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.
Dries Vansteenkiste, Estelle Swart, Piet Van Avermaet, and Elke Struyf
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.
Khaliza Saidin, Aizan Yaacob, and Nurul Shahidah Ahmad Nasir
Efficacy is a person’s degree of beliefs and confidence to implement a task and produce a positive change. Efficacy can be divided into two aspects, namely self-efficacy and collective efficacy. In the context of education, the focus of research on efficacy is on teacher self-efficacy and collective teacher efficacy. Teacher self-efficacy is teachers’ belief in their own ability to carry out a task in order to bring positive changes, while collective teacher efficacy is the shared belief of teachers from different backgrounds and competencies in their ability to achieve the same goal. Collective efficacy depends on teacher self-efficacy to create collective beliefs in ensuring the achievement of the school’s vision and mission. Studies on collective teacher efficacy have brought positive effects on student performance and achievement and become an indicator of student performance. However, the research trend has shifted to focus on the relationship between collective teacher efficacy and teacher leadership. It was found that collective teacher efficacy not only influenced student performance and achievement but also affected teacher leadership. In the Malaysian context, studies on collective teacher efficacy are still scarce and they mostly focused on demographic levels, factors affecting teacher collective efficacy, level of collective teacher efficacy and the relationship between collective teacher efficacy and student achievement. As teacher quality is an important factor in educational improvement, it is proposed that future studies in the Malaysian context emphasize the relationship between teacher collective efficacy and issues regarding teacher leadership as they eventually bring positive effects on students’ academic achievement. Therefore, more research is needed to address the role of teacher collective efficacy on teacher leadership in promoting quality of teaching and learning. A large scale radical improvement in the educational field is highly needed.
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.
The manner in which special educators and allied health personnel communicate and coordinate their combined services for children with complex conditions (such as autism and severe communication impairments) is considered to be an important factor in educational outcomes. For example, speech-language pathologists play a crucial role in supporting teachers by assessing a child’s communication potential, designing and then implementing collaborative communication intervention programs. However, clinicians trained to administer standardized expressive language assessments may be somewhat unsure where to start when asked to assess a child who presents with nonsymbolic communication skills. These highly specialized workplace situations are likely to evoke circumstances where professionals may need additional one-to-one guidance. The need for continuing professional development has long been recognized by the education sector when developing effective educational provision for children with special needs. To that end, tertiary institutions have a commitment to support the continuing education of their graduates once they begin their careers. Unfortunately, not everyone can invest the years that full-time or part-time postgraduate courses of study demand. Due to a reduction in postgraduate completion rates, universities have recently accepted that offering micro-credentialing (i.e., continuing professional development in small, intensive chunks) is now a part of their mandate. Blended learning is a viable model for such professional development because this approach provides access to an online community where collegial sharing and discussion can occur. It can also offer face-to-face sessions that may strengthen community building and instant access to a network of professionals for training and development, in an anytime and anywhere professional learning environment, resulting in the fostering of a collaborative professional community.