A Comparative Analysis of Teachers’ Roles in Inclusive Education
Over the past decade wide agreement globally on the key principles first formulated in the Salamanca Statement (UNESCO, 1994) has encouraged the development of inclusive education by advocating the inclusion of children with diverse educational needs in the same classrooms. These changes in education have placed new demands on the teaching profession and classrooms now contain a more heterogeneous mix of students from different backgrounds and with different levels of ability and disability. The basic premise of inclusive education is that schools and classrooms are about belonging, nurturing and educating all students regardless of their differences in ability, culture, gender, language, class and ethnicity. Schools and teachers therefore need to commit to the transformation of their school communities for the implementation of inclusive education to be successful. Regarding the importance of the role of teachers, research indicates that teachers play a critical role in the implementation of inclusive education (e.g. European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education, 2009; Engelbrecht, 2006; Savolainen, 2009).
The main purpose of this Round Table is to discuss findings of a comparative research project that has been set up to produce a knowledge base to shed light on how the development of inclusive education looks from a teacher’s perspective in different countries including Finland, South Africa, Slovenia, Lithuania, China and England. It has been stressed that comparing and transplanting educational policies and practices across countries without considering the issues of context and culture has no real hope of success and this research project is based on the cultural-historical framework as suggested by Artiles and Dyson (2005). This framework will enable us to develop an understanding of a global phenomenon like inclusive education within the unique cultural and historical contexts in which inclusive education take place (Kozleski, Artiles, Fletcher, & Engelbrecht, 2007). Furthermore, a comparative analysis, within this framework will enable us to develop an understanding of variations and to identify patterns in the ways in which inclusive education, including teachers’ perspectives around the globe is shaped by societal, political, economic and cultural forces. It will also enable the researchers to discover what can contribute to improved policy and practices, in other words, learning from one another, will enable the researchers to contribute to the improvement of the role of teachers in the development of inclusive education (Artiles & Dyson, 2005).
The comparative research project proceeds in three phases and the objective of this Round Table is to compare and discuss the findings from the first phase questionnaire studies carried out in the six countries involved. The major questions discussed are:
· What are teachers’ (both pre-service and in-service teachers) sentiments, attitudes and concerns as well as perceived self-efficacy related to inclusive education?
· What personal or contextual factors predict teachers’ attitudes towards inclusion and their perceived efficacy on implementing inclusive practices?
· What are the similarities and differences in the attitudes and self-efficacy and their predictors across the countries included?
· What are the implications of the findings on teacher education?
The findings discussed are based on the questionnaires completed by a sample of 400-600 teachers in each country. In addition to the background questions on personal information and the contexts of the teachers the questionnaires include two scales
1: The Sentiments, Attitudes and Concerns about Inclusive Education Scale (SACIE) (Loreman, Earle, Sharma, & Forlin, 2007; Forlin, Cedillo, Romero-Contreras, Fletcher & Hernández 2010) which is designed for measuring three factors; sentiments, attitudes and concerns.
2: The Self-efficacy in Implementing Inclusive Practices Scale (Sharma, Loreman & Forlin 2011) is designed for measuring the perceived self-efficacy of teachers implementing inclusive education practices and contains subscales for teacher efficacy on inclusive instruction, behaviour management and collaboration.
It is likely that the scales used will be valid and reliable across countries. The first findings (Savolainen et al 2011, Malinen et al 2011) show that in Finland, South-Africa and China teachers’ attitudes are predicted best by teacher efficacy on collaboration and this finding is expected to replicate in England, Lithuania and Slovenia. Teacher efficacy is predicted by previous experiences on teaching diverse children. Implications of these findings are discussed. If inclusion is to become a reality teacher education programmes should offer more possibilities for the teacher students to experience teaching diverse students and to do and plan that in collaboration with other teachers (elementary classroom teachers, subjects teachers, special education teachers).
Artiles, A., & Dyson, A. (2005) Inclusive education in the globalization age. The promise of comparative cultural-historical analysis. In D. Mitchell (Ed.), Contextualizing Inclusive Education (pp. 37–62). Oxfordshire: Routledge.
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Savolainen, H. (2009). Responding to diversity and striving for excellence: The case of Finland. Prospects 39, 281–292.
Savolainen, H., Engelbrecht, P., Nel, M., Malinen, O. (2011) Understanding teachers’ attitudes and self efficacy in inclusive education: implications for pre-service and inservice teacher education. European Journal of Special Needs Education,DOI:10.1080/08856257.2011.613603.
Sharma, Loreman & Forlin (2011) Measuring teacher efficacy to implement inclusive practices. JORSEN. (Published online) doi: 10.1111/j.1471-3802.2011.01200.x
UNESCO. (1994). Salamanca statement and framework for action for special needs education. Paris: UNESCO.