Helpful Tips for Successful Inclusion
Federico, Michael A., Herrold, William G., Jr., Venn, John, Teaching Exceptional Children
A Checklist for Educators
This first-person account relates Michael Federico's experiences as a general education teacher in an inclusive classroom over 3 years and shows what he learned as a result of action research. We are using "I" in this article because we wanted to present it from a first person point of view. Michael Federico is the teacher who is telling his story in the first person voice. Drs. Herrold and Venn are the advisors who helped set up the action research project. Dr. Herrold represents the general education perspective, and Dr. Venn represents the special education viewpoint.
Are you a teacher who is considering teaching in an inclusion classroom? If so, maybe you'd like to know what runs through the mind of general education teachers when they co-teach in an inclusion class for the first time. I've been that general education teacher; let me tell you what it's like.
This is my third year of co-teaching in an inclusion class with students who have disabilities. Two years ago I taught a fifth-grade inclusion class. Last year I had a fourth-grade inclusion class, and this year I am teaching a combination fourth/fifth-grade inclusion class. I've had both good and bad experiences, and I have learned some things about factors that lead to success in an inclusion classroom. These experiences were the result of a 3-year action research project on inclusion.
The inclusion project began 4 years ago. At the time, I had just completed a master's degree with William Herrold, a reading professor in the College of Education and Human Services at the University of North Florida. I asked Dr. Herrold if he would help me continue my professional development through an action research project involving the piloting of a fifth-grade inclusion class at Hendricks Avenue Elementary School. Dr. Herrold agreed, and he invited John Venn, a colleague with expertise in special education, to join the research team.
The initial team meeting was with Mrs. Peters, the school principal. During the meeting we agreed to keep our study low key during the first year. This meant avoiding the introduction of special data-gathering devices. We also decided not to set up any formal research study plan. Instead, I agreed to keep a yearlong, detailed anecdotal record of the daily inclusion class experiences. These records became the basis for weekly observations and informal conferences with the team that included Ramona Griffith, the special education teacher; the two professors; and me.
The detailed anecdotal records that I wrote at the end of each of the 180 days of the school year served as the primary data source. Each day I wrote as many as three pages and usually no fewer than one page of notes. My notes described what happened each day in the inclusion class and how I felt about it.
At the end of the first year, using processes suggested by Glesne and Peskin (1992), we compiled, reviewed, and divided the data from 180 days into naturally occurring categories for analysis. The categories that emerged included students, teachers, parents, administration, other faculty, and the school community. We further analyzed information in each of these categories to tease out what was to become the most important information in each category. We then compared and contrasted the "most important" information in each category to the "most important" information in every other category. These analyses revealed patterns and provided indications of change, growth, success, and failure. The results became the model for our inclusion class teaching experiences and serve as guides for others who might want or need to try our type of inclusion in their own schools (for more on qualitative analysis, see box, "Annotated Bibliography").
The Fifth-Grade Inclusion Class and Teachers
During the first year, the inclusion class was made up of 24 fifth-grade students, including 7 students with disabilities. …