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Diversity and Inclusion and Special Education  

Chris Forlin and Dianne Chambers

Special education has undergone continued transformation since societies began to provide an increasing number of specialized, segregated facilities for children with like needs during the 20th century. Since then, there has been a worldwide movement against a segregated approach and toward greater inclusion of students with disabilities into regular schools. The provision of a dual special education and regular school system, nevertheless, remains in existence, even though there has been a strong emphasis on a more inclusive approach since the latter half of the 20th century. As regular schools become more inclusive and teachers more capable of providing appropriate modifications for most students with learning needs, simultaneously there has been an increase in the number of students whose needs are so severe that schools have not been able to accommodate them. While these children and youth have special needs, they are invariably not related to an identified disability but fall more into a category of diversity. In particular, students who are excluded from schools due to severe infringements, those who are disenfranchised from school and refuse to attend, and those with severe emotional, behavioral, or mental health issues are not being serviced by the existing dual system. For these students neither existing special schools that cater to students with disabilities nor regular inclusive schools provide an appropriate education. The provision of a complementary and alternatively focused education to cater to the specific needs of these marginalized students seems to be developing to ensure sustainability of education and to prepare these new groups of students for inclusion into society upon leaving school. This tripartite approach highlights a new era in the movement toward a sustainable, inclusive education system that caters to the needs of all students and specifically those with the most challenging and diverse requirements.

Article

Dual Certification Programs  

Linda Blanton and Marleen Pugach

Dual certification refers to a teaching license both for general primary and/or secondary education and special needs education simultaneously. This term is unique to the United States, where licensure policy has traditionally offered options for teacher candidates to earn an initial stand-alone license in either general or special needs education, and contrasts with initial teacher education policy patterns outside the United States, where teachers are not typically permitted to earn an initial license for special needs education alone. Various forms of dual certification have existed in the United States for many decades, but until recently they were not the norm. Contemporary teacher educators and policymakers in the United States have adopted and encouraged dual certification as a way of supporting the preparation of teachers for effective inclusive teaching. As a result, dual certification is viewed as a means of restructuring and expanding the entirety of the preservice, initial teacher education curriculum to become highly responsive both to the increasing diversity of students and to the wider range and more complex needs of students who struggle in school, among them students with special needs. Because dual certification addresses the vital question of how best to prepare initial teachers for inclusive teaching, its fundamental, underlying concerns transcend specific national structural or policy issues regarding licensure. Instead, dual certification reflects a focus on the content of initial teacher preparation writ large regarding what kinds of redesigned, reconceptualized clinical, course, and curricular experiences might be most effective in preparing teachers for high-quality inclusive teaching practice. Dual certification calls into question the nature of teacher expertise, challenging basic beliefs about where the responsibility of general education teachers ends and where that of special needs education teachers begins. In this way, dual certification can be viewed as a specific national policy vehicle that addresses common international concerns for developing appropriate preservice curricula that are responsive to the demands of inclusive educational practice. Implementing dual certification is not without its challenges, however, as reflected in some of the early and ongoing attempts at implementation. Therefore, it is critical both to anticipate potential pitfalls as well as to identify potential solutions that are appropriate to the fundamental purposes of preparing teachers for inclusive practice.

Article

Effective Practices for Collaborating With Families and Caregivers of Children and Young Adults With Disabilities  

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.

Article

Preparation of German Special Educators for the 21st Century  

Rolf Werning and Myriam Hummel

The implementation of inclusive education in school systems creates new working conditions for all professionals. As a consequence, roles and responsibilities need to be redefined between general education teachers and special educators, and teacher education must be reformed to prepare professionals for the working environment they face in the 21st century. Three theoretical approaches guide the current discourse on teacher education. The competence theory approach focuses on the identification and acquisition of specific competencies. The structural theory approach stresses the importance of dealing with uncertainties and antinomies in the teaching profession. The professional biographical approach highlights the ongoing process of individual professionalization and includes biographical research. Taking the changing working environment into account, a three-pillar model is suggested for teacher education of future primary and secondary teachers, primary and secondary teachers with a focus on special education, and special educators as external support for schools.

Article

Preparing Teachers for Collaborative Classrooms  

David Duran and Ester Miquel

Many educational reforms highlight the need for collaboration, understood not only as a competence to be learned but also as a way of learning and teaching. Two types of collaboration can be found in classrooms: peer collaboration and teacher collaboration. The first focuses on how the teacher restructures interactions between pupils organized in pairs or groups. This permits cooperative learning practices, either by peer tutoring or through systems of cooperative learning. By implementing peer collaboration, the teacher is able to develop a new and transformative role which facilitates functions such as continuous assessment or immediate personalized attention, which are more difficult to carry out in environments where a traditional teaching approach is used. However, both the organization of the classroom for peer collaboration and this new teaching role require teacher training. Experiential learning is a key aspect of the training. Different levels of teacher collaboration exist, but the most complete is co-teaching: two teachers planning, implementing, and assessing the same lesson for a group of students. Co–teaching allows teachers to attend to the individual needs of their students; that is why it is such an important tool in inclusive education. Furthermore, it is a learning tool for teachers. Co-teachers can foster mutual observation, reflection, and planning of innovative practices, making working together a form of professional development. However, to ensure that pupils receive better attention and that teachers learn from each other, there has to be teacher training, and again, it must be addressed from an experimental perspective.

Article

School-Led Programs of Teacher Training in England Versus Northern Europe  

Alaster Douglas

Models of teacher education that involve close links between teachers in schools and teacher educators in universities have become commonplace, developed in response to changing educational-policy contexts of many governments worldwide. Reforms to teacher education in the U.K. since the late 20th century, and especially in England since 2010, have shifted control and content of pre-service teacher learning from the university to the school classroom. The process of increasingly centralized control of initial teacher education in England has been mirrored only partially elsewhere in the U.K. and Europe. Teacher-education policy in England has become more school-focused, while many European countries and other nations have extended the process of placing teacher education under the auspices of universities. The findings of a 2015 national review on teacher education in England reflect the contested place of universities in teacher education and proffer a view of the dominant constructions of knowledge for teaching being practical and focused around the immediate demands of contemporary practice in schools. In England a fragmentation of the school system and of the numerous routes into teaching further weakens the conditions through which teacher knowledge is constituted. Changes in school governance, for example, have meant that some schools are no longer required to employ teachers with qualified teacher status. This makes school leaders and school governors crucially placed to facilitate alternative experiences for new teachers learning how to teach, and significantly changes the landscape of teacher education. For example, a former head teacher quoted on the National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers website has dedicated her career to “growing your own” when it comes to educating new teachers. Influences from the continental European policy of countries such as Finland and Portugal, where all teacher education is at Masters’ degree level, and Norway and the Netherlands, which have made significant policy moves in this direction, have not impacted on current teacher-education policy in England. In England teaching remains a graduate profession. However, it is the differences in teacher-education processes which are the main focus of this article. The Department for Education in England has increased school-led provision in teacher education because, according to the Department, it wants schools to have greater autonomy over how they deliver teacher education. Perhaps most attractive to schools is the possibility of educating teachers “on the job,” as this helps to fill teaching positions in a climate of growing teacher shortage. However, little research has been undertaken on the new role of the school-based teacher educator and how their work is being enacted in schools. The complexity of demands and expectations on school-based teacher educators signals the need for clarity on what this role involves. Such concerns drive new research and raise questions about the nature of teacher education in England and the role of the academy within it.

Article

Students at the Center of Education Reform in Singapore  

A. Lin Goodwin and Ee Ling Low

In 2011, “student-centric, values-driven” was introduced by the Ministry of Education as the theme for educational reform and innovation in Singapore, with the goal of ensuring all children the opportunity to develop holistically and maximize their potential. To actualize this ambitious and encompassing vision, Singapore has developed the Framework for 21st Century Competencies and Student Outcomes. By instilling in students core values and competencies deemed crucial in the 21st century, the expectation is that they can each grow into a confident person, a self-directed learner, an active contributor, and a concerned citizen. To achieve these desired outcomes of education, Singapore has been striving to ensure what has been termed “the 4 Everys”: every school a good school; every child an engaged learner; every teacher a caring educator; every parent a supportive partner. Since then, the priority of education in multicultural, multiracial, and multilingual Singapore has been diversity and multiple pathways to success, such that each individual child can reach his or her potential. Key to every good school is the quality of teachers and school leaders. Therefore, Singapore has developed a comprehensive and structured system in teacher/principal recruitment, deployment, preparation, and development. To make every school a good school, Singapore also invests heavily in education and resources schools for them to provide customized programs to satisfy the varied needs, interests, and talents of their students. To ensure that every child is an engaged learner, educational resources and extra learning support are provided to maximize educational opportunities. The curriculum is also constantly revamped to provide students with more opportunities for holistic development and support for their many capacities. For every teacher to emerge as a caring educator, teachers and school leaders are provided with a comprehensive and structured mentoring system to enable them to grow personally and professionally. To help every parent to be a supportive partner, efforts have been made to communicate with, engage, and educate parents via education materials, workshops, talks, and funds. In addition, there are close partnerships among schools, parents, and communities. Three principles guide Singapore’s education reforms: (a) maintaining a clear and progressive vision, (b) working both systemically and systematically, and (c) equitable leveling up. What binds the nation’s core principles of ensuring a progressive, long-haul vision of education is the unwavering belief that students sit at the center of all educational reform endeavors.

Article

Teacher Education in Germany  

Ewald Terhart

The structure of teacher education in Germany has to be regarded in close connection with the structure of the German school system. Five different types of teachers (five Lehrämter) correspond to the several levels and types of schools in Germany. All teachers are educated and trained as part of a process consisting of two phases: During the first phase of five years, all future teachers attend university and study their two or three specialized subjects as well as education, while carrying out internships in schools. After that, they pass over to the second phase at a specialized teacher-training institution that prepares them for the necessities of practical classroom teaching in their subjects. This second phase lasts one-and-a-half or—in three of the sixteen German Länder—up to two years. Having passed the final state examination they apply for an available position at a school. The system of initial teacher education in Germany is very intensive and ambitious; on the contrary, the in-service or further education of teachers is not very well developed. This article sketches the basic structure of teacher education in Germany. As Germany is a federal state consisting of 16 Länder, and as school and teacher education matters are decided at the level of these Länder, each Land has its specific teacher education system, slightly different from the general model. Teacher education has been and is criticized constantly: the courses at university are not sufficiently connected to the requirements of the second phase and the later work the students must carry out in schools. Because of this constant critique teacher education is continuously being reformed. As part of a general reform of the higher education system, teacher education was integrated into the bachelor’s-master’s system (the Bologna process). Not all hopes linked to this reform have come to fruition. Some other reforms deserve a mention. In the universities, Centers for Teacher Education have been established to organize and supervise all processes and actors involved in teacher education. Internships in schools have been expanded and restructured. Standards for all curricular elements of teacher education have been developed on the level of the federate state and have been adopted in Länder and universities very slowly. In some of the Länder, the differing lengths and academic levels of the different teacher education programs for the different types of teachers (Lehrämter), which formerly led to different salary levels and career opportunities, have in parts been graded up to the top level. Nevertheless, teacher education in Germany is characterized by profound and persistent problems. All resources and hopes are still directed toward initial teacher education. In-service teacher education remains underdeveloped. The career system of qualified teachers in service does not mirror the career path of a teacher; in-service training does not respond to the processes and problems of individual teacher development. The changing conditions in the labor market for teachers undermine efforts to improve the quality of teacher education in a sustainable way. On the positive side, it can be noted that in Germany—and worldwide—research on teacher education, its processes and results has grown rapidly in the last two decades.

Article

Teacher Education in Poland  

Joanna Madalinska-Michalak

Teacher education in Poland is viewed as a lifelong journey, encompassing preservice training, induction, and ongoing professional development. The primary emphasis is on empowering teachers as perpetual learners and tailoring their education to meet individual needs, as well as the needs of educational institutions and students. In Poland, teacher education is deeply integrated with higher education and has been shaped by substantial reforms. The current landscape of teacher education in Poland is a result of significant reforms initiated by the state, aligning with the Bologna process. The Bologna process aims to harmonize higher education systems across Europe by establishing the European Higher Education Area. This facilitates student and staff mobility, enhances inclusivity and accessibility, and boosts the competitiveness of European higher education globally. The changes in teacher education in Poland have also emphasized quality assurance, qualifications frameworks, recognition processes, and more. The overarching objective is to elevate the quality of teaching and learning. Comparative analysis of Poland’s teacher education system and international findings suggests several policy initiatives that should be implemented. These initiatives can be broadly categorized into two sets: strategies aimed at improving the status and competitiveness of the teaching profession, and targeted approaches for attracting and retaining specific types of teachers, particularly in specific schools. To enhance teacher education in Poland, recommendations include limiting the number of teacher education candidates based on demand, increasing funding, and implementing more selective admission processes within higher education institutions. Moreover, strengthening support for teacher mentors and improving the socioprofessional position of teachers is seen as essential. Attracting and recruiting the best teachers in Poland is a critical challenge, particularly in the face of emerging trends and teacher shortages. To address this issue effectively, it is essential to improve the image of the teaching profession, enhance working conditions, and provide incentives for aspiring educators. Additionally, more flexible teacher education programs that accommodate a diverse range of candidates and prepare teachers for the changing educational landscape are necessary to ensure a continuous supply of high-quality teachers.