in the European context.
Dichotomies between individual deficit model or social model or purity and impurity need to be faced. Ideological, social, cultural and formative forces have to be taken into account in Higher Education. In accordance, ITE could be the space in which individual and collective reflexive processes can contribute to deconstruct and reconstruct cultural meanings of inclusion and diversity considered naturals into new forms of thinking from the basis of human rights and social justice.
To address the research question a qualitative study with critical ethnographic approach was applied. This election is justified because of the complexity of the process. According to Hammersley (2006, p.4), ethnography “take the term to refer to a form of a social and educational research that empathises the importance of studying at first hand what people do and say in particular contexts”. In educational research, ethnography involves the study of discourses and practices between groups, levels, spaces and times in educational situations (Maisuria and Beach, 2017). Maisuria (2016) highly the importance to demystify what has been presumed and to identify the real conditions to achieve the change. The sample were 27 university students in their final year. These preservice special needs teachers began the year prior to entering the profession. The age range was 20 to 28, 21 female and 5 male. They had several experiences in schools in their training. All of them consented to being part of the research. On one hand, the data of this study consisted of written essays and several discussion groups. Each student was required to read and reflect on questions about inclusive education. Written essays and reflections papers are crucial in promoting reflection. The essays were all rich in details. The purpose of discussions groups was to enable students to openly articulate their thoughts. On the other hand, participant observation and one-on-one open-ended interviews completed the process (Hammersley, 2006). Interview questions focused on participants' perceptions towards diversity and inclusive education, social justice, exclusive and inclusive situations or educational purposes. A total of 38 interviews took place in 3 months. The first round interview with each student was carried out in October 2020. The second round interview took place in January 2021. After each round of interviews, audio files were transcribed, analysed and codified into text. The data collected allowed me to establish emerging themes. Due to limited space, I can not present all the data obtained. The data collected was codified by Grounded Theory Analysis and used to create categories. Patterning emerging from the data provided relevant information about how preservice special needs teachers construct different cultural meanings of inclusive education in the European context. The data presented are not intended to present the beliefs of all preservice teachers.
The goal of this study was to explore preservice special needs teachers´ beliefs and meanings towards inclusive education. The study provided many insights. First, despite believing in inlcusive education, preservice special needs teachers´ beliefs are characterized by contradictions and exclusionary inclusion (Liasidou, 2014). The existence of different ways of interpreting inclusion and hidden dynamics that create power inequities and resistances to achieve inclusive education is evident (Liasidou, 2014). Of particular importance is the manner in which their cultural construction of inclusion is shaped and influenced negatively by deficit-oriented and dominant realities in the European context. They adopt a hybrid version of inclusive education (Liasidou, 2015) closer to integration in which they are likely to justify exclusion on behalf of inclusion. Second, I truly believe that Higher education can be the context from which shifts the focus from perspectives based on deficit models to systematic approaches to diversity. Challenging deficit-orientated models and neoliberal principles in Higher education and promoting new ways of thinking is crucial. Responding reflectively and critically during initial teacher education to the reasons why these situations still occur requires ‘revealing the myths, lies and injustices at the heart of the dominant school culture’ (Giroux, 1988, 7). Inclusive discourse advocates for a Higher Education in the European context in which problematizing and deconstructing dominant ideology and culture, institucional conditions and ethical dimensions of their professional roles (Allan, 2008). Finally, results from this study indicate that the use of a critical pedagogy approach in ITE could contribute to identify and deconstruct resistances to put in practice the principles of inclusive education. Our goal as teachers educators must be to foster opportunities to reflect and to think critically about inclusive education and to provide a space for the process of demystification, deconstruction and development of critical awareness.
Allan, J. (2008). Rethinking Inclusive Education: The Philosophers of Difference in Practice. Springer Gavish, B. (2017). Four profiles of inclusive supportive teachers: Perceptions of their status and role in implementing inclusion of students with special needs in general classrooms. Teaching and Teacher Education. 61. 37-46. doi:10.1016/j.tate.2016.10.004. Coates, J.K., Harris, J. and Waring, M. (2020). The effectiveness of a special school experience for improving preservice teachers’ efficacy to teach children with special educational needs and disabilities. British Educational Research Journal 46 (5). 909-928. doi:10.1002/berj.3605 Giroux, H. (1988). Teachers as intellectuals. Bergin and Garvey. Guðjónsdóttir, H. and Óskarsdóttir, E. (2020). Dealing with diversity´: debating the focus of teacher education for inclusion. European Journal of Teacher Education 43 (1): 95-109. doi:10.1080/02619768.2019.1695774 Hammersley, M. (2006). Ethnography: problems and prospects. Ethnography and Education, 1:1, 3-14, doi:10.1080/17457820500512697 Liasidou, A. and Antoniou, A. (2015). Head teachers’ leadership for social justice and inclusion School Leadership & Management, 35:4, 347-364, doi: 10.1080/13632434.2015.1010499 Liasidou, A. (2014). Social Justice in Higher Education. British Journal of Special Education, 41: 120-135. http://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8578.12063 Liasidou, A. (2015). Inclusive Education and the issue of Change: Theory, Policy and Pedagogy. Springer. Maisuria, A. (2016). Class Struggle in Cultural Formation in Contemporary Times: A Focus on the Theoretical Importance of Antonio Gramsci and the Organic Intellectualism of Russell Brand. Knowledge Cultures. 4 (6), pp. 81-96. Maisuria, A. and Beach, D. (2017). Ethnography and Education. Oxford Research Encyclopedia: Oxford University Press. Nonis, K., Sing, T. and Tan, J. (2011). Beginner pre-service special education teachers' learning experience during practicum. International Journal of Special Education. 26. 1-14. ONU. (2015). Transforming Our World. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. General AssemblyResolution A/RES/70/1. United Nations. Orr, A. and Hammig S. (2009) Inclusive Postsecondary Strategies for Teaching Students with Learning Disabilities: A Review of the Literature. Learning Disability Quarterly.;32(3):181-196. doi:10.2307/27740367 Sharma, U. and Jacobs, K. (2016). Predicting in-service educators ́ intentions to teach in inclusive classrooms in India and Australia. Teaching and Teacher Education 55: 13-23. doi:10.1016/J.TATE.2015.12.004 Tiwari, A., Das, A. and Sharma, M. (2015). Inclusive education a “rhetoric” or “reality”? Teachers' perspectives and beliefs. Teaching and Teacher Education 52: 128-136. doi:10.1016/j.tate.2015.09.002
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