Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

When Theory Meets the "Reality of Reality": Reviewing the Sufficiency of the Social Model of Disability as a Foundation for Teacher Preparation for Inclusive Education

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

When Theory Meets the "Reality of Reality": Reviewing the Sufficiency of the Social Model of Disability as a Foundation for Teacher Preparation for Inclusive Education

Article excerpt

The enactment of inclusive education, derived from a disability studies in education (DSE) framework and perspective, is a distinctly political and counterhegemonic act (Corbett & Slee, 2000). Teaching within a broad schooling context that seeks to standardize, label, segregate, and remediate students based on learning difference while maintaining a commitment to engaging with such difference in valued and constructive ways (Barton, 2003) is not a simple task. Teacher preparation for inclusive education that takes up such a DSE framework and its commitments is relatively recent, as is the research on such preparation programs. We position our work and this article within the growing field of DSE-based teacher education, building on the uncovering of tensions that emerge when learning to teach inclusively in an exclusionary schooling climate.

In this study, we draw on our experiences as instructors of a cohort of student teaching residents enrolled in a Secondary Inclusive Education Program to inquire into the effectiveness of our curriculum for the complex work entailed in implementing inclusive pedagogy. This cohort displayed an immediate and deep commitment to the counterhegemonic praxis of inclusive education and exceeded all of our curricular hopes for them. We were taken aback, therefore, to learn that after completion of courses when they were required to perform their knowledge of teaching students with disabilities on the edTPA (1), all but one failed. The flaws and pitfalls of standardized assessments of preservice teacher performance notwithstanding (Cochran-Smith, Piazza, & Power, 2013), we experienced this event as an occasion to ponder our role and efficacy as teacher educators in preparing preservice teachers for the complexities of schools when upholding commitments to inclusivity. We wanted to gain some clarity on what our students were taking away from their course work. We were aware that the edTPA for special education is generally premised on medicalized notions of disability, not unlike commonplace practices in schools. The course work within our DSE-driven inclusive education program, however, seeks to disrupt the medical model, drawing instead on a social model of disability. As our students examined and reflected on complex school environments, we wondered how they reconciled such conflicting perspectives. We perceived this as significant for supporting their efficacy in implementing inclusive pedagogies in schools. This study, therefore, is an endeavor to understand the ways in which our students took up the conceptual frameworks offered within our courses.

Theoretical Framework

Working from a DSE perspective, teacher preparation for inclusive education typically begins with understanding the ways in which the political, organizational, and epistemological foundations of special education have resulted in schooling practices that have marked disability as tragic, undesirable, and incompetent, thereby unfairly positioning students with disabilities and their families (Booth, Nes, & Stromstad, 2003; Skrtic, 1995). Viewing disability as socially constructed rather than inherent within the learner, teacher candidates must recognize mainstream special education practices as subscribing to a medical model of disability that requires the problem to be diagnosed, appropriate treatment to be prescribed by professionals, and the individual subsequently to be restored to so-called normalcy (Gabel, 2005; Ware, 2010). Unlike the individualized view of disability within the medical model, disablement within the social model is understood as produced through externally imposed barriers that oppress individuals with disabilities and prevent their access to, and inclusion within, all walks of life (Ware, 2010). Adopting a social model in education requires that we deflect a focus on deficit-within-student to the (in)capability of the schooling context to be supportive of a range of learning differences. …

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