Academic journal article International Journal of Whole Schooling

Understanding and Dismantling Barriers for Partnerships for Inclusive Education: A Cultural Historical Activity Theory Perspective

Academic journal article International Journal of Whole Schooling

Understanding and Dismantling Barriers for Partnerships for Inclusive Education: A Cultural Historical Activity Theory Perspective

Article excerpt

Understanding and Dismantling Barriers for Partnerships for Inclusive Education

... one of the things that the language coach was extremely upset about were some of the co-teaching strategies and assignments we would have them try. She told us, "Well, don't you know that they are adjusting their lesson plans from the curriculum maps that they have been given? The curricular map says to teach it this way, and because they're doing such and such a strategy, they are doing it that way. You need to be aware of this because you need to change what you are asking them to do, and their practicum courses [need] to be aligned with the district curriculum mapping" (A university site professor struggles to deal with the realities of practice at a professional learning school, UITE data, interview 26).

University-school partnerships for inclusive education have the potential to be conductive vehicles since they can simultaneously connect theory to practice, implement and innovate inclusive pedagogies, and develop teacher capacity. Partnerships between schools and universities are not uncommon within the inclusive education movement. In a recent review of the literature, Waitoller & Artiles (under review) found that, between 2000 and 2009, action research was the most common form of professional learning for inclusive education. Teachers, principals, and university professors and doctoral students engaged in inquiry based processes in which the development of inclusive teachers and school practices were intertwined (Waitoller & Artiles, under review). This body of research highlighted the positive impact of long-term relationships between university and schools on school inclusive practices and students outcomes. This research also demonstrated the potential of university-school partnerships to reflect and question school and university practices that exclude some students from accessing opportunities to learn (Waitoller & Artiles, under review).

Yet, there are several challenges that arise from the work done in university-school partnerships. When two institutions work together, there are simultaneous efforts to maintain, reproduce, negotiate, and transcend institutional boundaries (Daniels, Edwards, Engestrom, Gallagher, & Ludvigsen, 2010). That is, when engaging in partnership work, schools and universities challenge each other's expertise, practices, policies, and social arrangements, which create conflicts and tensions. The quote at the beginning of this paper illustrates some of these challenges. The quote came from a member of the professional learning school (PLS) that we worked in, in which a university program and three schools partnered to develop the schools' capacities for inclusive education while simultaneously preparing teachers who were able to teach in general and special education classrooms (Kozleski & Waitoller, 2010).

In the quote, the site professor recounts her frustration with the school administration's insistence that the curriculum of a university seminar for teachers about inclusive practices be aligned with the district's curriculum maps for students. Her frustration stemmed from the frictions that she perceived between the pedagogies of the university program and the district curriculum. Curriculum maps were a district-wide initiative to systematize the curriculum on a daily basis to ensure that all state standards were sufficiently covered. The district's logic was that tighter alignment between district standards and practice would improve students' scores on accountability assessments. Tension emerged because some district initiatives foregrounded specific skill development while the university's pedagogies were driven by learner-centered emergent reading practices. Theoretically, these agendas had overlaps. As practiced, their implementation seemed to have rigid boundaries and processes. While both agendas were important, the unanticipated misalignments between practices and student performance on accountability measures created friction for the school and university personnel who were supporting the teacher residents: the clinical teachers and the site professor. …

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