Preparing Teachers for Inclusion: The Role of Higher Education

By DePauw, Karen P.; Karp, Grace Goc | JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, January 1994 | Go to article overview

Preparing Teachers for Inclusion: The Role of Higher Education


DePauw, Karen P., Karp, Grace Goc, JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance


Since the 1970s, several pieces of federal legislation have been enacted to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities. Specifically mandated were free appropriate public education for all children with disabilities; accessibility; and non-discrimination on the basis of disability. In response to legislative mandates, many educational approaches, systems, and/or programs were developed and designed. Since the mid-1980s, the regular education initiative (REI) (Will, 1986), inclusive schools, and total integration have been the focus of many discussions and debates, not only in the literature, but in practice as well (e.g., Stainback & Stainback, 1990; Thousand & Villa, 1991).

In the broader context of educational reform, a collaborative approach to education--collaboration among educators to provide educational opportunities for all students--is now emphasized. Among others, Gloeckler (1991) calls for the extension of such education to all students, with and without disabilities. One example of this is an initiative undertaken by the New York Office for Education of Children with Handicapping Conditions: infusing information about disabilities throughout the K-12 curriculum (Gloeckler, 1991). Thus, those in special education and regular education must communicate and work collaboratively toward an educational system that provides education for all children.

Higher Education's Role

Individuals with disabilities are found increasingly in regular physical education programs; the United States Department of Education (1991) estimated that 93 percent of all individuals with disabilities receive their education in regular education. As a result, colleges and universities must review and perhaps reconceptualize their teacher preparation programs. The curriculum must change to reflect the current practice of integration and help prepare graduates for integration, not only in the public schools but in society in general. Thus, it is important that professionals in higher education prepare future teachers to work in truly integrated educational systems--including integrated faculty, curriculum, and all of teacher preparation.

Current curricular approaches in undergraduate and graduate programs have been relatively successful in providing minimal preparation for preservice teachers in the education of individuals with disabilities. This approach continues to segregate the training for regular physical educators from that for the specialists. Typical higher education curricula has included one course in adapted physical education required of all physical education majors. In addition, most physical education teacher preparation programs offer specialized courses on individuals with disabilities (e.g., adapted physical education, assessment of motor dysfunction, physical education for individuals with mental retardation). Some have been able to offer a major or minor emphasis in adapted physical education as part of an undergraduate degree program.

Although these efforts lay the groundwork for the inclusion of knowledge about individuals with disabilities into the professional preparation program, they fall short of truly integrating knowledge throughout the curriculum. The trend is toward progressive inclusion and acceptance (DePauw, 1986), yet colleges and universities must anticipate and provide the training which adequately prepares teachers for the twenty-first century.

In anticipating the appropriate preparation of teachers, we must desire integration (Gloeckler, 1991) and value education for all (Roper, 1991). Stein (1977) noted that if educators are to mainstream children effectively, they must mainstream the curriculum that prepares teachers. This means that the subject matter should be integrated throughout the teacher curriculum rather than being taught in special classes that unintentionally emphasize children's differences and disabilities (p. 624). …

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