Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

Inclusion Reconceptualized: Pre-Service Teacher Education and Disability Studies in Education

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

Inclusion Reconceptualized: Pre-Service Teacher Education and Disability Studies in Education

Article excerpt


In this article, we describe and explain how we are reconceptualizing our pre-service teacher education course on Inclusion using disability studies in education (DSE) scholarship. DSE work largely follows the social model of disability, which holds that our societal beliefs and practices disable individuals rather than seeing people as inherently having deficits, which are described as disabilities (Baglieri, Bejoian, Broderick, Connor, & Valle, 2011; Baglieri, Valle, Connor, & Gallagher, 2010). For example, rather than seeing the person who needs an accessible ramp as disabled, poor access to a building disables the individual. If a building has and maintains clear and clean rampways, more people can access the building than if only steps were available and maintained.

Likewise, in teaching, the use of closed-captioning on video brings some of those traditionally on the margins to the centre of learning, and it can also assist other diverse learners, such as newly arrived immigrants to Canada who do not speak English as their first language. As an example, closed-captioning, used or conceptualized in this way, is a tool that can benefit more students than those we might at first consider. Some students might hear within a "normal" range, however, they struggle to absorb or retain high verbal content. Hearing and reading what is being said can reinforce learning. Closed-captioning is an example of one possible "rampway" to student success.

We were encouraged by American pre-service teacher education programs that embraced the DSE perspective (Connor, 2013, 2014; Connor & Bejoian 2014; Connor, Gabel, Gallagher, & Morton, 2008; Valle & Connor, 2011). Our reconceptualization of our inclusion course, known as "Inclusion One," included the following:

1. Revealing the troubling history of special education and how much of today's scholarship on inclusion remains embedded in special education's deficit model of disability.

2. Bridging a divide between diversity and inclusion scholarship.

3. Introducing the concepts of the social model of disability and ableism.

4. Continuing our exploration of Differentiated Instruction (Tomlinson & Imbeau, 2010) and Universal Design for Learning (CAST, 2015) as a way to create inclusive classrooms. Additionally, introducing our pre-service teachers to Inquiry-Based Learning (Jardine, 2012) using the Galileo website ( and the Universal Design for Learning approach using the Center for Applied Special Teaching (CAST) website (

5. Discussing the importance of practical judgement in inclusive education.

Our aim has been to better understand how to improve professional practice in teacher education (Bolton, 2014; Laboskey, 2004). Two decades ago Lytle and Cochran-Smith (1992) urged teacher educators to develop their professional knowledge base by drawing on their own inquiry. Self-study emerged as a promising research method for teacher educators. Loughran, Hamilton, Laboskey, and Russell (2004) found that, for teacher educators, self-study "has been the most powerful impetus for the growing number of research into the development of teacher educator identity, competence, and practice" (as cited in Dinkleman, Margolis, & Sikkenga, 2006, p. 7). Therefore, self-study was an obvious methodological choice for us as two teacher educators who taught a foundations course offered over a nine-week semester. There were multiple opportunities for us to meet and talk about our conceptualizations of and reflections on the course. Our data collection involved conceptual mapping exercises (on large whiteboards), where we visually laid out the scope and sequence of this course and its connections to the previous and subsequent course in the foundation series. Our weekly meetings allowed us to debrief and plan the course, and these conversations and reflections on our practices were captured through field notes, providing us with visual records of our conceptualizations. …

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