Preparing Student Teachers for 'Inclusion'; Debating Outcomes from Students' Extended Placement in Special Education Settings.

Paliokosta, Paty and Cullum, Bronwen (2012) Preparing Student Teachers for 'Inclusion'; Debating Outcomes from Students' Extended Placement in Special Education Settings. In: European Conference for Educational Research 2012: The Need for Educational Research to Champion Freedom, Education and Development for All; 18-21 Sep 2012, Cadiz, Spain.


This presentation will critically analyse findings from a small scale evaluation of a Teacher Development Agency (TDA) funded project that entailed an extended placement for student teachers in a special needs school or resource base setting. The impact on students' knowledge, skills and attitudes to inclusive practice will be discussed in the context of an understanding of inclusion as presence, participation and achievement (Booth and Ainscow, 2002). The above model of teacher education itself will also be examined from an educational governance perspective (Altrichter, 2010) and its relevance to creating and maintaining inclusive education systems. A government-led project like the above could claim to respond to what Garner (2000) referred to as 'conceptual unpreparedness' in the context of initial teacher training. More than a decade ago, it was stated that it had not been difficult for a teacher in England to acquire a tendency to exclude (Clough, 1999); unless teachers opted during their initial training to teach children with learning difficulties, they were not expected to do so and the case tends to remain similar. This can be a great barrier to inclusive attitudes on behalf of teachers and the conceptual preparation that enables them to understand difference and cater for it, as part of their role (Paliokosta and Blandford, 2010). The discussion will stem from the analysis of findings from the following questions; 1. What are the key learning experiences of different stakeholders (student teachers, school mentors, university lecturers) and their potential impact on practice. 2. How does the focus on Special Educational Needs relate to an effort to create and maintain inclusive education systems for All (UNESCO, 2001; 2008; 2010)? 3. How can knowledge generated inform the modular design and the teaching approaches to inclusion on a three year Initial Teacher Education BA (Hons) course? Method The methodology is consistent with a qualitative research paradigm. Purposeful sampling has taken place in the context of grounded theory (Strauss and Corbin, 1990; 1997), which allows the lived realities of individuals that have taken part in the project to emerge. Triangulation of different sources has taken place, including stakeholder's evaluations and reflective tools and individual or focus group interviews of stakeholders over a period of two years in order to follow up key points of interest in greater depth. The researchers' different positionality is also acknowledged for its important role in the generation as well as the analysis of findings and the development of a critical stance towards the project.

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