Inclusive education is a widely accepted pedagogical and policy principle, but its genesis has been long and, at times, difficult. For example, in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights included statements about rights and freedoms that have, over the decades, been used to promote inclusive educational practices. Article 26 of the Declaration stated that parents “have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.” This declaration later helped some parent groups and educators to advocate for equal access to schooling in regular settings, and for parental choice about where their child would be educated. Following the widespread influence of the human rights-based principle of normalization, the concept of inclusive education received major impetus from the Education of All Handicapped Children Act in the United States in 1975, the United Nations (UN) International Year of Disabled Persons in 1981, and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2006. A major focus of the UN initiatives has been the right of people with a disability to participate fully in society. This focus has obvious consequences for the way education is provided to students with a disability or other additional educational needs. For many years, up to the last quarter of the 20th century, the major focus for such students was on the provision of separate specialized services, with limited attention to the concept of full participation in society. Toward the end of the 20th century and into the 21st century, there has been increasing acceptance, through parental action, systemic policy, and government legislation, of inclusivity as a basic philosophical principle. Both the type of instruction that should be provided to students with a disability and the location of that instruction in regular or specialized settings have been topics for advocacy and research, sometimes with mixed and/or controversial conclusions.
Lawrence J. Maheady and Angela L. Patti
Teacher preparation programs are undergoing a shift from knowledge-based to practice-based, meaning the emphasis is on what teacher candidates can do, rather than what they know. In light of this movement, high leverage practices (HLPs)—a set of core practices that educational experts agree all teachers should be able to do upon entering the teaching field—have been developed in several different educational areas (e.g., general education and special education). As experts develop sets of HLPs, they identify practices that (a) are researched based, (b) are often used by teachers during the school day, (c) can be applied across grade levels and subject areas, (d) are fundamental to student learning, and (e) can be taught, practiced, and developed to some degree of fluency by teachers entering the profession. The idea is that these practices can be used as a core curriculum for teacher preparation programs. While initial work with HLPs is promising, additional questions must be answered before moving forward. Institutions of higher education that choose to use HLPs to frame their teacher preparation programs need to determine (a) which HLPs to use, (b) how to integrate HLPs into the program, (c) how to assess teacher candidate fluency with HLPs, and (d) how to evaluate the effects of HLPs on P–12 students. As these questions are answered, further light can be shed on what truly makes a practice worthy of the designation “high leverage.”
Marta Caballeros, Jeannette Bran, and Gabriela Castro
Inclusive education, as stated in declarations and human development goals, features in the educational policies being implemented in Central American and Caribbean (CA-DR) countries (Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, and the Dominican Republic). The policies seek to give the entire population of each country permanent access to quality education services, and they have a particular focus on people with disabilities. However, there are considerable challenges to be overcome, caused by a combination of historical factors and the sociopolitical and economic context. Some of the countries still have significant levels of poverty and inequity, both of which hinder the development of inclusive education. At the same time, inclusive education is expected to help eradicate social exclusion and facilitate social mobility. This paradigm began as an effort to secure disabled people’s right to education, and countries have since been working to offer disabled people access to regular schools. Nevertheless, segregated education services or services with an integration aim still persist. Moreover, poverty causes many students to drop out of school, or never to enroll at all. Each country has vulnerable or marginalized groups in its population. The work being done, from an inclusive perspective, follows two main routes: reorienting education systems toward inclusivity; and offering these groups affirmative actions to ensure their regular attendance at mainstream schools that have quality programs for all. If CA-DR countries are to achieve inclusive education, they must fulfill two requirements. Firstly, they must develop intersectorial interventions that revert causes of exclusion—education policies in isolation are unable to do that. Secondly, they must take action to ensure that inclusive education is achieved in practice in the classroom. There are advances toward inclusion, but more work is needed to answer the question of how CA-DR countries can develop inclusive societies, based on social protection and quality education services for all, that give proper attention to diversity, practice equity, and promote social mobility. Bottom-up strategies are valuable in the effort to achieve inclusive education.
Umesh Sharma and Jahirul Mullick
Successful implementation of inclusive education reforms in any country depends on several factors. One critical factor is adequate preparation of pre-service teachers. We cannot expect our schools to be inclusive if teachers are not adequately prepared to teach in inclusive classrooms. There are some key challenges that most teacher education programs face, including lack of appropriate inclusive professional placement settings, lack of collaboration between universities and schools, lack of connection between curriculum content and placement activities, and lack of appropriate evaluation tools to measure teacher readiness to teach in inclusive classrooms. We need new ways to address the issues faced by teacher educators to ensure that the persistent gaps between theory and practice can be met. In this regard, a new framework entitled CHANGE (Collaboration, Hands-on activities, Assessment of readiness, Networking, Greater contact with learners with diversities, and Effective coaching) was developed to address the challenges and substantially fill in the gaps between the theory and practice of inclusion. The CHANGE framework guides teacher educators to focus on six different aspects of enhancing teacher readiness for inclusion. The application of the framework is not dependent on extensive resources, but it does require rethinking the way teacher education curriculum is developed and delivered. The framework can be applied in any country context and is likely to appeal to teacher educators who are looking for better ways to prepare confident and skilled inclusive educators.
Christopher Boyle, George Koutsouris, Anna Salla Mateu, and Joanna Anderson
Understanding how best to support all learners to achieve their goals is a key aspect of education. Ensuring that educators are able to be provided with the best programs and knowledge to do this is perfectly respectable. But what is “evidence” in education, and at what point is it useful and informative in inclusive education? The need exists for a better understanding of what should constitute evidence-based inclusive education. Research with a focus on evidence-based practices in special and inclusive education has been increasing in recent years. Education intervention, by its very definition, should be tailored to suit individuals or groups of learners. However, immediately this is at odds with the gold standard of research intervention, that of randomized control trials; however, there are many advocates for evidence-based practice confirming to the highest form of research methodology. This seems laudable, and who could argue with wanting the best approaches to inform programs and teaching in all facets of education? Nevertheless, the requirements for research rigor mean that it is not practically possible to measure interventions in inclusive education so that they are generalizable across the many students who need support, because the interventions must be specific to individual need and therefore are not generalizable, nor are they intended to be. A narrow approach to what is evidence-based practice in education is unhelpful and does not take into consideration the nuances of inclusive education. Evidence of appropriate practice in inclusive education entails much more than robust scientific methodologies can measure, and this should be remembered. “Good” education is inclusive education that may or may not be recognized as evidence-based practice.
Spencer Salend and Catharine Whittaker
In light of the need to prepare reflective and effective teachers who can differentiate their instruction to support the learning of all students in inclusive classrooms, this article describes the collaborative process faculty have used to incorporate universal design for learning (UDL) and evidence-based practice (EBP) into an inclusive teacher education program’s curriculum and practicum experiences. Initially, faculty mapped the curriculum by agreeing upon a common definition of UDL and EBP, reviewing the research to create EBP documentation charts, which were used to constructing self-assessment tools known as innovation configurations (IC). Faculty used the IC to identify and address the strengths and gaps within the program’s courses and clinical experiences and align courses with online interactive instructional resources related to UDL and EBP. To bridge the gap between research and practice and guide educators in making evidence-informed decisions, faculty developed a 10-step practice-based evidence assessment and instructional model to collect and analyze classroom-based data about the efficacy, acceptability, and fidelity of one’s instructional practices and use of UDL and EBP. Faculty revised and field-tested a lesson plan template that prompted educators to personalize their instruction and make it more explicit by addressing such factors as student diversity and collaboration, and employing UDL, EBP, instructional and assistive technology and formative and summative assessment. Faculty also redesigned the program’s lesson observation form used to better evaluate preservice teachers working in inclusive classrooms and provide them with feedback related to their effective use of EBP, UDL, instructional and assistive technology, and assessment and classroom management strategies. The lesson observation form also was revised to make it more reflective of the program’s curriculum reform efforts related to the use of UDL and EBP, and to align it with the national teacher education accreditation standards, national and statewide teacher evaluation, curriculum and teacher education certification standards.
Michael Arthur-Kelly and Phil Foreman
Australian public education systems have developed policies since the 1980s and 1990s which have placed a major focus on inclusive educational practices. Despite this progress, Australia has witnessed the growth of parallel and sometimes competing systems of support for students with additional learning needs. It is helpful to view these approaches across one unified continuum of assistance for students. At one end of the continuum there are special schools which provide intensive and specialized learning support, coming within the traditional definition of “special education.” At the other end of the continuum is the full inclusion of students within regular classrooms, complemented by appropriate personalized learning supports. The inclusive approach is based on a philosophical platform that emphasizes the role of the local school in providing for the needs of all students in its community, regardless of diverse needs or disability. A unified view of educational provisions needs to consider the entire range of approaches from full inclusion through to specialized and alternative models of educational services and support, guided by one simple question: What is best for this learner? Principles such as universal design for learning (UDL) lead to an argument for a focus on individual needs and parental empowerment and choice, rather than an outdated dichotomous or settings-based model of educational support. By focusing attention on learning needs through the lens of curriculum, instruction, and contextual supports, the central goal of maximized outcomes for individual students can be realized.