Teacher Education for Inclusive Education: Lessons from Scotland's Inclusive Education Project

Year: 2013

Author: Florian, Lani

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Inclusive education is based on the principle that local schools should provide for all children, regardless of any perceived difference, disability, or other social, emotional, cultural or linguistic difference. In practice this is often implemented as different forms of provision for different types of learners, based on the idea that some learners need something ‘different from' or ‘additional to', that which is provided to others of similar age, as many country definitions of special needs education make clear. In addition, the standards of teacher qualification and teacher education tend to follow this pattern by establishing standards for the preparation of teachers by categorical types of learners such as primary, secondary, bilingual, special education, and so on. Such qualifications, in turn, reinforce the idea of different types of teachers for different groups of learners: for example, ‘primary' or ‘secondary', ‘general' or ‘special' education teachers. The problem is that separate teacher education programs have been identified as a barrier to inclusion (Blanton, Pugach & Florian 2011), and suggest that problems of equity in educational opportunity may be structurally linked to teacher education and teacher professional learning. Issues pertaining to how well teachers are prepared, and the role they can play in reducing educational inequalities by virtue of the way in which they undertake their work have remained largely unexplored. Today, mainstream classroom teachers are dealing with more diverse groups than ever before, and they often report that they do not feel adequately prepared for the job. In addition, calls for reform in teacher education are increasingly made in response to dissatisfaction with student performance and poor outcomes, particularly relating to the long tail of underachievement of specific groups such as students from ethnic minorities, those living in poverty, or those who may have additional needs associated with disability or language. Scholars studying the preparation of teachers for inclusive education argue that teacher education reform requires a paradigmatic change in order to develop the knowledge, attitudes, and skills that support the teaching and learning of all students rather than merely providing additional ‘specialised' knowledge for some teachers. (Florian, 2009; 2012). This paper reports some lessons learned from Scotland's Inclusive Practice Project that has developed an innovative approach to preparing teachers to enter a profession in which they take responsibility for the learning and achievement of all students. It identifies four crucial issues, describes how they were addressed and synthesizes selected findings from project studies. Key lessons focusing on the professional development of teacher educators and the establishment of a new curricular approach to teacher education for inclusive education are discussed.