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Dr. Reginald Leon Green, NATIONAL FORUM OF APPLIED EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH JOURNAL, Dr. William Allan Kritsonis, Editor-in-Chief, NATIONAL FORUM JOURNALS (Founded 1982)- www.nationalforum.com

Dr. Reginald Leon Green, NATIONAL FORUM OF APPLIED EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH JOURNAL, Dr. William Allan Kritsonis, Editor-in-Chief, NATIONAL FORUM JOURNALS (Founded 1982)- www.nationalforum.com

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Dr. Reginald Leon Green, NATIONAL FORUM OF APPLIED EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH JOURNAL, Dr. William Allan Kritsonis, Editor-in-Chief, NATIONAL FORUM JOURNALS (Founded 1982)- www.nationalforum.com
Dr. Reginald Leon Green, NATIONAL FORUM OF APPLIED EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH JOURNAL, Dr. William Allan Kritsonis, Editor-in-Chief, NATIONAL FORUM JOURNALS (Founded 1982)- www.nationalforum.com

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 NATIONAL FORUM OF APPLIED EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH JOURNAL VOLUME 27, NUMBERS 1 & 2, 2014 31
Is There An Elephant in the Room? Considerations that Administrators Tend to Forget when Facilitating Inclusive Practices among General and Special Education Teachers
Sandra Cooley Nichols, PhD
Associate Professor and Department Head
The University of Alabama
Adriane N. Sheffield
Post Graduate Student
The University of Alabama
 _____________________________________________________________________________________
Abstract
More than six million students are being served nationwide under the Individuals with Disabilities Improvement Act (IDEIA, 2004). As a result of NCLB mandates and IDEIA, inclusive practices have become standard in addressing the needs of all learners. Co-teaching is one inclusive practice that is now being used at all levels of schooling. The purpose of this reflective analysis is to inform administrator preparation and professional development research related to special education. Themes addressed by study participants included: need for cultural sensitivity training, time and techniques for building co-teaching relationships, and administrative support.
 Keywords
: collaboration, inclusion, instructional practice, administration  ______________________________________________________________________________ According to recent reports, more than six million students nationwide are being served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA) (U.S. Dept. of Education, 2011 not in references). These students comprise more than ten percent of the overall school population and can be found in urban, rural, and suburban school districts, regardless of their size. School accountability was raised for all students with the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) (2001 not in references), and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA) (2004) mandated that a free and appropriate education be provided to all students with disabilities. As a result of NLCB mandates and IDEIA, inclusive practices have become standard in addressing the needs of all learners regardless of gender, race, class, nationality, or exceptionality (Riehl, 2000). In addition, an increasing number of scholars and policy makers agree that provisions must be made to ensure that all students are successful in school settings, regardless of ability.
 
SANDRA COOLEY NICHOLS and ADRIANE N. SHEFFIELD 32
Literature Review The Meaning of Inclusion
In order to understand the move to inclusive practices, first the meaning and purpose of inclusion, must be understood, and practices that encourage inclusion identified and studied for implementation processes. A clear definition of inclusion has been somewhat problematic. However, there are several underlying principles. First, inclusion is based on the premise that all humans have the right to participation, access, and achievement (Harpell & Andrews, 2010; Rice, 2006; Ryan, 2010). Those who
support inclusion strive to “minimize the exclusion” (Harpell & Andrews, 2010, p. 191)
  by creating a welcoming and supportive environment for those who may be disenfranchised. (Obiakor, 2011; Obiakor, Harris, Mutua, Rotatori, &Algozzine, 2012; Rice, 2006). This supports the social justice concept that promotes inclusion in opposition to exclusion and encourages recognition, care, respect, and empathy towards others (Theoharris, 2007). Second, inclusion is a process that emphasizes meaningful participation by all members of a school community (Harpell & Andrews, 2010; Rice, 2006; Ryan, 2010). This process must involve a change in school culture in order to be sustainable. Last, inclusion is a practice that requires all learners to be supported in academic settings by merging regular and special education services (Harpell & Andrews, 2010; Ryan, 2010). The successful use of inclusive  practices requires collaboration, acceptance and support from parents, teachers, and, most importantly, administrators (Obiakor, 2011; Ryan, 2010).
Co-Teaching
One inclusive practice that has increased in interest is that of co-teaching. Co-teaching can be defined as the pairing and partnering of a general education teacher and a special education teacher, or other specialist, who jointly deliver instruction to a group of students, including those with disabilities or other special learning needs (Friend, Cook, Hurley-Chamberlain, & Shamberger, 2010). Co-teaching should include at least three components: co- planning, co-instruction, and co-assessment (Murawski & Lochner, 2011). Co-planning allows the special education teacher to proactively participate in the planning of instruction. There are a variety of instructional variations encompassed by co-teaching. These include station teaching,  parallel teaching, alternative teaching, teaming, one teach, one observe and one teach, and one assist (Scruggs, Mastopier, McDuffe, 2007; Friend et al., 2010). A combination of these variations should be used as deemed appropriate for each co-teaching situation. The literature has identified many benefits to co-teaching as an inclusive practice. For students who are co-taught, the potential benefits included increased individual attention (Scruggs et al., 2007; Harpell & Andrews, 2010), reduced negative behaviors, improved social skills and self-esteem, and increased academic achievement (Rea, McLaughlin & Walter-Thomas, 2002)  Not in references. This increase in academic achievement was not readily transferred to high-stakes testing situations. Idol (2006)  Not in references found that scores on high-stakes tests were only slightly affected by co-teaching for either general education or special education students. Likewise, Rea et al. (2002)  Not in references found that while students with learning disabilities in co-taught classrooms performed better on report card grades, their performance on high-stakes tests was comparable across classroom types. This
 
SANDRA COOLEY NICHOLS and ADRIANE N. SHEFFIELD 33  brings into question the measures currently being used to determine the effectiveness of co-teaching. In addition to benefits for students, there are benefits for professionals as well. First, both general education and special education teachers report professional growth as a result of co-teaching arrangements (Murawski & Lochner, 2011; Scruggs et al., 2007). In addition, teachers report shared accountability and responsibility for students; improved morale and reduced burnout, and the use of increased instructional strategies (Friend et al., 2010). Kloo and Zigmond (2008) question whether there is actual evidence to support that co-teaching is effective in its present form. For while there are benefits to co-teaching for educators, numerous concerns still exist regarding co-teaching situations. Teacher concerns included: a need for common planning time (Friend et al, 2010). Scruggs et al, 2007; teacher assignment to co-teaching situations (Rytivaara & Kershner, 2012), and the need for additional professional development (Hines, 2008; Rice, 2008; Ryan, 2010) and administrative support Kloo & Zigmond, 2008; Hines, 2008; Rice, 2006).
The Role of Administrators
Research has found that administrators are critical of the implementation of inclusive  practices. An administrator has significant power and influence over establishing and maintaining inclusive settings, and this happens on multiple levels. First and foremost, a
 principal’s beliefs, attitudes
, and values about inclusion (Rice, 2006; Ryan, 2010; Schmidt & Venet, 2012) set the tone and help to create a vision of inclusive schools. In order to influence teachers, principals must also increase their own knowledge and understanding of special education (Lynch, 2012). They must then model a positive attitude toward inclusive practices (Harpell & Andrews, 2010;Rice, 2006; Ryan, 2010) for their faculty and community. Second, it is crucial that principals serve as instructional leaders in their schools (Fullan, 2009; Lynch, 2012; Waldron, McCleskey & Redd, 2011). Educators need principals to be highly visible as instructional leaders. They need to create and encourage open dialogue and communication among all staff (Hines, 2008; Rice, 2006; Riehl, 2000). Hines (2012) lists six activities that encourage openness and collaboration. These include: (1) providing positive opportunities for sharing; (2) scheduling time for planning; (3) having teachers document their collaborative activities; (4) visiting other inclusive settings; (5) providing resources, and (6) celebrating successes. In addition, administrators must encourage and support parents, students, educators, and community members to take an active role in building an inclusive climate (Waldron et al., 2011). According to Lynch (2012), an inclusive learning environment is
“concerned with the schools’ emotional atmosphere, culture, values, and high expectations of all
students, especially those with disabilities
” (p. 42).
 In order to develop more inclusive learning environments, administrators will need to influence and support teachers. One major teacher concern when initiating inclusive practices,  particularly co-teaching, is planning time. This may require administrators restructuring the school day to provide adequate planning time for teachers to collaborate (Hines, 2008; Rice, 2006; Ryan, 2010) and modify curricula (Rice, 2006). In addition, administrators must provide ongoing professional development opportunities that facilitate and support inclusive practices (Hines, 2008; Rice, 2008; Ryan 2010). Principals can also demonstrate instructional leadership  by addressing and mediating conflicts that may arise between constituents (Hines, 2008; Lynch, 2012; Rice, 2006). One important factor for administrators is the development and utilization of effective

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