"Teaching the way they learn" An investigation into inclusive practices for contemporary classrooms.

Year: 2018

Author: Subban, Pearl

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Teaching in contemporary classrooms calls for a new and different brand of educator, one that is resilient and tolerant of learners from varying backgrounds, ability levels, and diverse profiles.  There is a deliberate need to include, rather than marginalise. However, the knowledge of how to include, and intending to include all students is perhaps the start of the process.  The teacher’s ability to think positively about inclusion, feel that all students should be included, speak the right language in the classroom, and enact the appropriate inclusive practices, all contribute to the success of inclusionary practice.  Viewed conceptually, the study embraces the 3H model of teaching and learning, i.e., implying that authentic inclusion would involve aspects of knowledge, speech, action and thinking. 
The aim of this study was to explore and identify characteristics associated with inclusive educators, based on three elements:

Beliefs relating to inclusive education
Communication and speech that includes all students
Implementing inclusion through action and intentional strategies

This study was facilitated through a qualitative study, involving focus group interviews and open-ended surveys.   The target population was a 4th year cohort, enrolled in the Bachelor of Education program, at a metropolitan university in Melbourne, Australia. All students who participated had been involved in multiple professional experience programs at schools.
Students filled out an open-ended survey which allowed them to indicate their thoughts regarding the character traits of inclusive educators.  Seventy-three surveys were returned, and 32 students participated in the four focus group interviews. The focus group interviews were recorded and then transcribed.
Open-ended survey responses and the focus group interview data, was coded using inductive analysis techniques, which was deemed more appropriate to the nature of this study and its outcomes. 
Results revealed that pre-service teachers consider practical, real-world and applied skills as being essential to inclusive teaching.  Identified characteristics included both personal, professional and interactional qualities that allowed teachers to respond with sensitivity and strength in the classroom.   Recognizing and distinguishing these traits allowed pre-service teachers to become more aspirational in their outlook, and consolidated the professional identities of teachers whom they observed.  As such, the study became valuable to teachers in the profession, pre-service teachers and teacher educators. 
Keywords: Inclusive Education, Inclusive Educators, Inclusion, Student Diversity, Teachers