A practitioner enquiry is a process in which teachers, tutors, lecturers and other education stakeholders reflect on their own institutional practices in order to produce assessable reports and artifacts which are submitted for academic credits leading to awarding of degrees or diplomas of nationally recognized bodies Murray (1992). A practitioner enquiry differs from a research because its main concern is to address the educational practitioner’s daily experience. According to Murray (1992) it is more about the educational practices rather than just theories.
Some of these practices include inclusive education. The diversity of students in the education sector has become more and more evident over the years. The main function of education is to ensure that every student gain knowledge, skills and information that will help them serve their communities better and help them fit into their work places. Students are quite diverse and there is need to address this diversity.
One of the ways to address this diversity is through inclusive education.
Inclusive education is an educational approach and viewpoint that provides all students with great opportunities for academic and social achievement Riddel & Weedon (2010). It also provides students with community connection. Inclusive education makes sure that every student’s individual needs and learning styles are respected and catered for fully. Inclusive education is not based on the classroom curriculum or academic expectations but simply augments education for all the students regardless of their characteristic Ainscow (1999). At the end of the day every learner uses education differently and therefore they should be given education and they will utilize it however they see fit. Current research shows that inclusion does not affect or slow down the learning of students without special needs where the class is all inclusive (Ainscow, 2010).
Ainscow also clear that isolating students with special needs does not help them in attaining their full potential instead it limits their chances of ever attaining their best. Current research also indicates that inclusion is the number one approach and it comprises a crucial international policy that promotes the rights of the disabled children to get their education together with their peers (Riddle & Weedon, 2010). Although this is a rather new policy, it has been used for a long time under a different definition. Education has not been offered equally especially with the children with disability. This policy therefore challenges the way education system are responsible for social inequalities with regards to different groups of students based on abilities, characteristics, socio economic circumstances and developmental path.
The guiding principle is equality and social justice in education. Ainscow (2010) According to Riddle & Weedon (2010) children without special needs equally benefit from an inclusive classroom. They get to learn about the needs of others in an inclusive classroom and some of the benefits they get are: social skills, comfort level with people with special needs, friendship and personal principle. Sometimes parents and educators compare inclusion as mainstreaming but it is important to note that they are not the same. In mainstreaming, special needs children are placed in a regular classroom but their needs are not prioritized or in cooperated in the normal classroom curriculum. It is important to differentiate the two. According to (Riddle & Weedon, 2010) The Scottish legislation states that children and young people should be propped up to join mainstream classes alongside their peers. The educators should consider these children in the mainstream classes when making their lesson plans and evaluation. According to Florian & Black (2011) teachers make decisions and take action to respond to the learning of their students.
They do this mostly relying on assumption and with time this has become a habit. Quick learners and average learners may catch up with the teacher but those learners with special needs bear the negative effects more than anyone else. The teachers believe that special needs students need special attention but as mentioned earlier these learners are better off in an inclusive classroom. It is therefore important to critically asses’ inclusive education in relation to critical pedagogy. Inclusive pedagogy and inclusive education have been used interchangeably and this has sometimes made it difficult to distinguish the two. Although different, both inclusive pedagogy and inclusive education are geared towards increasing participation and decreasing instances of students being left out because of their culture, community, socio-economic status and the curriculum of mainstream school (Florian, 2009)
Further the relationship between inclusive education and pedagogy is the outcomes that are expected from both. Some of those are more active learning and students, teacher-directed instruction and most important taking every student’s specific needs. There is also need of understanding the students and dealing with those needs individually rather than as a group. Every educators needs to engage in the process of professional enquiry; a process of reflection and debate designed to help the core of education themes of inclusion and pedagogy.
By doing this, each theme is perfectly defined and at the same time analyzed so as to understand how they factor in with the current education trends and to become an all round teaching professional. According to Florian (2009) another way of understanding how teachers use general items from their classroom to enhance learning is to compare traditional methods of learning to newer concepts: inclusive education and pedagogy. Most of the legislation and policies that have been formulated with regards to this mostly define special needs learners as physically or mentally challenged but the differences should be approached from a broader perspective. Some of this legislation includes: Education Scotland act (1980)
Education (standards in Scotland’s school act) 2000
Additional support for learning (Scotland) act 2004 (amended in 2009) The education Scotland act (1980) particularly states that it is the duty of the parents or guardians to provide adequate and efficient education for them suitable to their age ability and aptitude. This is indicated in the Doran report Literature review
For many observers and scholars the word inclusion is synonymous with education of children with impairments, disabilities and special needs. Inclusion is however a broad category that has a lot of literature. The sociologists of education Campbell et al (2004) have argued that there has been many negative effects of social and education exclusion of students with disabilities. They also argue that inclusion relates to much more than just adapting education for the children with special needs. Hart (2001) also has similar sentiments and explains that inclusion highlights the extent to which educational policy, pedagogy and teaching practice are socially just to all students regardless of their abilities or disabilities.
“Inclusion requires modifications from the macro level which is the government policies, the meso level which is the educational institutions and the micro level which include the teachers to ensure its success and effectiveness on the development of children with special needs and disabilities” (Hart, 2001). In order to understand and explore inclusion well, we have to consider the cultures and societies in which education is enacted. According to Elton Chalcroft et al (2008) we need to think about the process of inclusive education as being subject to a whole host of socio-political and economic changes. In order to understand the concept of inclusive education at wider perspective then pedagogy has to be highly considered. According to Hopkins (2008) the common definitions of pedagogy consider it a culturally specific way of organizing formal education in institutional setting.
Elton Chalcroft et al (2008) however believe that this definition should be made even broader to a way of living or way of being with children. Furthermore, borrowing from critical literacy analyses from the British journal of special education, the author says “Pedagogy is the doubting of parenting and teaching and its interest is the social transformation and abolishments of marginalized treatment or oppression” (Hart, 2001). These postulates show that inclusive education has to take into great consideration the use of pedagogy. This is because the main focus or objective of inclusive education is treating all students as socially and educationally equal and including them all in one classroom regardless of their abilities and disabilities. Pedagogy helps in preparing students to be socially transformed and help reduce the marginalization of students with special needs.
Pedagogy therefore has to be implemented effectively in inclusive schools and the instructors who are implementing it have to be trained to be able to deal with children and understand them so that the success of the students can be accomplished and also the objectives of the inclusive schools and of the pedagogy process can be achieved. International policy dictates inclusive education but some children especially the disabled are ‘excluded’. There is need to implement educational measures to act in response to students’ rights to education (Lloyd 2008; Wedell 2008).
The focus mainly is on students with physical disabilities but diversity or individual differences are much wider than that. “Disability is a socially constructed occurrence” says Campbell (Campbell, 2005). There is need therefore to define which students should be considered while advocating for inclusive education. Disability is different from other characteristics of marginalized and subjugated groups that are adopted by critical pedagogy Gabel (2002). The concept of disability makes it necessary for transformative institutional and curricular arrangements to cater for disabled learners. When studying disabled children, there should be more emphasis on the limitations that might emerge in a bid to include them in the inclusive learning rather than their personal ability attributes. According to the Doran review (2012) every child has a right to become a successful and confident learner. They can also become responsible citizens and their contribution to society will most definitely be positive.
This can only be achieved if most or all the education stumbling blocks are eliminated completely. Inclusive education involved restructuring the existing organization to make the educators emphasize on resources on students who are at a disadvantage. Thus the schools in a way present the social inequalities that exist and at the same time foster democracy and social justice Bringhouse (2010) Inclusive education/learning not only promotes learning but also great social achievement (Ainscow, 1999). Every student unique characteristics are valued and attended to. It is based on the principle of non-discrimination. This is because research has shown that students learn and excel better when they are exposed to an inclusive general education system. Instead of mainstreaming, special needs children were subjected to a separate education and it has been proven that this made them lag behind than other students (Ainscow, 1999).
Inclusive education reflects the values of a diverse country and multi-culture. With inclusion come a friendship, social skills, and reassurance when dealing with people with disabilities or special needs and a diverse class environment (Murray, 2010). The inclusive field will highly consider how to reposition children with different kinds of disabilities. According to Hopkins (2008) children have different disabilities and positioning them on who has moderate and who has severe disabilities will help in the inclusion process. He also believes that every process of inclusion has to have a good ethics of consent and pedagogy so as to create new interpretive strategies. Hopkins (2008) believes that inclusive education is about the response of the responsible party in this case the teacher to the diverse nature of individuals.
Hart (2001) also agrees with this belief by stating that individuals are different and they have different kinds of disabilities and therefore inclusive education should consider this before applying any strategies to make better the education of the individuals. Inclusive education therefore involves the art of listening to unfamiliar voices and being as open minded as possible. Hopkins (2008) explains that inclusion should focus more on empowering the affected individuals. The process should include their feelings and their abilities and disabilities so as to ensure that proper programs are implemented to ensure that they are as productive as possible. Inclusive education also focuses on celebrating the difference in people. Hart (2001) states that inclusion is different from other notions that have been developed previously for example integration. He explains that inclusion is more value oriented and it includes all students. This is because inclusion allows students with all kinds of disabilities whether those that have special needs or those that are disabled are included in one group and special education is provided to all their needs.
The British education Journal also differentiates inclusion from other methods that have been previously used and singles it out as a better method of catering or providing education to individuals with disabilities or inclusion. Integration or mainstreaming methods that have been previously used have been specific in their course in that they focused exclusively on disability and special education needs and prepared individuals for becoming conversant with mainstream. Inclusion however is more focused on the rights of the child to education and the duty of the school to accept the child the way he or she is. Elton-Chalcroft (2008) explains that inclusion does not use special schools or classrooms that are separate. It uses other methods such as pedagogy. Hopkins (2008) also believes that inclusion applies mostly pedagogy. He explains pedagogy as the science of education. It involves the full development of an individual so that he or she can acquire certain skills.
Inclusion therefore does not segregate between students regardless of their abilities or disabilities and they do not separate them. The British Journal of Special education explains that inclusive schools are most preferred in the UK and Scotland because of their accommodation of all students. Inclusive schools do not distinguish between normal or general education from special education but instead they include all students to learn together in one classroom. Campbell et al (2004) explains that inclusion sometimes does not include everything or everyone and it sometimes is a form of integration though not fully. This is because students with special needs are educated in regular classrooms for more than half a day. The students however usually receive special instructions or special help whenever they need it. Togerson (2003) also has the same sentiments and she explains that inclusion usually accommodates all students in a regular classroom but the specialized services are offered outside of the regular classroom.
The students will go outside the regular classroom for a few hours to access the resource rooms that cater for their needs and still go back go back to the regular classrooms. This is the partial inclusion. Full inclusion provides that the students with special needs be educated along with the normal students in the same classroom the whole day but the desired support and services are given while they are in the regular classroom. The British Journal of Special Education explains that this type of inclusion is more effective and more appropriate for the students with special needs because they do not feel excluded or looked down upon. Bennett (2003) explains that full inclusion does not require the student to leave the regular classroom and therefore they will not waste much time moving from the regular classroom to the resource rooms. They will be more focused to achieve their objectives and be more productive.
Baum field et al (2008) also agrees with Bennett and they explain that inclusion brings the specialized services and the resources needed by the students in class. They however have reservations about full inclusion and they explain that it is sometimes controversial and raises a lot of issues as it is not fully understood by most institutions neither is it implemented. Togerson (2003) explains that inclusion is not commonly used as many people do not understand it. He explains further that the number of students with disabilities who are included in the regular education programs varies depending on the place or institution and also with the nature of the disability. Hopkins (2008) postulates that inclusion is more common with students with mild disabilities as they can blend easily with normal students.
According to the International journal of inclusive education, almost all students with mild learning disabilities like dyslexia are placed in inclusive schools. Pedagogy is the education methodology that is applied in inclusive education. According to Campbell et al (2004), the process of pedagogy is based on the principle of leading the child. This means that all procedures taken should consider leading the child to be more productive and to exploit their full potential. Elton Chalcroft et al (2008) believe that the instructor has to have knowledge of the child and hence be able to manage the content of learning activities in pedagogical settings.
The pedagogical settings gives an adoptive learning environment and assists the student in developing prior knowledge and be able to integrate new knowledge using certain intelligences. For the success of inclusive education all the players have to ensure that they execute their duties effectively so as to realize the goal of inclusive education and that of pedagogy. All the players from the government, to the inclusion institutions, to teachers and even to students have to play their parts so as to ensure that the whole process is flawless and by assuming their responsibilities there will be accountability. Performance measurement procedures and policies also have to be put in place to ensure that inclusion education and pedagogy is successful Analysis of concept process of practitioner enquiry
Practitioner based enquiry as mentioned earlier is a process where teachers and other education practitioners reflect on their own institutional practice to produce assessable outcomes (Murray, 2006). In a practitioner based enquiry, processes such as reflection, consultation and self criticism take place. Teachers relate their enquiry with their occupation and therefore gain fundamental understanding of their professional practices (Murray, 2006)
As a practitioner dealing in pedagogy, observation and assessment of students in the context of ongoing classroom life is very critical in knowing whether the curricula is effective and whether the teaching methods are working properly. Collection of evidence for each indicator is mandatory for the practice of pedagogy. When collecting evidence, a practitioner has to consider what to look at, listen to or read with regards to the students so that the evidence can be as accurate and comprehensive as possible. The evidence should be collected on a criterion that the items being assessed bring about the essence of a particular desired indicator or feature. Teachers in this field are usually highly skilled in the collection and interpretation of different types of evidence. This is usually done so that they can evaluate the development of each student and know where each student is.
The collection of evidence is usually done through development of portfolios of each student. There are therefore different types of portfolios or evidence that will help the teachers know whether their students are improving or whether the teaching methods are effective. One of them is summative evidence or portfolio. This type of evidence focuses on the outcomes of the learning process and shows the level of student skills. It clearly brings out the outcomes of learning instead of the process of learning. This evidence helps in assessing the skills and knowledge that the student has gained all through the learning process. Another type of evidence used is the formative evidence which is the opposite of summative and it shows the processes of learning which a student has gone through. The summative evidence is divided into three other types that entail collection of different types of evidence in different situations in the learning process.
Competency based evidence is one of them. This evidence is collected where the curriculum is used together with the student portfolio and it contains samples of the student’s work such as books or test papers which will be used by the teacher to assess the level of skills and knowledge of the student and compare it to what the curriculum offers in a particular subject area. Negotiated portfolio or evidence can also be used in assessment of students even though it is not so common.
Evidence is usually collected based on negotiated or independent contract learning with individual students. There is also the biographic portfolio where teachers collect evidence from a history of work placement of the student. It focuses on the completion of the tasks that have been accorded to the student. Evidence from the formative portfolio includes reports to students. This contains samples of the work that the child has been doing for example test papers, quizzes. These samples are of different times of the school period so as to determine if there is a difference from the beginning of the learning process and the end of the learning process.
Collection of evidence should come hand in hand with assessment of students. The assessments have to have certain characteristics for them to be effective. One of the characteristics is that assessment should be valid. This means that the assessment should stick only to determining whether every student has achieved the expected outcome of the learning process. This is done through judgments based on the collected evidence. The assessment should also be educative and contribute positively to what the student has learnt and also to the process of learning. The assessment should also be based on transparency because these students are accurate and the outcome of their learning is very critical to them, their parents and the teachers. The assessment should not discriminate against any student but rather they should be assessed on equal grounds.
Evidence can be in other forms as well apart from the written documents that have been discussed above. The written documents are mainly the reports to parents which include the rough work of students, their tests, assignments, homework or quizzes. Other types of evidence might include face-to-face interviews, observations or multimedia presentations. Face-to-face interviews are very subjective in nature. This is because the teachers interact directly with student at a personal level and therefore they can easily determine whether the student has progressed by the way they speak, their body language, facial expressions and the way they present facts to the teacher. It is however critical to be very careful because students have different emotions and sometimes they can display a false emotion.
Observations are also important evidence even though the teachers have to be very careful not to misjudge students in the process. The teachers can observe the way the student answers questions in class, the way he interacts with the others and the way he responds to the learning process while in class. Multimedia presentations are not commonly used but t They are important types of evidence.
As a practitioner I will ensure that my educational institution has a department that runs an effective inclusion program with effective techniques and teaching methods with the use of well trained pedagogues to understand the children well and provide the specialized services that they require to attain self advocacy as normal students. The approaches to teacher education in European countries and in UK and Scotland put a lot of emphasis on what the students with disabilities or that have special needs have in common with the normal students.
Many scholars have therefore championed that the students should not be treated generally but rather focus should be put on the different types of disabilities that they have. This focus is usually brought into light by organizations which are championing for the rights of these students. The UK approach is considered more effective and it has worked in Scotland because the children with special needs will not feel like they are different from the others but rather they will feel like they are the same as others and will be able to receive the inclusive education process easily.
As a practitioner, after the implementation of the inclusive education program and pedagogy method of education, I have to ensure that I measure the performance of the program and its effects to the students either normal or with special needs. Different methods are usually used to gauge whether the students are developing and whether the inclusion program and the teaching methods are helping them. Targeting within the inclusive program has been used in the past to serve both purposes. There has been concrete evidence that the strategy used in Scotland to assess the students and measure their performance has been key in determining whether the teacher should move on to the next stage. The other reason for segmenting the students into viable target groups to provide for their needs in those groups has also proved to be difficult
For pedagogies used in inclusion programs to be effective, the teachers have to be knowledgeable and understand differentiation in the broadest sense in responding to those differences and that the curriculum has little to do with the outcome. Understanding the students deeply is very important because the instructor will know how to execute the curriculum effectively and satisfy the special needs of the students. The curriculum here is not really much important because even without the curriculum the teachers can still help the students but without the knowledgeable instructor then the curriculum cannot be executed to the benefit and satisfaction of the students. The differentiation is very wide because it considers the professional skills of the teachers in the classroom mostly and not really in the curriculum.
This means that the ability of the teacher to handle the student in the classroom and provide the much needed specialized education is much more important than his knowledge on the curriculum. Most instructors usually have problems in understanding the curriculum and therefore they cannot implement it effectively. The literature review conveys that inclusive classrooms rely on teaching programs that are implemented by teachers who have knowledge and experience with challenged students and are able to use different methods with different students. This will ensure that every student with a different special need is attended to and their needs met. Some teachers usually lack the skills and patience and even the confidence to cater to the students and to implement the curriculum to the students.
It is clear that there are a lot of challenges that come with the inclusion program institutions and different countries have different challenges. These countries have different needs and cultures and therefore the inclusion programs have to be custom made to the specification of that country. Institutions have to be careful not to go too far. Geography clearly has an impact on countries and it also has an impact on the effectiveness of the inclusion program. This is because every country is affected by different situations and different functions and therefore these factors will affect the implementation of the programs. The nature of disabilities of the students also affects the effectiveness of the inclusion program because the inclusion program and curriculum will be based on this range of disabilities
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