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Article

Fuk-chuen Ho and Cici Sze-ching Lam

Hong Kong has adopted a dual-track system of the education for students with special educational needs (SEN). The system provides a diverse school education to cater to the individual needs of students. In principle, students with SEN are encouraged to receive education in ordinary schools as far as possible. Students with severe SEN or multiple disabilities, however, can be referred to special schools for intensive support services upon the recommendation of specialists and with parents’ consent. Before the launch of the pilot scheme of integrated education in 1998, students with SEN were mostly placed in special schools. The change from a mono-track system to a dual-track system caused concerns for teachers in ordinary schools. This is because integrated education is more than placing students with SEN in ordinary classrooms. It involves a total change in the way schools and teachers operate. Teachers require the skills and background knowledge to support a diverse range of students in the classroom through ordinary classroom practices, and the ability to meet the needs of every student as an individual. In Hong Kong, most teachers have particular concerns about the short duration of training in professional development, the difficulties in the design of the curriculum and assessment differentiation under the three-tier support system, the practice of collaboration among different teaching teams, and the change of administrators’ perceptions on the education of students with SEN. The central authority and the school community should work collaboratively to deal with these pressing difficulties.

Article

Dries Vansteenkiste, Estelle Swart, Piet Van Avermaet, and Elke Struyf

Any answer to the question “What is professional development (PD) for inclusive education (IE)?” needs to be based on a deep understanding of the nature of IE. Taking fully into account its multileveled nature, encompassing inclusive practice, policy, advocacy, and philosophy, IE appears as a “glocal” phenomenon that is affected by institutions (e.g., accountability, new public management, and neoliberalism) with which it can resonate or collide, resulting in tensions within the educational field. These tensions complicate the endeavors of teachers to orient themselves and their actions because different institutions conceptualize teaching and the role of teachers differently, demanding different and sometimes conflicting things from them. Further, teachers also need to give meaning to perceived similarities, differences, and conflicts between these professionalisms and elements of their own professional identity. This results in specific concerns for teachers and imposes challenges for teachers’ agency. PD based on this understanding of IE refers to creating and exploiting spaces where the different actors involved address the complexities of, and coconstruct, a teaching profession that is inclusive. This conceptualization implies formal and informal, social and local, embedded, open-ended practices that can strengthen teacher agency. To do this, it needs to recognize the teacher as being at the center of PD. These spaces are experimental zones for the exertion of agency, incorporating transformative ideals which can involve developing a different behavior repertoire, changing the immediate professional context, or addressing contradictory institutions. As such, PD is not regarded as the prerequisite for IE, but as its consequence.

Article

Effective schools are widely recognized as those in which the adults who work there are committed to their own learning and where learning is at the heart of everything undertaken, in effect learning organizations. In such learning cultures, there is a perpetual process of change and development and such schools have become known as Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). Such PLCs are discovering that one of the most successful ways of supporting continuous development is through the use of in-house structured research which identifies relevant learning needs at all levels and strives to meet these needs through the school’s provision. In the 21st century, very few schools operate in isolation and collaboration between schools or groups of schools has become essential for their improvement and for the development of the education system as a whole. The use of in-house research both within and across schools increases the validity of both the learning and the collaboration, which, at its most effective is based on willing participation, trust, and notions of professional partnerships, where all parties are willing to learn from each other, whatever their official or apparent status. Although barriers to this development of cross-school PLCs through in-house research do exist, notably pressures from a competitive environment with a focus on measurable outcomes, a lack of resources including time, the growth of such communities is proving powerful through the use of student voice, staff involvement and leaders’ firm beliefs. Furthermore, a new kind of educational leadership is emerging which depends much less on hierarchical structures and more on openness to new ideas, acceptance that progress is often uneven and rarely simplistic, and a recognition of the importance of personal qualities of all those involved, including the leaders.

Article

Cristina Santamaría Graff and Brandon Sherman

For educators located in the Global North or South what it means to work with families in inclusive settings is often a reflection of fundamental conceptions of the very nature of schooling and learning. These conceptions, whether implicit or explicit theories, inform teacher practice, interaction, communication, and involvement when it comes to students’ parents, families, and communities. Understanding how theories of learning relate to family engagement and inclusive practices allows for (a) an accounting of established knowledge and practices and (b) more innovative future directions for engaging parents, families, and communities in schooling. Three specific theories of learning (behaviorist, sociocultural, and critical) demonstrate stark differences in how the roles of parents and family are understood in their children’s education. Each of these theoretical lenses produces different answers to the question of what it means to work with families. They entail different conceptualizations of parent/family engagement and inclusion, the challenges to this engagement and inclusion, and the tools used to address these challenges. Families can be positioned as passive recipients of knowledge, contributors to knowledge, or knowledge-makers. Regarding their child’s schooling, parents can be seen as supporters, contributors, or collaborators. They can be situated on the periphery of schooling or in the center. Contrasting and complementary elements of behavioral, sociocultural, and critical theories of learning provide insight into traditional, relational, and transformative approaches to working with families. These theoretical approaches entail practical implications as well, reflected in both standard educational practices and in extant findings in the field of educational research. This theoretical/practical approach allows for insight into why, in application, there is dissonance in perspectives among educators about how to work with families and what this work may entail and look like, and provides suggestions for how families and communities might come to play a more central role in the education of their children.

Article

Denise Mifsud

It is evident that in many educational systems there has been a partial dissolution of the traditional single school model towards more flexible modes of organizational link-up, taking the form of increased collaboration among schools. The early 21st-century climate of rapid technological change creates a need for collective knowledge creation and information sharing at classroom, school, and system level. Different forms of networks, collaboratives, and federations have become an established part of many educational landscapes and have arisen for a number of reasons. Some have been “imposed” on schools, others have been “incentivized” by the offer of external funding, but many have arisen because of the efforts of educational leaders who want to “make a difference” in their locality, which assumes their essential “good.” Within education, networks are regarded as one of the most promising levers for large-scale reform due to their potential to re-culture both the environment and the system in which policy-makers operate through increased cooperation, interconnectedness, and multi-agency. School networks contribute to capacity-building across the education service through the production of multiple solutions for potential, multifaceted, and intractable problems. Networks foster innovation, providing a test bed for new ideas while offering a platform for gradual innovation, distributing the risks and the workloads among different schools. Moreover, they provide capacity-building, reflective practice, and an inquiry frame of mind besides raising achievement and enhancing student outcomes through the sharing of resources and professional expertise. Networks enable schools to overcome their isolationism and move to form community relationships. Notwithstanding the benefits generated by collaboration, some of the ambiguities surrounding the setting up of school networks focus on: network purpose; collaborative inertia; collaboration and accountability; trust and relationships; conscription and volunteerism; identity and autonomy; competition and cooperation; lateral agency; and power inequality. There is no simple, single solution to leading networks, due to the very nature of a network making it difficult to define who its leaders are, resulting in leadership that is defined by activity rather than by formal position.

Article

Julie Gorlewski and Isabel Nuñez

Curriculum, while often conceived as a static entity delivered as a neutral set of facts arranged in disciplinary categories, is, in reality, a pedagogical artifact—a product generated as a result of decisions made by a range of stakeholders who represent different cultural imperatives linked to contested perspectives about the purposes of school. Students’ and teachers’ experiences of school, then, are dialogic performances of a curriculum that promotes various levels of power and privilege, as well as understandings of equity and diversity. Therefore, whether or not it is recognized, the curriculum delivered in schools serves to either maintain or interrupt the status quo. Given the number of students who participate in public education, curriculum contributes a great deal to shaping the national narrative. Curriculum contributes to social movements, and the nature of the curriculum determines the direction of the movement. Since curriculum development and implementation involves myriad decisions, influence is wielded by those with decision-making power. Social status and cultural capital, both of which are historically linked with political power, largely determine who makes curricular decisions, as well as how decisions are made. These conditions pose challenges for those who have been historically marginalized within educational institutions. Despite obstacles related to systemic inequities, different forms of curriculum can and do contribute to the creation and perpetuation of social movements. Moreover, educators who understand how educational institutions function, how curricular changes occur, and how curriculum can be a source of and vehicle for change can create conditions for transformative activist curricular movements.

Article

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

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

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.