04 SES 06 C, Exploring New Paths in Inclusive Education Research
Inclusion is defined as a process, involving schools and their communities as a whole, aimed to ensure quality and participation to all and to reduce any form of discrimination and exclusion (IBE-UNESCO, 2016).
Actions for improvement can take place at different levels, such as those of concepts, policy, structures and systems, and practices. At the level of practice, some main goals have to be pursued: “developing a school for all”, ensuring forms of support for vulnerable students, “preparing teachers for inclusion” and offering opportunities for ongoing professional development (ibid., pp. 38-42).
Some research approaches, such as participatory and emancipatory research, offer the possibility to engage the school community to play a central role in producing contextualized knowledge (Trinchero, 2002).
In this regard, some indicators for self-evaluation and self-improvement at different levels of practice have been developed in the last decade. For example, we could mention the well-known “Profile for inclusive teachers”, published by European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education (2012) or the “Index for Inclusion” (Booth & Ainscow, 2011, 2014).
The researcher should maintain a democratic and respectful attitude towards participants. He/she has to provide all necessary information about research processes and aims and adopt a stance that gives equal value and possibility of decision-making to both researchers and participants.
Although these premises about the research method are clearly defined, their translation into practice implies some critical issues that need to be faced and that require suitable solutions.
For example, it is particularly challenging to enhance the active participation of small children or children with intellectual or complex disabilities.
Moreover, schools are complex institutions where power structures and hierarchical relations define practices and where some individuals have more opportunities to express themselves and take decisions. A participatory and inclusive research method should also modify these dynamics.
Finally, cultural differences within schools and in relation to the academic community make it more difficult to find a common ‘language’.
Our research project involved kindergarten and schools of all levels, with the aim of empowering teachers, educators and learners and encouraging processes of self-evalutation and self-improvement of school inclusion.
The research project was presented in action at ECER 2018 and now that the project is concluded, we want to disseminate the results we had and share the final paper documentation about the practices regarding the application of these instruments (Ianes et.al, 2020). In addition, we would like to use this opportunity to discuss our research methods, presenting the instruments chosen and considering the related issues regarding research processes since some difficulties had to be faced in selecting the sample of schools and promoting effective collaboration between universities and schools.
This contribution presents a research project addressed to the school institutions of all levels and all linguistic groups of South Tyrol (German, Italian and Ladin). It applies the methodology of action-research, with its four steps: planning, action, observation and reflections (Lewin, 1946). On the base of this model, we built a circular research plan that connects action and reflection during the whole process. After an initial literature review, some instruments for self-evaluation and self-improvement at different levels of inclusion, such as the three above-mentioned, were selected. Moreover, two approaches consistent with the purposes of teacher professional development have been applied, those of “critical incidents” (Tripp, 2012) and of “lesson study” (Norwich & Jones, 2014; Dudley, 2014). All these instruments are applied separately but they are in constant and reciprocal relation. The project had two main aims: to support some sample schools in the applications of these tools and to collect information regarding their effectiveness.
The sample schools that took part in the participatory research constitute, with their own experiences, an example of school and community development for inclusion. The results of the project were originally conceived to be used, on one side, to inform about good practices regarding processes of self-evaluation and self-improvement at all levels previously cited and, on the other side, to create a set of tools to be shared with other school institutions willing to work on their inclusive processes. However, the realisation of this project required a high level of personalisation. The interventions were, in fact, tailored to the needs and objectives of each participating school, starting from the level of intervention (between individual, class, school and community) and the way the instruments had to be applied (e.g. number of people participating, type of processes, involvement of families or students, etc.). Some difficulties had to be faced in selecting the sample of schools and in promoting an effective collaboration between university and schools. Although the implementation of the project was laborious because of the negotiation required, it showed the importance of enhancing a dialogue between theory, research and practice, both in favour of university and school institutions.
Booth, T., & Ainscow, M. (2011). Index for inclusion developing learning and participation in schools. Bristol: Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education. Booth, T. & Ainscow, M. (2014). Nuovo index per l’inclusione. Roma: Carocci. Dudley, P. (2014). Lesson Study: a handbook. Last access 28/01/2021, retrieved from http://lessonstudy.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/new-handbook-revisedMay14.pdf European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education [EADSNE] (2012). Teacher Education for Inclusion. Profile of Inclusive Teachers. Odense, Denmark: EADSNE. International Bureau of Education-UNESCO (IBE-UNESCO) (2016). Training Tools for Curriculum Development – Reaching Out to All Learners: a Resource Pack for Supporting Inclusive Education. Geneva, Switzerland: IBE-UNESCO. Ianes, D., Dell’Anna, S., Demo, H. & Macchia, V. (2020). IN-IN: Strumenti per l’Inclusione/Instrumente für Inklusion. Una ricerca azione partecipativa in alcune scuole Alto Atesine. Milano: FrancoAngeli. Lewin, K. (1946). Action research and minority problems. Journal of social Issues, 2(4), 34-46. Montag Stiftung Jugend und Gesellschaft (2011). Inklusion vor Ort – Der Kommunale Index für Inklusion – ein Praxishandbuch. Bonn: Montag Stiftung Jugend und Gesellschaft. Norwich, B., & Jones, J. (Ed., 2014). Lesson Study. Making a Difference to Teaching Pupils with Learning Difficulties. London: Bloomsbury. Trinchero, R. (2002). Manuale di ricerca educativa. Milano: FrancoAngeli. Tripp, D. (2012). Critical Incidents in Teaching. Developing professional judgement. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. UNESCO (2009). Policy guidelines on inclusion in education. Paris: UNESCO. Last access 28/01/2021, retrieved from http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0017/001778/177849e.pdf
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