What do we know about how early career teachers experience inclusive education?

Year: 2012

Author: Evans, David, Little, Cathy, Spandagou, Ilektra, Wood, Paul

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


Over the past two decades there have been substantial developments in the education of students with disabilities in Australia and internationally. From the passing of the Disability Discrimination Act (1992), acceptance of the Salamanca Statement (UNESCO, 1994), enactment of the Disability Standards for Education (2005), and to being a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN, 2006), the Australian community has embraced the education of students with disabilities. Despite these developments, and endeavours, there continues to be a significant disparity in education outcomes between students with disabilities and those without disabilities.

In the past two decades emphasis was placed in including special education training for regular teachers. There is emerging evidence that this training is effective as part of teacher preparation. However, little is known about the early experiences of new teachers as they enter the profession as far as inclusive education is concerned. This paper aims to bring together two areas of research; inclusive education and teacher induction and retention. It takes as its starting point the existing literature and identifies the main common areas of research in the two fields. Based on this analysis of the literature it advances a model that encompasses three levels of related factors; personal, situated and contextual factors and identifies their inter-relations.

After presenting the model, the paper discusses its implications in a time that policy aims to improve outcomes for students with a disability. For example, the recent Australian Government initiative, More Support for Students with Disabilities, makes teacher professional learning, including pre-service teacher education, a key area of focus. In this context the research to policy gap and the expectations placed upon tertiary providers as the solution to inclusive policies and practices is limited to the extent that pre-service providers have reach into schools and even less understanding about what happens to these teachers when the 'reality shock' of schools hits. This lack of understanding limits both the ability to continue to adequately prepare teachers for the range of classroom experiences they are likely to encounter or to inform policy and practice in schools that can buffer teachers against the reality shock. The proposed model aims to fill this gap in our understanding and to identify ways that transition to school is facilitated for early careers teachers.