Academic journal article Perspectives in Education

From Clinic to Classroom: A Model of Teacher Education for Inclusion

Academic journal article Perspectives in Education

From Clinic to Classroom: A Model of Teacher Education for Inclusion

Article excerpt

Introduction

White Paper Six: Special Needs Education (DoE, 2001) asserts that classroom teachers are the country's primary resource in attaining the goal of inclusive education. Since 2001 there have been various initiatives by the DoE, Non-Government Organisations and universities to train teachers to be able to respond to diverse learning needs in their classrooms. The impact of this training is hard to ascertain, and reports on the implementation of inclusive education are mixed, with some evidence of progress in state and independent schools (Walton, 2011), and a lack of implementation due to inadequate funding and service delivery challenges (Wildeman & Nomdo, 2007). Teachers' attitudes towards inclusive education in South Africa have been extensively researched, and prevailing negativity is often ascribed to a lack of training and preparation for inclusive classrooms (Stofile & Green, 2007). In 2006, a report from a roundtable discussion organised by The Human Sciences Research Council and Disabled People of South Africa noted that the studies showing teachers' negative attitudes and lack of preparedness for inclusion had been overemphasised and offered little in terms of the way ahead for inclusive education. One of the key practical and implementation-focused research questions which emerged in the report was:

What is the most appropriate Human Resource Development Strategy to ensure integrated and inclusive teaching, learning and management practice in all educational institutions in South Africa? For example such as models of teacher development emerging from international experience and for the South African context and the basic minimum that must be provided to ensure effective implementation of an inclusive education system (Lorenzo & Schneider, 2006:9).

This call for teacher training for the effective implementation of inclusive education is reiterated in the recently published Integrated Strategic Planning Framework for Teacher Education and Development in South Africa (DoE, 2011:10) where inclusive teaching has been prioritised as it has been identified as a "key lever for improving quality across the system". Because of these policy imperatives, and the practical reality of 200.000 children and young people out of school, often because they cannot access the specialised support they require (RSA, 2010), research needs to focus on models of teacher development that emerge from the international experience and that are appropriate for the implementation of inclusive education in South Africa.

After a brief review of international and local models of teacher education for inclusion, we describe and reflect on the development and implementation of a postgraduate course in inclusive education offered at our university. The course is an option for a Bachelor of Education with Honours (B.Ed Hons) degree - a one-year full-time or a two-year part-time qualification that for some students 'rounds off' their undergraduate qualification, and for others, is the first step in an academic career. Our approach adopts "inquiry-as-stance" - Cochran-Smith and Lytle's (1999:289) term to describe work within an inquiry community, generating local knowledge, envisioning and theorising practice, and interpreting and interrogating others' theory and research. Inquiry-as-stance is linked in orientation to various approaches in practitioner inquiry, including action research and reflective practice, and is a valuable and documented way of coupling theory and practice in the scholarship of teacher education (Christie & Menter, 2009; Cochran-Smith, 2003; Melville & Bartley, 2010). Central to the idea of inquiry-as-stance is the relationship of the knower(s) (in this instance, we as teacher educators and researchers) and knowledge. Cochran- Smith (2003:21) maintains that "the practitioner/researcher is both user and creator of knowledge, which is always regarded as generative and tentative, to be questioned, challenged, connected, tried out, revised, reshaped, and held problematic", and it is this conception of knowledge as being inseparable from the knower that resonates with McNiff's (2008:352) understanding of knowledge as "generated by a knowing subject, from within a social context, and . …

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