Contributions from: Kevin Finnegan, Michael Griffith, Nadira Persuad, Marcia Rioux
The symposium will feature the work of academic and practitioner researchers from the faculty and graduate student bodies of the Faculty of Education, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Three linked sessions will be offered. All focus on attempts through research to understand what and how educators think about inclusion of students with disabilities in regular classrooms of community schools, and the use of research findings to develop strategies supportive of inclusive practice.
Session 1: Positive Values Educators Perceive in Inclusive Education
Gary Bunch and Kevin Finnegan
This session presents the findings of a national Canadian study of educator attitudes toward inclusion of students with disabilities in regular classrooms. Study participants were regular classroom teachers, administrators, specialist resource support teachers, special class teachers, and Faculty of Education students. Elementary and secondary levels were represented. Participants taught in educational systems having parallel regular and special education structures or systems which were inclusively structured and having few special education settings.
Though data collection involved a survey and written spontaneous comments in addition to 136 individual interviews, this presentation focuses on interview findings. Expected educator concerns about inclusive practice were found. This was not a surprise. However, the finding that educators perceive many positive aspects to inclusive practice was unanticipated.
Discussion of these positive aspects and ways to address concerns form the major part of this session.
Session 2: The Role of the School Administrator in Inclusive
Practice: Views of Principals and of Regular Classroom Teachers
Kevin Finnegan and Gary Bunch
Studies have shown that school administrators are an important factor in the success or failure of inclusive practice in any school. In particular, a gulf between many administrators and their staffs with regard to administrator support of inclusion has been suggested.
This session reviews the quality of this gulf, what classroom teachers see as needed, and what administrators see as their responsibility. Just as some attempt to symbolize the difference between men and women by saying that women are from Venus and men from Mars, research around inclusive education suggests that a great difference is caused by the fact that teachers are from the regular classroom and principals are from the office. Differences and similarities in perception of the two groups will be described briefly.
The greater part of the session will focus on how one principal attempts to bridge this gulf. Positive strategies large and small, concrete and less tangible, will be described.
Session 3: The Student Who Falls Between: The Non-Identified But
Still Needy Student
Educational administrators have divided students into two groups on the basis of ability. There are regular students, the large group, and special education students, a smaller group. Whether these students are educated together in inclusive settings or separately in regular education and special education settings, a third in-between group exists.
This is the group of students who fall into the regular category, but whose academic and/or social ability levels are not strong. They are of concern to the regular teacher, but are not mandated to receive special support as are identified special education students. They are neither fish nor fowl, hot nor cold.
This session focuses on regular class teacher and specialist resource teacher perceptions of this third group. In particular, the session discusses how the two professionals may collaborate in supporting the in-between student to remain in the regular classroom. Concerns and positive strategies will be the focus.