Inclusive education teacher educators: Knowledge, identity and agency

Year: 2019

Author: Walton, Elizabeth

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The likelihood of inclusive education gaining ground internationally is largely dependent on teachers’ willingness and ability to teach inclusively. In turn, this capacity is largely dependent on teacher education. There is a substantial body of literature that focuses on what teacher education for inclusive education should comprise in terms of curriculum and outcomes. There is, however, relatively little focus on the teacher educators themselves. This is problematic as it renders invisible those who produce the pedagogic discourse of inclusive education. In this paper, I focus on inclusive education teacher educators by exploring issues of knowledge, identity, and agency. In so doing, I lay some conceptual foundations for much needed empirical research to understand more about those who teach the teachers.

Inclusive education teacher educators must design and deliver curricula that combine theory, codified principles of practice, and field-work opportunities. The epistemological grounds on which these components are selected, privileged and sequenced will determine the nature, and possibly the impact of the pedagogic discourse. To illustrate this, I present four curriculum models found in pre-service teacher education for inclusive education. These models reflect different epistemological commitments of teacher educators, and offer different opportunities for knowledge building.

The intersecting personal, professional and academic identities of inclusive education teacher educators should be acknowledged and understood. This second section of the paper is an argument against an ahistorical, decontextualized approach to teacher education for inclusive education that obscures the people doing this work. The work of inclusive education teacher educators needs to be seen as dynamically shaped by their life experiences, axiological commitments, and the communities of practice to which they belong. Finally, I will give attention to the contextual factors that enable and constrain the professional agency of inclusive education teacher educators, that is, the extent to which they can exert power and influence for change. These factors include national and supranational imperatives for inclusive education, the demands of marketized higher-education systems, challenges to university-based teacher education, and contextual exigencies.

The conceptual framework for this paper is built with reference to the work of Basil Bernstein, and Legitimation Code Theory. Together, these enable me to explore the knowledge practices of inclusive education teacher educators. Critical theory and post/decolonial scholarship then allow me to consider the imbrication of global and local knowledge, intersectional identity, and agency as power, influence and resistance.