With the onset of inclusive education in Antigua and Barbuda, effective special and inclusive education practice in schools, and the training and ongoing professional development of teachers in the education of children with special educational needs and disabilities, has become a major issue. It is proposed that research is necessary to investigate the issue of teacher preparation and effective practices for special and inclusive education at the Jennings Primary School. The issue of providing training for teachers working with children with learning difficulties and disabilities has long been a concern across countries of the English speaking Caribbean (Hornby, Hall, & Ribeiro, 2000; Pedro & Conrad, 2006).
The research would be mainly focused on identifying, examining, outlining and promulgating classroom applications in inclusive settings to such a degree that teachers at the Jennings Primary school can put into effect inclusive practices across the board in their classrooms. Every effort will be made to select definitive examples of a high standard of practices and to delineate them in an organized way.
The research question formulated in this study for exploration is which practice will be successful in contrasting inclusive classroom settings and which factors contribute towards effective practices? Qualitative research will be carried out in this study. This research needs to be conducted because there is a need for a community of best practices for effective classroom practices for teachers who teach in inclusive settings. Providing training for teachers is a particular challenge due to lack of funding and extremely limited resources. However, with the formation of a community of best practices, this will aid in the transfer of knowledge and the maximization of good classroom practices in an inclusive setting. The government of Antigua and Barbuda, inclusive of the Ministry of Education, has begun the process of training educators in the field of special education.
Teachers have been offered scholarships for degrees in Bachelors in Educational Services with a focus on special education. According to the Minister of Education, “this is in recognition, that a trained educator who is regularly exposed to professional development and best practices is most apt for positively impacting student learning.” The different types of resources available to teachers can be deduced from the microeconomics of teaching (Brown and Saks, 1980; Gerber and Semmel, 1985). In these theories the term ‘resources’ refers not only to teaching methods and materials but also to time available for instruction and to the knowledge and skills of teachers acquired through training and experience. All these resources can be used when handling differences in classrooms.
Well documented research on students with high incidence disabilities have found that instructional practices and curricular efforts has resulted in improved learner outcomes. The effectiveness of good inclusive practices have been clearly established. The principal part of empirical evidence as it relates to students with low incidence disabilities, is considerably fewer but still subscribes to an inclusive setting where a varied use of instructional strategies is a benefit. Supplemental methods that have evolved in revamped learner outcomes in inclusive classrooms encompasses the use of materials other than grade level textbooks in the area of social studies (Gersten, Baker, Smith-Johnson, Dimino, & Peterson, 2006) and engaging in an inquiry-based approach to science with a focus on varied ways of transmitting learning (Pulincsar, Magnusson, Collins, & Cutter, 2001).
Background to the study
Establishing an inclusive classroom fraternity means enacting practices where all students, notwithstanding their cognitive or academic standing, have opportunities to be incorporated into the general education classroom. There are a large number of children with special educational needs already included into the public education systems in almost every country in the Caribbean Des Santos (2001).
A similar study to my intended research was found in the International Journal of Inclusive Education, entitled Special and inclusive education in the Eastern Caribbean: Policy practice and provision. This study discussed research carried out by the authors and reports on the implementation of the Reform Strategy and on the barriers to inclusive education that persisted in the region.
It brought to the forefront the issue that in the Caribbean there was a concern about teaching methods in the field of Literacy and mathematics (Jules and Panne-flek 2000). They went on to state that for children with special needs in an inclusive classroom, teachers believe that they do not have the requisite skills and knowledge required for teaching them.
Aims and objectives
It is the aim of this study to describe the different approaches to good inclusive practices and to make them available for teachers at the Jennings Primary School. Additionally, the research will have the following specific objectives:
? Examine the implementation of inclusive education practice at the Jennings Primary School.
? Identify the practical opportunities for the provision of inclusive educational practice at the Jennings Primary School.
? Identify the practical challenges to apply inclusive educational practices in this school.
The objective of developing and recommending modes of training for teachers who teach in this setting is of significant importance.
The research is expected to answer the following basic questions.
? How do teachers of the Jennings Primary School implement inclusive classroom practices?
? What are the best practices for the realization of inclusive education in this school?
? What are the practical challenges for the provision of inclusive education in this school?
? Why are inclusive practices difficult to develop?
? How do teachers perceive their roles in supporting inclusion?
? How might teacher education contribute to the development of inclusive practices?
? What do inclusive school cultures look and feel like to teachers in primary schools?
? What arrangements and factors within the context of the curriculum (classroom practices, teaching methods, educational organization and so) are considered as essential for helping children with special needs in inclusive classrooms?
Purpose and Significance
The inspiration for this study is to probe classroom practices in an inclusive setting and propose training for teachers at the Jennings primary school. Time was spent discussing the goals and aims of this research and particularly the quandary of whether I wanted to evaluate ‘best’ practices or ‘everyday’ practice, and whether I generally wanted to strengthen inclusive practice or improve the teacher’s perceptions through training, about the practice of inclusion. Within special education, this distinct interest is fully connected because the focal point is directly on the practical practices in inclusive education. Preferably, other than a one-size-fits-all advance towards the delivery of pedagogy, classroom practices must be modified and reshaped to fit the special experience that is inclusive education. At the Jennings Primary school, there is a clear need for teachers to be assisted in constructing an inclusive classroom and developing good inclusive classroom practices.
A detailed literature review of studies found most teachers had either neutral of negative attitudes about inclusive education (de Boer, Pijl, ; Minnaert, 2011). Teachers at the Jennings primary share similar attitudes mainly because they do not feel that they are very knowledgeable, competent, or confident about how to educate students with special needs. To be effective in an inclusive setting, teachers require a good grasp of best practices in teaching and of adapted instruction for students with special needs; but positive attitudes toward inclusion are also among the most important for creating an inclusive classroom that works (Savage ; Erten, 2015).
The specifics generated from this study will be used to prove that classroom practices must be customized and altered to fit the unique experience that is inclusive education. It is the purpose of this study to delineate these divergent approaches and to make them accessible for others. In addition, it is hoped that this research will be the catalyst of a developing body of research into the matter of teacher preparation and successful practices for special and inclusive education.
Definition of terms
Action research: Corey (1953) defined action research as the process through which educators study their own practice to solve their personal practical problems.
Paradigm: Willis (2007) explains that: “A paradigm is thus a comprehensive belief system, world view, or framework that guides research and practice in a field” (p.8). From a philosophical perspective, a paradigm comprises a view of the nature of reality (i.e., ontology) – whether it is external or internal to the knower; a related view of the type of knowledge that can be generated and standards for justifying it (i.e., epistemology); and a disciplined approach to generating that knowledge (i.e., methodology).
Post-Positivist Paradigm: Willis (2007) describes it is a “milder form of positivism “that follows the same principles but allows more interaction between the researcher and his/her research participants. It uses additional methods such as survey research and qualitative methods such as interviewing and participant observation (Creswell, 2008).
Inclusive pedagogy: defined as an approach intended to promote a culture of accommodating all and ensuring practice based on the use of diverse teaching strategies (Corbett, 2001).
Inclusion: Inclusion is not just about placing students with disabilities in to mainstream classrooms. It recognizes that all children have individual needs, and that teachers who are trained to facilitate an inclusive classroom, can better meet the needs of all children (Tomlinson, 1996).
Special Needs Education: is an education system that aims at all children and young people of the world, with their individual strengths and weakness, with their hopes and expectations, have the right to education. It is not the education systems that have a right to certain types of children. Therefore, it is the school system of a country that must be adjusted to meet the needs of all children (Bridge ; Moss, 1999).
Scope of Study
This study will look at the best practices found in inclusive classrooms/schools and examine the need for adequate training of teachers in inclusive practices. It is expected that the findings of this study will be used implement good inclusive classroom practices at the Jennings Primary School. Due to access and funding constraints, this research will be limited to the Jennings Primary. Moreover the focus of this study will be an inclusion versus mainstream issue. The goal is to examine best practices found in inclusive classrooms/schools.
This literature review will point out the importance of inclusive educational practices, which will be taken from careful examination of differing inclusive policies regionally and internationally. Relevant literature concerning the training of teachers in inclusive classroom practices will also be examined.
The inclusive education movement has been endorsed internationally by UNESCO’s Salamanca Statement (UNESCO, 1994) and reflects the United Nation’s global strategy of Education for All (Farrell and Ainscow, 2002). Rouse (2007), suggest that developing effective inclusive practice is not only about extending teachers’ knowledge, but also encouraging them to do things differently and getting them to reconsider their attitudes and beliefs. Forlin (2001), found that teachers had expressed concerns about their lack of preparation for inclusion and for teaching all learners. Many researchers have carried out action research initiatives to broaden inclusion and inclusive practices. There have been many promising outcomes. However, there were some studies that encountered barriers such as negative attitudes. Like all excellent educational practices, the development of inclusive classroom/school practices should be an evolving process. This process should be monitored and evaluated in order to meet the criterion of an evidence based practice.
According to Farrell (1997), Various teaching strategies intended to modify learner behaviour are applied to support learners in the teaching and learning process; for example, the differentiated approach to teaching; reciprocal teaching; scaffolding instruction; the use of technology to aid inclusion; multiple intelligence; multi-level instruction; and multi-sensory instruction. Teachers have to vary their teaching according to the needs of the learners. Promoting inclusion in the classroom may require the teacher to analyse which strategies best promote inclusion. Sebba and Ainscow (1992) argue that the use of different teaching approaches could enhance inclusion. For instance, collaborative teaching is seen as an important prerequisite for inclusion to take place (Boyle et al., 2012; Loreman, Deppeler and Harvey, 2005; Walsh, 2012). Additionally, some researchers have found that ‘it is very necessary for teachers to be well-equipped with comprehensive repertoire knowledge, skills, techniques and strategies that will enable them to make use out of and apply when they efficiently promote individual learning as well as development of each child under different situations, or conditions (Carrington ; MacArthur, 2012).’
In a study conducted in Latin America, Vaillant (2011) pointed out that teacher education was an urgent challenge towards inclusion within Latin American education system. Though an importance of teacher education was widely acknowledged in Latin America, an inadequacy of current reforms still existed due to a lack of training for teachers (Vaillant, 2011).
A similar study was carried out by Rouse (2007), on Developing Inclusive Practice: A Role for Teachers and Teacher Education. This study addressed concerns that the policy of inclusion was difficult to implement because teachers were not sufficiently well prepared and supported to work in inclusive ways. The study reviewed some of the barriers to the development of successful inclusive schools and suggested that one way of overcoming those difficulties was through the use of the Inclusive Practice Project (IPP).
In a summary report entitled ‘Inclusive Education and Classroom Practices’, dated March 2003, the European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education, carried out case studies in 15 European countries. These case studies revealed that the following conditions seemed to have played a central role for inclusive classroom practices:
? Teachers need a repertoire of skills, expertise, knowledge, pedagogical approaches, adequate teaching methods and materials and time if they are to address diversity effectively within their classrooms.
? Governments should express a clear view on inclusion and provide adequate conditions, which allows a flexible use of resources.
? And factors that are effective for inclusive classroom practices are :
a) Co-operative teaching
b) Co-operative learning
c) Collaborative problem solving
d) Heterogeneous grouping and
e) Effective teaching
The study will be done in three phrases. The first phase will examine literature review on the current state of the technique of effective inclusive practices within the Caribbean and the wider world. The goal of examining literature will be to reveal what practices are working in inclusive settings. The second phase will be made up of interviews and focus groups to reflect on a range of talking points associated with students with special needs. The focus will be placed on what the participants did, what they considered to be successful and what their “best” practices were. In the culminating phase, I will strive to select concrete examples of good practices and to describe them in a logical way. This framework will enable the Jennings Primary school to consider the practices associated with successful inclusive education in relation to their own context.
A school-wide action research will be undertaken. The target group for this study is defined as all those who have the capacity to have an effect on practices in education. The sample size will be composed of twenty-six teachers, who are a part of the staff at the Jennings primary school. It may be required to compose an adequately large sample to enable in-depth analysis. Non-probability sampling will be used for this study, specifically, purposive sampling. My reason for choosing this type of non-probability sampling is because I want to choose a sample group which is selective and suitable with the aim of the study in order to provide the best answers for the research questions. Basit (2010) additionally mentions that this means of sampling is beneficial and favourable for any researcher whose study is small-scale since she or he knows precisely what kind of sample is needed and how it should be approached and accessed.
Data collection will be through qualitative methods such as observation, semi-structured interviews, and taking field notes. Interview is used as a research method of collecting qualitative data in this study. The semi-structured interview will be used in this study to provide a systematic guideline covering a set of reflective questions which will help to formulate in the response to collecting data that would enable me to answer the key research questions. Informed consent will be sought. Questions being formulated for the interview will be open ended because according to Creswell (2012), this type of questions enables participant to overtly express and describe how they see, think and feel about circumstances that has happened in reality. Interview questions were created based on the reviewed literature. Audio recordings will be done while interviews are being conducted.
The quality standards of this paradigm are objectivity, validity and reliability, which can be modified with the use of methods and theories. In order to maintain internal validity, interview questions will be based on the literature review with the expectation of collecting data from these questions. This will also enhance reliability. A report will be written which contains both the examples of good practices that can be drawn out from the literature review and guidance of training that can be made accessible to teachers. This report will be written based on the guidelines and principle of reflexivity. This is to eliminate any bias and focus only on facilitating the research.
Within Antigua there has been a growing call for inclusion within the school system. A major concern about inclusion is that the policy is difficult to implement due to teachers not being effectively trained in the area of special education. What happens in the classroom is heavily dependent on the crucial role of the teacher.
In developing constructive inclusive practice in the classrooms at Jennings Primary, teachers not only have to expand their knowledge but also change the way they do things (their practice). Teachers would earnestly benefit from professional development courses which would enhance their knowledge and skills in the area of pedagogy in an inclusive classroom. This research will enable teachers to use evidence based best practices and pivot their knowledge into action.
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Special and inclusive education in the Eastern Caribbean: Policy practice and provision (PDF Download Available). Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/248988469_Special_and_inclusive_education_in_the_Eastern_Caribbean_Policy_practice_and_provision accessed Mar 17 2018.