Developing initial teacher education for special education needs, disability and inclusive practice

Robinson, Deborah Christine (2014). Developing initial teacher education for special education needs, disability and inclusive practice. EdD thesis The Open University.



The central question explored in this study is how can Initial Teacher Education (ITE) be developed to enhance the skills, confidence and preparedness of student teachers for Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) and inclusive practice? It involved an inclusive action research (IAR) project involving teachers, teaching assistants, student teachers and a university tutor within one partnership school. The IAR focused on the actions that participants agreed were immediately relevant to preparation for inclusive classrooms. To deepen the potential transferability of the study, additional research methods were used to reflect on the IAR and the wider placement context so that factors supportive of professional development could be identified and understood. The study demonstrated that remodelling partnership as collaborative enquiry among students, practitioners and an academic tutor (Mclntyre, 2009) can enable reflexive engagement with conceptual and practical dilemmas in ways that may enhance the professional development of students and more experienced practitioners. It also captured an account of the complex nature of inclusive practice and the manner in which practitioners adopt particular conceptual positions (e.g. capability discourses) to enhance their own self-efficacy whilst operating contradictory discourses (e.g. deficit discourses) when mediating external cultures. Supportive to professional development for student teachers and school staff was; a collaborative culture; opportunities for students and more experienced staff to engage in structured, systematic, collaborative enquiry in the context of the school placement; the demotion of the discourses of expertism (Slee, 2010); the promotion of capacity discourses for SEND and opportunities for reflexive work. The study raises questions about the appropriateness of individuated competence standards for inclusive practice and suggests that teacher education must embrace more complex, research-oriented, dilemmatic, critical-theoretical and socially situated pedagogic frameworks, networking ITE into continuing professional development in ways that enable career-long development in support of education for all.

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