Schools, teachers, and students are increasingly able to access and apply assistive technology to enhance inclusion within mainstream classrooms. To ensure that a classroom is truly inclusive, the teacher and other professionals involved in supporting children with disability using assistive technology require appropriate knowledge and skills to bring potential to reality. There are many successful examples of assistive technology successfully embedding into the practices of inclusive setting, but there is still some way to go to ensure this is a seamless approach. There are many benefits and difficulties associated with adopting assistive technology to support students with disability, particularly in developing countries. While the challenges may be great, the potential for assistive technology to impact significantly on the educational, social, and recreational outcomes for students with disability in inclusive classrooms is immense.
Sølvi Mausethagen, Tine Prøitz, and Guri Skedsmo
Typically involving the use of test scores, grades, and other forms of assessment in various educational contexts, the concept of data use has developed in parallel with the introduction of new managerial approaches to school governance, including performance management and accountability measures. This use of data for governance purposes is one way in which national authorities coordinate activities across administrative levels to improve education quality and effectiveness. Policymakers’ and researchers’ frequent use of the concepts of data and data use also usually parallels this development. However, based on systematic research mapping, the present findings identify differing ideas about data use in national and local contexts, including the role that data play and should play in school reform. Such differences relate to variations in school systems, teachers’ status, school governance traditions, curricular traditions, and research traditions. Moreover, characteristic of the literature on data use is an emphasis on the organization and development of effective data use practices. This is somewhat paradoxical, as both earlier and more recent studies emphasize the need for a stronger focus on the actual practices of the involved actors if data are to be of value in school development processes. Three important needs are important when considering data use in policy, research, and practice: the need for greater awareness of the epistemic aspects of data use; the need for context sensitivity, as data use is often presented as a universal concept across national and local contexts; and the need for researchers to communicate with other related fields to improve theory and practice.
Looking back at the so-called Arab Spring, one sees people across these countries where the uprisings took place (e.g., Libya) still enduring political repression and change, a growth in threats of terror, and conflicts between tribes and militias, all of which have led to constant violence and a struggle for power. Events in Libya in 2019 suggest that there is an urgent need for education about democracy—a culture of creating a positive environment among people, increasing their awareness of their community, and helping them make decisions and achieve their goals. The qualities a democratic education set out to develop such a positive environment, and undoubtedly schools should be the place where all of this should begin. However, the supreme leader of Libya (Al-Qaddafi) used education in mainstream schools as a propaganda tool for his dictatorship; perhaps this is why the role of schools in Libya has been far removed from cultivating the practices necessary to maintain democratic values. Hence, the idea of democracy was not fostered from within its mainstream school system. A strong need exists to move away from schools that reproduce authoritarianism and toward schools that consciously encourage the notions of democratic skills, values, and behaviors within the classroom and the school as a whole. At present, mainstream schools in Libya are still predominantly organized along authoritarian, hierarchical, and bureaucratic lines; consequently, they continue teaching obedience and submission rather than encouraging freedom of thought and responsibility. The traditional methods of teaching, which focus on rote learning to pass exams instead of fostering creative and independent thinking, are still heavily used. Thus, teachers have a moral responsibility to use education to advocate for democracy, empowering students to learn about democratic values and prepare them to participate in democracy and become better citizens.
Lori Beckett and Amanda Nuttall
The case story of a local struggle in the north of England by research-active teachers to raise their collective voice and advocate for more realistic policies and practices in urban schools is one which premises teacher activism. A school–university partnership initiative exemplifies how teachers, school heads, school leaders, and academic partners can work together to address disadvantaged students’ lives, learning needs, and schooling experiences. The practitioners’ participation in an intensive, research-informed project to build teachers’ knowledge about poverty effects on teaching and learning was successful in the yield of teacher inquiry projects which were published. However, teachers’ efforts to combat student disaffection and under-achievement were deprecated with a lack of system support to the point where democratic impulse and social justice goals were weakened. It would be a misnomer to describe these teachers’ professional intellectual and inquiry work as activist, but they did engage in transformative practices. This led to the production of new knowledge and teachers working collectively toward school—and community—improvement, but it was not enough to effect policy advocacy. Professional knowledge building as a foundation of teacher activism is foregrounded in the matter of trust in teachers. To agitate for change and action in a vernacular neoliberal climate means to fight for teachers’ and academics’ voices to be heard.
Shridevi Rao, Nadya Pancsofar, and Sarah Monaco
A rich literature on family-professional collaboration with families and caregivers of children and youth with disabilities has developed in the United States. This literature identifies key barriers that impede family-professional relationships including deficit-based perceptions of families and children with disabilities, narrow definitions of “family” that limit the participation of some members such as fathers or grandparents, and historical biases that constrain the participation of culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) families. Principles for building collaborative relationships with families include honoring the strengths of the family, presuming competence in the child and the family, valuing broad definitions of “family,” and understanding the ecology of family routines and rituals. Practices that help facilitate family-professional relationships are building reciprocal partnerships with various caregivers in the family including fathers as well as extended family members, adopting a posture of cultural reciprocity, using a variety of modes of communication with families, and involving families in all aspects of the special education process such as assessment, planning, prioritizing of skills, and identification of interventions. Pivotal moments in the family’s journey through their child’s schooling, including early intervention and transition to post-school environments, provide opportunities to build and strengthen family-professional relationships. Each of these moments has the potential to involve families in a variety of processes including assessment, planning, and articulating the goals and vision for their child/youth. A focus on strengths, collaborative partnerships, and family agency and voice is at the core of strong family-professional relationships.
Michelle D. Young
Standards are used in a variety of professional fields to identify core elements of practice within the field as well as to describe a desired level of performance. The first set of standards for the field of educational leadership in the United States was introduced in 1996 by the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium (ISLLC). Since then, they have become the de facto national standards for educational leaders. The ISLLC standards have been updated three times and were recently renamed Professional Standards for School Leaders (PSEL) under the authority of the National Policy Board for Educational Administration (NPBEA). Over this same period of time, multiple sets of sister standards (e.g., standards for leadership preparation) have emerged as have evaluation tools and practice resources. Soon after their release, a variety of concerns were raised about the standards and their potential impact on the practice of education leadership, particularly school level leadership. Some argued that the standards were too broad, while others argued that they were too specific. Similarly, concerns were raised about the focus of the standards and what was left out or only weakly included. These and other concerns continued to plague newer versions of the standards. Concerns notwithstanding, today, educational leadership standards are fully embedded in the lifeworld of the educational leadership profession. They have been adopted and adapted by states, districts, professional organizations, and accrediting bodies and used in a variety of ways, including: setting expectations for educational leadership preparation and practice, state certification, leadership recruitment, professional development and support, and evaluating leadership practice.
Evageloula A. Papadatou
The effective operation of a school unit relies on various factors, the most critical of which is leadership, as it this which shapes the working environment through which the school succeeds or fails. Indeed, an effective leader can inspire vision and promote educational policy in the interests of the school and other stakeholders. This leadership role in schools is undertaken by head teachers, who are called to act as supervisors of the school’s human resources in parallel with their purely administrative work. In order for school leaders to achieve these outcomes, however, they must be adequately trained so as to be competent in undertaking the arduous task of leading a school unit. Consequently, in order for school leaders to carry out their daunting tasks successfully—in other words, achieve the best possible results with the fewest sacrifices and least effort—they must possess certain knowledge and aptitudes. For this reason, the staffing of the school units in any country (and hence in Greece) with capable school leaders should be the top priority of the State, while measures should be taken to ensure that the processes for selecting school leaders and for their professional development remain objective and systematic, if the country intends to implement an educational policy efficiently and effectively. Taking into account that the school leader is not born but becomes, and that school leaders are central to the administration of a country’s educational system, it is vital that a system of selection and development of schools’ head teachers be institutionalized.
Jane Jones and Viv Ellis
Development is a keyword in the vocabulary of teacher education research. Keywords are high-frequency words and phrases that while bringing people together in conversation are nonetheless sites of significant contestation in the field. At its most basic level, in the phrase “teacher development,” development can refer either to the development of the teacher (personal-professional formation) or to the development of the practice (teaching). Adopting descriptive categories from literacy research to delineate “simple” and “complex” views on the underlying questions of development, it becomes clear that, within such a dichotomous construction, “simple” approaches are insufficient either to describe or to plan for becoming a teacher and experiencing growth in professional practice. Underpinning these “simple” and “complex” views in the research on teacher education, divergent perspectives on formation (e.g., the “natural born teacher” vs. becoming through struggling with an identity) and learning (e.g., high-intensity training in “moves” vs. complex trajectories of participation in social practices and the growth of critical reflexivity). Thus, in the research literature, it is possible to discern critical-humanistic and also techno-rationalist clusters of meaning: optimistic yet expansive understandings of learning and change alongside well-intentioned oversimplifications of inherently contingent and uncertain situations. Navigating these clusters is consequential for how the work of teaching and of educating teachers can be understood. Indeed, the vocabulary of teacher education research needs to be examined much more closely so that, by interrogating keywords such as development, new spaces for a more critical deliberation of becoming a teacher and for more transformative practices of both teaching and teacher education can be stimulated.
Diane Mayer, Wayne Cotton, and Alyson Simpson
The past decade has seen increasing federal intervention in teacher education in Australia, and like many other countries, more attention on teacher education as a policy problem. The current policy context calls for graduates from initial teacher education programs to be classroom ready and for teacher education programs to provide evidence of their effectiveness and their impact on student learning. It is suggested that teacher educators currently lack sufficient evidence and response to criticisms of effectiveness and impact. However, examination of the relevant literature and analysis of the discourses informing current policy demonstrate that it is the issue of how effectiveness is understood and framed, and what constitutes evidence of effectiveness, that needs closer examination by both teacher educators and policymakers before evidence of impact can be usefully claimed—or not.
One of the ultimate goals in improving students’ quality of life is to provide them with quality learning experiences in schools. This goal has led many developed and developing countries to establish educational policies that encourage school practitioners to implement systems and practices that maximize students’ positive outcomes in both special education and inclusive school settings. Policy initiatives have influenced schoolwide practices and processes in many ways to change the requirements of schools and implement new approaches. Schools are directed by policies and then either strengthen or hinder implementation. Translating policies into practices can be sometimes complex and difficult. Many schools are faced with implementation failure due to a variety of factors, ranging from teacher problems with confidence, skills, and knowledge or issues in adapting to the changed practices of larger systems. Meeting these challenges requires the involvement of teachers, schools, stakeholders, and policymakers to close the gaps between existent policies and actual school practices. One promising approach to closing the gaps is known as implementation science, which is centered on a systematic process to promote the adaptation of research-based practices and other evidence-based policies into a regular routine. Core components include ongoing coaching, staff selection and training, and support systems. These components need to be employed and sustained at a high level for successful implementation. To achieve better outcomes, schools and all stakeholders require a systematic process of transferring policies. Stages of implementation considered as a formal protocol include exploration, installation, initial implementation, full implantation, innovation, and sustainability. Community-wide efforts are required to improve the uptake and effectiveness of policies in school contexts.