So What's with Our Inclusion Program

Article excerpt

A first step in evaluating your inclusion is to use questionnaires and interviews to explore the perceptions and experiences of your school staff.

Here's a good definition of what inclusive schools do: Create communities of learners by educating all students together In age-appropriate, general education classrooms in their neighborhood schools.

Would you agree? Do you know of inclusive schools or classrooms that create such communities of learners? Do you know of schools-maybe yoursthat are trying but haven't got a clue about how they're doing? How do you decide if your program is any good?

In light of the need to develop guidelines for evaluating various aspects of inclusion programs and the importance of the roles of educators in the inclusion process, this article provides guidelines that educators can use to evaluate their own inclusion programs. This article also discusses ways to address the concerns and issues that teachers bring up.

Questionnaires and Interviews

A first step in evaluating your inclusion program is to use questionnaires and interviews to explore the perceptions and experiences of your school staff, with respect to inclusive educational programs and practices (see box for research notes). You can ask questions about their feelings about inclusion, their reactions to various aspects of the program, and their beliefs and concerns about inclusion. You can also assess their feelings about the effect of the inclusion program on themselves, their students, family members, and other professionals. Interviews and questionnaires also can address educators' satisfaction with the following:

Their roles in implementing inclusion programs.

The quality of the resources they have received to implement inclusion.

Their experiences collaborating and communicating with others.

Their skills and training to implement inclusion successfully.

The schoolwide and districtwide inclusive educational program policies and practices.

In addition, you may query educators regarding their recommendations for enhancing the success of their school district's inclusion programs.

Advantages of Questionnaires

Questionnaires have several advantages that make them particularly suitable for use with educators. They are easily and quickly completed, and they maintain the confidentiality of the individuals completing them. To facilitate the completion of surveys, use a "closed form questionnaire," which is easy to complete because it uses a yes-no or truefalse format, or a Likert-type scale that requires people to select a number or a statement that best indicates their response.

However, questionnaires also have limitations. They usually provide only quantitative data that is often limited by the nature of the items presented. These data fail to provide rich and descriptive examples, insights, and suggestions that would be particularly valuable in evaluating inclusive educational programs.

Advantages of Interviews

In addition to collecting data through questionnaires, consider conducting interviews. Interviews provide educators with the opportunity to offer indepth and direct first-person descriptions and stories of their perceptions of and experiences with inclusive educational programs.

Seidman (1998) offered several recommendations for planning and conducting interviews. In planning for interviews, you will need to make decisions about the interview questions, the length of the interview, and the mechanisms for recording the interviews (e.g., written format or audiorecording).

Interviewers should

Employ open-ended, thoughtful, and relevant questions.

Examine each question in terms of its wording, syntax, and intonation.

Refrain from asking leading or intrusive questions, as well as questions that have implied answers.

Interviews can be conducted in one session, or over several sessions. …