Newspaper article Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Byline: Susan Davies
SCHOOLS that support teachers to work collaboratively to think about, implement and evaluate changes in how they teach are using an effective method to develop inclusion. This is one of the findings of a two-year study carried out in Welsh and English secondary schools.
Researchers from Trinity College, Carmarthen and Manchester University worked in five schools in Wales and two in England to explore the conditions that helped teachers to use action research to make changes in their classrooms to develop inclusion. Action research involves a teacher, or group of teachers, identifying an issue or problem they wish to tackle, using discussion with colleagues and reflection to find a new way of dealing with it, and then trying and evaluating the new method to test its effectiveness. The shared discussion and "thinking it through" are very important to the process. Schools where senior managers understood this and, for example, reserved space for this to happen gained the most, in terms of teacher development, from the method.
The support of school management is crucial. Direct involvement by school leaders is less vital than active engagement demonstrated by, for example, active concern and interest, practical support, and encouragement of dissemination.
Other factors that contributed to successful teacher engagement included the size, selection method and composition of the teacher group.
Another important condition for making this method work was the assistance of a group facilitator to support the teachers.
The role of the facilitator was to focus minds, challenge thinking, build collaboration and be a guide to the process, but without taking ownership of the project away from the teachers.
Thinking about how to teach is nothing new to teachers but the closer attention to what is happening in their classroom, and the more systematic evaluation that is part of action research, may be less familiar and this is where skilful facilitation can guide the teachers to understand how to use the process to help them better understand inclusion and assess when it is happening. …