Academic journal article International Journal of Whole Schooling

Effective Professional Development of Teachers: A Guide to Actualizing Inclusive Schooling

Academic journal article International Journal of Whole Schooling

Effective Professional Development of Teachers: A Guide to Actualizing Inclusive Schooling

Article excerpt

Introduction

Creating an inclusive education for students with and without disabilities poses a specific challenge to the existing faculty who earned their teaching credentials in the days of segregated educational environment of special education and general education. The purpose of this article is to provide a review of the professional development literature and the beginning literature on inclusive educational practices so that in-service development of teachers can be more effective. An example of a recent study is provided.

Effective Professional Development

Teacher attitudes towards inclusion influence the sustainability of such practices in schools (Hammond & Ingalls, 2003; Wilkins & Nietfeld, 2004). Transitioning to inclusion requires teachers, administrators, and specialized staff to develop the necessary attitudes and skills to implement and sustain such practices (Frattura & Capper, 2006; McLeskey & Waldron, 2002; Sari, 2007; Stanovich & Jordan, 2002). The term professional development has varied definitions. Showers, Joyce, and Bennett (1987) stated that the purpose of professional development is to increase levels of knowledge to sustain and support new practice until it becomes embedded into the daily practice. The term professional development is referred to as the cornerstone for reform (Fishman, Marx, Best, & Tal, 2003). Traditionally, professional development is delivered through the sit and get approach (McLeskey & Waldron, 2002). The sit and get professional development relies on an expert in the field to model and disseminate various information to the audience (Desimone, 2009; McLeskey & Waldron, 2002). Generally, it is a onetime in-service where participants listen to the cutting edge information. This method for professional development relies solely on the participants to take their new knowledge and implement the information individually (McLeskey & Waldron, 2002). Professional development in the form of a onetime event may not sustain or penetrate into the system. With the sit and get traditional approach to professional development, teachers change their practices individually, causing a varied approach that often does not have a ripple effect on the school structure itself.

Best Practices in Professional Development

There is a paucity of research on what constitutes effective and meaningful professional development. Bull and Buechler (1997) and Desimone (2009) have outlined effective professional development qualities. These qualities include: (a) be individualized and school based, (b) utilizes coaching and other follow up procedures, (c) engages in collaboration, and (d) embeds practices into the daily lives of teachers.

School based Professional Development. Effective professional development enables teachers to actively initiate and carry out research in their own schools and classrooms (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1999). According to Desimone (2009), the most powerful teacher learning and application occur inside individual teacher's classrooms through practice and self-reflection. Ongoing site visits to support inclusive schools and classrooms can provide teachers with a picture of inclusion (Roach, 1996). School based professional development allows for specific problem solving sessions in which teachers are able to work together to identify the needed resources and strategies to meet the needs of all the students in the classroom (Roach, 1996). Problem solving sessions focus specifically on the needs of each teacher and staff member and provide ongoing support and training.

Coaching and Follow-up Procedures. An essential element to professional development involves observations, peer support, and ongoing feedback to empower teachers to have a stronger belief and confidence in their teaching practices (Kennedy & Shiel, 2010). Peer coaching is defined as the assistance of one teacher to another in the development and furthering of teaching skills, strategies, and techniques (Denton & Hasbrouck, 2009; Kennedy & Shiel, 2010; Miller, Harris, & Watanabe, 1991). …

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