Inclusive Education| Literature review – Factors Influencing Inclusion and Its Outcomes

One concern of inclusion has been noted with regard to teacher qualification and attitudes towards disabled students. Lack of knowledge in the general classroom teachers has been argued to be a challenge to inclusive education achieving the envisaged positive outcomes on lives of disabled learners (Forlin 2001, as cited in Florian, 2008). Such required knowledge is associated with learning difficulties that disabled students face and having the tact to employ specific instructional methods required to effectively teach disabled students (Florian, 2008). On the first aspect; early and continuous exposure of teachers to special education needs through inclusive settings has been argued to better their knowledge on learning difficulties thus helping them develop confidence and competence in their instruction methods (Angelides, 2008). This has been advanced on a situation where teachers are aware of inclusive practice but are not entirely convinced on its effectiveness. By “working in a school that has an inclusive ethos [such teachers] come to see that the practice can be effective” thus enhancing its effectiveness (Florian, 2008, p. 205). On specific instructional practices, it is notable that methods used for teaching students with special needs have also been identified to be effective in those learners not identified to have such special needs (Cook & Schimer, 2003, as cited in Florian, 2008). The effectiveness of inclusion in such a case can thus be argued on early establishment of teacher training and development practices that incorporate differences in types of learners (Florian, 2008).

Inclusion is also dependent on the attitude of teachers towards the students with special education needs. It is notable that when mainstream educators do not perceive the education of learners with special needs to be an intrinsic part of their job; then the practice would always be to relegate the training of such students to someone else such as the special education teacher (Meijer, 2001, p. 10). Florian notes that “teachers need to be disabused of the notion that they are not qualified to teach disabled students or others with ‘additional needs” (2008, p. 208). While evaluating attitude towards special needs students’ inclusion student teachers have for instance been noted to favor the inclusion concept based on the severity of the student’s needs where increased gravity reduces the perceived competency (Avramidis, Bayliss & Burden, 2000). With regard to the type of disability, those learners with emotional and behavioral challenges were noted to be the most probable cause of concern and stress than other types of special needs groups (Avramidis, et al., 2000). A later study however suggested positive student teachers’ attitudes towards marginalized learners, their encouragement of participation amongst all students in classroom activities, their attempts to overcome inclusion barriers, and formation of collaborative approaches for encouraging inclusion (Angelides, 2008). Such are what has been advanced to help achieve the envisioned benefits of inclusion (Meijer, 2001).

Other factors that influence the outcomes of inclusion are those related to the school organization. Florian (2008) for instance queries how schools are to provide for every student’s needs if not via special programs (Florian, 2008). In essence the normal school environment is ordered in such a manner that meets the needs of the majority of the learners with those lagging behind needing some form of additional support to catch up (Florian, 2008). Such additional support is what has been viewed to constitute special education in some cases (Florian, 2008). Adapting the entire schooling system to meet the needs of every individual learner on the other hand may be environment dependent with respect to disability (Michailakis & Reich, 2009). Such is due to the uniqueness that each disability case poses that might necessitate different approach towards the perceived adaptation (Michailakis & Reich, 2009). To enable an individual’s participation in every social function the system must therefore not concentrate on the individual’s impairments but rather on the changes that need to be made to the environment (Michailakis & Reich, 2009). Such a view has informed the perspective that disability should not be perceived on the basis of  what is wrong with the learner but rather what is to be learnt (Florian, 2008, p. 204). In this respect Norwich and Lewis (2007) identify three kinds of instructional needs: those that are common across the board, those specific to particular groups of learners and those specific to an individual learner. The organization for inclusive environment must thus strive to meet these diverse needs.

It is with such background that the school organizational structure is argued important in influencing the outcomes of inclusion strategy. Such for instance influences the amount and type of resources availed to the teachers for use in training learners with special needs (Meijer, 2001). Support for inclusive schooling might also be availed through other services such as advisory centers and where necessary special visiting staff (Meijer, 2001). In advanced settings the collaboration between different institutions could also increase the resources availed to the inclusion programs thus providing avenues for innovative ways of blending special needs learners with other learners in mainstream settings (Meijer, 2001). Through providing an enabling environment the schools can also function to promote the competency of teachers who believe in the inclusion concept but lack the confidence to effectively perform in such inclusive settings (Florian, 2008).

Finally what should determine the approach to be used in formulating policies on inclusion or special education is the outcomes of the alternatives. On this aspect the inclusion clamor has been based on rights and effectiveness (Lindsay, 2007). Though on the former it is arguable that inclusive schooling provides increased access to education for marginalized groups (Florian, 2008), the effectiveness of such a policy is argued across the board. Through a review of literature Lindsay (2007) for instance concludes that inclusion bear no clearly delineated positive effects. On the other hand inclusion has been argued to provide better participation in social activities at the family and community level to the disabled learners (Agbeke, 2005; Downing et al., 2007). For able peers inclusive schooling has also been associated with positive outcomes such as enhanced “awareness and tolerance of differences, … empathy and compassion for others, learning while helping others, and acquiring special and unique skills – e.g. sign language” (Downing et al., 2007, p. 22). On academic outcomes (performance) the role of inclusion is however not clearly delineated since no significance difference is observed when students from an inclusive and a special education program are compared (Agbeke, 2005). Go to part 6 here.

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