Inclusive Education Essay Sample
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1.Introduction and Statement of the problem For inclusion to be successful, schools require a certain culture and ethos. Part of this is that an aim in all classrooms should be to expand the circle of tolerance so that a broader range of behaviours are embraced and provided for through supports that are an ordinary part of the classroom, as a broader range of learner differences become an ordinary part of the
part of the school day. Inclusion is about creating a society in which all children and their families feel welcomed and valued. “Inclusive classrooms put a premium on how people treat one another. To bring about effective change, school leaders and teachers must be actively involved in the change process together. Collaboration among general and special education teachers – as well as support from administrators, families and community members – is essential for schools to become inclusive.
Teacher involvement and continuous staff development are elements required in schools aiming to become more inclusive. Classroom management is essential for the maintenance of an environment conducive to teaching and learning, to enable the implementation of the curriculum as well as social learning. South African educators are currently battling to find alternatives to corporal punishment that will be successful and effective over the longer term. Against this background, it becomes clear that it is necessary to further explore the reasons why educators are struggling to implement non-violent and pro-active ways of approaching classroom discipline before any effective intervention to promote positive alternative means of discipline can be developed. 3.PURPOSE/AIM OF THE RESEARCH
An aim of this research was to investigate the views and understandings held by teachers regarding diversity and inclusive education – to look at the practices, experiences and attitudes.
4. RESEARCH QUESTION
What is the role of educators regarding classroom management at a school with inclusive education Maowaneng Senior Secondary School? how to develop and apply pro-active disciplinary approaches intended to facilitate self-discipline in learners. 5. REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
5.1 Inclusive education
According to Engelbrecht (1999: 19-20) inclusive education can be defined as a system of education that is responsive to the diverse needs of learners. A mere definition will not suffice in conveying the actual meaning of the concept for everyday teaching and learning. Inclusive education may be defined as the common schooling and education of handicapped and non-handicapped learners in ordinary classes of the public school system, with adequate support for the learners with special educational needs. Real inclusion is characterised by common instruction of all learners. The term ‘inclusive education’ means that children who were previously taught in special schools are now allowed to go to any regular school and attend classes with their ‘normal’ peers. In other words, those children who were previously excluded from the schools in the mainstream are now included (Jenkins & Sileo, 1994:84). Inclusive education is, however, more than just a matter of placement. Very specific principles underlie this approach and are usually built into a bill of rights and governmental policies.
The key documents are the White Paper on Education and Training (Department of Education, March 1995), the Organization, Governance and Funding of Schools White Paper 2 (Department of Education, November 1996), the White Paper on an Integrated National Disability Strategy (Office of the Deputy President, 1996), and the S.A. Schools Act of November 1996. Inclusive education, however, is not realised by a loose cooperation between ordinary and special schools. Cooperation between ordinary and special schools is not an essential step towards real inclusion in the true sense of the word, because it is not real reform of the school system. It only grants a kind of hospitality to the handicapped learners without really changing the ordinary school system towards an inclusive model. To support inclusive education educators have to be sensitive not only to the particular needs of individual learners but also to their own attitudes and feelings. Educators may need training to identify and address special educational needs.
Educators need to develop a critical understanding of common stereotypes and prejudices related to disability and reflect on how these have influenced their own attitudes, Lomofsky, Roberts and Mvambi (1997:71) state that clarity about their own strengths, vulnerabilities and needs is a necessary step in preparing educators for inclusive education. Only when this has been achieved are they in a position to work as change agents who can influence the attitudes of the school community (staff, parents and other learners) towards learners with disabilities. Inclusive education requires that these learners are not simply thought of with pity but viewed more positively, in terms of their abilities rather than their disabilities. Inclusion works when teachers believe that all children can learn.
Both special education and regular classroom educators must buy into the philosophy that if material is presented appropriately, all learners can learn – it may have to be at their own rate, but they can still learn. Educators must also be risk-takers. They must be willing to risk the way they have always done things. They must be willing to look at the same situation in a different way and even risk failure in order to grow, and to look at obstacles as opportunities. They must be willing to look at different methods of delivery, different management systems, and different room arrangements. Inclusive education works when teachers become learners. 5.2 Defining Classroom management
Porteus et al. (2001:59) refer to classroom management as a democratic process in which rules are made with special emphasis on the importance of participation and involvement in the thinking and decision-making processes within a classroom. Educators facilitate a participative process with learners and parents to establish the “rules” and the consequences of good and bad behaviour. The aforementioned authors further state that children, like most people, are more likely to understand, respect and follow principles that they helped to create. Through this process of participation, they build their own capacity for decision-making, community building and responsibility. The management of discipline therefore requires that educators make learners feel emotionally comfortable and physically safe so that learners can develop intrinsic discipline and accountability for their actions (Charles, 2002:13). According to Knott-Craig (2007:6), schools today compete with fashionable pastimes and trends such as television, computer games, different cultures, gangs, crime, politics, home and religious cultures. These influences are brought into the classroom. All South African schools and even the best teachers struggle with discipline. Each school has to establish its own culture, ethos or climate.
The culture of each school is dependent on what it finds acceptable or unacceptable and what it will tolerate and not tolerate. South African schools need to establish a culture of respect. Rogers (1998:18) suggests that respect is a commitment to action. Respect is not about how we feel, but rather about how we behave. To develop learners who are socially well adjusted and able to function healthily in society, we have to teach them respect for self and others. This suggests that learners must feel better about themselves before they can do better. Schools should be places of safety where learners can develop healthy self-esteem and learn appropriate forms of emotional expression. Schools thus prepare learners for life. The punitive approach must be replaced with constructive forms of discipline that will teach the learner how to do better in the future. However, Oosthuizen, Rossouw and De Wet (2004:66) maintain that an educator is obliged to maintain discipline at school by virtue of his/her profession and in accordance with his/her legal role (in loco parentis), which is the right to maintain authority and the obligation to exercise caring supervision over the learner. The aim of school discipline or classroom management is to create a safe and happy environment conducive to learning and teaching. According to Gootman (2001:5), discipline often poses a great challenge in today’s schools, because of the pressure society has imposed on individuals and families.
The effects of drug abuse and neglect, community violence, poverty and single parenting echo in schools, especially in the high density residential areas. Many of these learners bring their baggage of dysfunction straight into the classroom. They push educators to their limits and render discipline an all-consuming task that overshadows and threatens academic learning (Gootman, 2001:5). In my opinion, it is clear that discipline is a complex problem that has its origins not in the classroom, but in the home. The learner needs the guidance of mature and caring adults in order to achieve self-discipline.
However, research shows that the use of punishment may also have several undesirable side effects (Savage, 1999:205). According to Lakes (2004:571), controlling children in this manner hinders their development of self-esteem and self-identity. My experience is that punishment is a controversial issue that demands the highest degree of professionalism and responsibility on the part of the educator. The educator must act on behalf of the parents, in the best interests of the child, who is being prepared to take up his/her place in society. Learners therefore need to learn that their freedom cannot be at the expense of others and that they will be held accountable for their actions. 5.3 How inclusive education can be made effective
Each child has a right to belong and to share normal experiences with a family, neighbours and peers. Each child has a right to a quality education in his or her neighbourhood school. All children can learn and develop. Working side-by-side with peers with diverse skills and abilities help all children to learn and develop the skills necessary to live and work in the real world. Each child has a vital contribution to make to society. Schools should strive to be communities that value diversity. In order to achieve this especially with learners who may experience some barriers to learning, the following strategies are essential (Eaton, 1996:2-7): 5.3.1 General strategies
Treat the learner with the dignity and respect that all learners are entitled to. Speak to the learner directly, never around the learner in his or her presence. Use words with dignity. Draw attention to the learner’s achievements and strengths. Avoid a congregation of learners with disabilities in the class or in the school. Teach about differences as part of the regular curriculum. Where individualization is necessary, attempt to have it occur when other learners are receiving individual instruction. Structure social interaction in the classroom through planned activities. Promote social interaction outside the classroom. Foster and encourage independence. Encourage peers rather than an adult to assist the learner. 5.3.2 Teamwork
The educator should not be expected to integrate a learner with a disability into the regular classroom on his own. Working as a team is a key to success. For some educators, especially those who feel that they lack the necessary training to teach learners with disabilities or who may be experiencing integration for the first time, the concept is frightening and intimidating. Accepting the responsibility to educate a learner who may present challenges is less intimidating when the educator has the guarantee that he or she will be able to rap the expertise and interests of the other members of the team; will be able to call upon others to make decisions and to problem-solve, and will have the necessary support in difficult times. With the proper support from the team members, the classroom educator, the learner with the disability as well as the other learners in the classroom will benefit. The functioning of the team will be specific. However, some members of the team may be more active in the day-to-day activities than others. The core team member will definitely be the classroom educator, while other members may be called in when necessary. The role of the team is to support each member, to develop the individual education program for the learner and to implement and solve problems which may arise. 5.3.3 Instructional strategies
It is important to note that just because a learner may be labelled as disabled; it does not mean that he or she cannot participate in the planned classroom activities as the other learners are expected to. The needs and the skills or the learner must be analysed and from there it is determined if adaptations are required. The learner may participate in the same activity in the same way as his or her peers, with some adaptation, or in an alternative activity. Recent research (Eaton, (1996:5) has suggested that, although nor essential to successful integration, a shift away from teacher directed organization and delivery of lessons to education facilitated, child-centred approaches are more desirable.
6. METHOD OF RESEARCH
6.1 Research Design
I selected a qualitative approach for data collection and analysis, as this study investigates the perceptions and experiences of learners and educators in the management of discipline at my selected school. This paradigm rejects a detached viewpoint and assumes that the researcher must understand the subjects’ frame of reference. Data was gathered through engaging with the research subjects and obtaining their perspectives on their current management practices. According to Creswell (1998:199), qualitative research aims to give meaning to people’s experiences and emphasises that the inquiry methods must be appropriate and aligned to the research aims and objectives. Qualitative research is useful for describing and answering questions about participants and contexts. These authors claim that qualitative research is exceptionally suited for exploration or for beginning to understand a group or phenomenon .Qualitative research is interpretive and focuses on meaning and understanding and building concepts and theories.
McMillan and Schumacher (2001:396) state that qualitative research is based on a constructivist philosophy that assumes that reality is multi-layered, interactive and a shared social experience as interpreted by individuals. Accordingly, qualitative researchers believe that reality is a social construction and that such research is first concerned with understanding social phenomena from the participants’ perspective. They argue that people form constructions in order to make sense of these entities and reorganise these constructions as viewpoints, perceptions and a belief system (McMillan & Schumacher, 2001:396). Qualitative researchers study participants, perspectives with interactive strategies (participant observation, direct observation, in-depth interviews, artifacts and supplementary techniques). 6.2 SAMPLING
Qualitative researchers typically deal with small, purposively selected samples. Their belief is that the key to sampling in qualitative research is to select participants who are able to provide insights and possess the desired articulations to attain the desired richness of qualitative data. In Creswell’s (2005:203) view, the qualitative researcher purposefully or intentionally selects individuals and sites that can make a meaningful contribution to the research study. In qualitative studies researchers normally use a relatively small selection from the total population (Bogden & Biklen, 1982:2), unless the researcher sends a large number of field workers to most of the population, as in certain large-scale interview surveys. The validity of the findings is not so much dependent upon the number of respondents than on the knowledge and the level of reliability in which the respondents react to the questions during the interviews. The sample population on which this study focused, are the teachers at Maowaneng Senior Secondary School I purposively chose four teachers on their willingness to participate in this research. Another reason for the choice relates to the cost and labour of doing the research. 6.3 DATA COLLECTION
According to Leedy and Ormrod (2001:154), phenomenological interviews rely on in-depth, unstructured and individual interviews with a carefully selected sample of participants, all of whom must have had a direct experience with the research study. Leedy and Ormrod state that the researcher-participant involvement is equal to the researcher taking on the role of learner. At the same time, the researcher suspends any preconceived ideas or personal experiences that may unduly influence what the researcher “hears” that the participants are saying. However, it is also essential that the researcher gains an understanding of the “typical” experiences the participants may have had (Leedy & Ormrod, 2001:153). According to Creswell (2005:209), the researcher spends plenty of time at the site where people work, play or engage in the phenomenon he or she wants to study.
My main source of data collection was one-on-one individual interviews with educators as they were considered to be particularly information rich and might have unique problems and experiences that they would not be able or willing to share with others present. Field notes were made during classroom observations. Observations and interviewing are “two techniques that are critical procedures for collecting qualitative data …” (Best & Kahn 1993:198) because they “portray everyday experiences of individuals… ” (Vakalisa 1997: 4), and may be used as a combination of data collection procedures. The viability of the use of these two techniques ensured that the researcher acquired practical observation experience of classroom behaviour management problems and in-depth views of the teachers regarding inclusive education. 6.4 Ethical Consideration
In Action Research, the researcher has to keep all ethical consideration in mind. Richard Winter (1996) lists a number of principles which include: consulting the authorities for taking permission; taking consent from the participants before making observations or examining documents, and sharing the work with the participants. Leedy and Ormrod (2001:107) emphasise issues such as the protection of the participants from harm, informed consent, and the right to privacy. They state that researchers have a responsibility to society, as they are obligated and accountable for their conduct and their research and as they often represent various funding institutions and society. Consent to gain access was obtained from the principal of the school to interview the participants. Informed consent was obtained by providing the educators with an explanation of the nature, purpose and ethics of the study. The names of the participants were not recorded, as their anonymity and confidentiality had been assured according to the ethical aspects of the research. The ethical aspects of the study were explained to the educators before the commencement of the interviews. The purpose of the study was discussed and the terms were negotiated. The researcher orientated all the participants to the purpose of the study and what was required of them. The participation of all participants was on a voluntary basis, and no coercion was used. 6.5 VALIDITY AND RELIABILITY
Miles and Huberman (1994:38), as cited by Conrad and Serlin (2006:414), outline credibility in qualitative research in terms of the researcher-as-instrument, as essentially the researcher is observing, interviewing and recording, therefore it is the researcher that determines credibility. Miles and Huberman (1994:38) suggest that good qualitative researchers will be familiar with the phenomenon and setting under study, have strong conceptual interests, a multidisciplinary approach and good investigative skills. They define credibility as ‘truth value’; in other words, what is depicted, must be authentic. To enhance credibility in this study, the interviews were tape-recorded and transcribed verbatim to ensure an accurate reflection of the respondents’ views. 7. PRESENTATION OF DATA
The aim of this research was to investigate and explore the perceptions and experiences of educators regarding the management of classroom discipline at the school. Responses from participating educators were collected through individual face-to-face interviews. Additional data were collected through observations and field notes. Four educators who participated in the research were aged between 30 to 60 years old, two males and two females. All the educators were academically and/or professionally qualified, with qualifications ranging from three-year to four-year diploma in education. They were all members of professional educators’ unions and were registered with the South African Council of Educators (SACE),
Educators | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 |
Gender | Female| Female | Male | Male |
Age | 40 | 44 | 60 | 36 |
Professional qualification | Three-year Diploma in Education | Four-year Diploma in Education | Three-year Diploma in Education | Four-year Higher Diploma in Education | Years of experience as an educator | 16| 22 | 35 | 16 | Training courses in discipline | None | None | None | None | Membership of SACE | Yes | Yes | Yes | Yes |
From the data analysis, it may be concluded as follows:
7.1 The teachers who participated in this study had a good understanding of what inclusive education entails. Although all participants mentioned to some extent that inclusion is about accepting all learners and creating space for all learners, I got the feeling that these ideals were perhaps conditional. They seemed to believe that inclusion was beneficial for all learners, but that it was only possible if certain elements were in place (for example, appropriate support structures). This being said, I do feel that the teachers working in this school were in favour of inclusive education and were willing to put in the work required to make a success of it. All teachers mentioned that they have not received any formal training on addressing learner’s needs in an inclusive classroom. They have mainstream diplomas in education and felt they were unprepared to help learners with diverse needs. They mentioned that a high number of learners in classes made it difficult for them to adequately teach in inclusive classrooms.
This high number of learners made them experience difficulties in giving individual attention to learners with slower work tempo while managing their classrooms. 7.2 Educators are also frustrated at not being able to maintain discipline, since they do not know how to initiate the intervention process towards the attainment of self-control and self-focus, which has as its aim the facilitation of self-discipline. Educators perceive that there is an inability or failure amongst learners to motivate and control themselves, guided by appropriate principles. Educators are not aware that they can influence the behaviour of learners by helping them to become more self-disciplined. The study revealed that educators were engaged in strategies that were counter-productive to the development of self-discipline in learners. Educators were still resorting to methods of discipline based on punishment rather than on encouraging pro-social behaviour. Educators sometimes resorted to shouting and name-calling to try to maintain discipline. Educators do not have the skills to maintain discipline in effective and respectful ways. Educators favoured suspensions and detentions as alternative strategies to maintain discipline in the absence of corporal punishment.
Educators are still focused on punishing learners rather than trying to influence them to adopt a more positive behaviour. 7.3 Educators are aware that a poverty-stricken environment amplifies the already difficult circumstances under which they are expected to perform their tasks. Educators are aware that dysfunctional families can impair the disciplining of learners. Educators appreciate the fact that the environment in which some of their learners grow up, render many of them dispirited and hopeless and that some then act out their feelings of hopelessness, often in violent and antisocial ways. Although educators realise the importance of parental support in disciplining learners, they do not know how this could be achieved. The non- involvement by parents put teachers in a difficult position especially when dealing with learners exhibiting behaviour difficulties.
All interviewees saw classroom management as the control of classroom activities as a means to promoting effective teaching and learning. However, they saw classroom management as the way of facilitating the teaching process from the beginning of the lesson to the end. Another teacher saw classroom management as the teacher’s ability to create a conducive learning environment that would ensure order in the classroom. The teachers saw it as the prevention of misbehaviours to ensure the participation of the learners. Even though some of the teachers had no theoretical background in classroom management, their views on the fundamentals of what classroom management entailed showed their awareness of the immense significance of the subject. What was notable in their views was that classroom management involved coordination of all classroom events and ensuring that they are minimally disturbed.
7.4 All teachers at the school received support in the form of workshops and mentoring activities from their district in areas of accommodating children with different needs. However, to effectively accommodate diversity in inclusive classrooms, the respondents said that they did not have the necessary skills and competence to handle learners experiencing barriers to learning in their classrooms. This was confirmed also by the researcher’s observations during visits in the classrooms.
In inclusive school communities, responding to and supporting learner diversity should be a shared responsibility of teachers, support providers, families, peers and community members, which necessitates expanding traditional roles. Many of the pressures of changing roles require especially classroom teachers to assimilate proposed changes, examine their own current coping strategies and in the light of new requirements, modify their pedagogy. One of the major points to come out of our research is that it is critical to identify and understand the conditions that are likely to cause teachers most stress during inclusion. Educators’ attitudes regarding the enforcement of discipline must change in order to bring about improvements in the system of schooling, with educators realising that corporal punishment may no longer be applied in South African schools. Educators should always be sensitive to the underlying causes that might be giving rise to a learner’s unacceptable behaviour. Educators can also treat such learners with a greater sense of compassion, attempting to understand them better than they have before, in order to win their trust and to encourage the development of positive behaviour exhibited in the spirit of ubuntu.
Teachers should attend school regularly and punctually, so that they can work optimally in class. It is important for teachers to establish clear rules in classrooms which are directly linked to behaviour and maintaining high academic excellence. Teachers must make use of positive reinforcement in order to encourage good behaviour. Educators need to apply the disciplinary system uniformly and to relate it consistently to all learners. Schools should continue to network with other schools both nationally and worldwide, in order to refine their disciplinary systems. The National Education Department can help educators who are frustrated by the present system to establish a uniform sanction (punishment) policy as a guideline for improving learners’ behaviour. Learners should be encouraged to volunteer to perform community service, which could lead to the development of a sense of respect and the desire to care for others. Schools must do everything in their power to improve parent participation in schools. Closer contact between teachers and parents can lead to the learners concerned taking care to attempt not to break school rules.
9. INTERVIEW PROTOCOL
1. What do you think is the role of the teacher in managing his or her classroom? Most interviewees saw the role of the teacher as that of gaining control of the classroom by ensuring that the rules or procedures of the classroom were adhered to. In their view the teachers were the ones that had to establish rules and procedures since the teachers were the ones that facilitated the classroom process. However, one teacher added that the learners needed to be given an opportunity to be involved when rules were set. One interviewee felt that learners should know from the beginning of the year what the teacher expected of them so that they behaved appropriately. One interviewee felt that the classroom process and activities of the classroom should be determined by the teacher. The teacher should not allow learners to dictate the classroom process. All interviewees indicated that the teaching process and classroom management were interrelated. They saw no effective teaching without properly managed classrooms.
This clearly illustrated the idea that conducive teaching and learning environment prevails if the teaching process and classroom the process complement each other. 2. What is the situation on classroom discipline in your school? The educators admitted that their school is experiencing problems with learners who are misbehaving. They said the situation at their schools was bad but not serious because it can be contained if people put their heads together and work as a team. They complained about learners coming late to the school and being so disrespectful and disruptive in class. One of the respondents had the following to say: “Learners at our school have disciplinary problems. They do not pay attention in class. The learners do not do their work, they are noisy and do not follow instructions. The learners come to school late everyday.” According to the respondents, more time is spent disciplining children in class than doing the actual teaching. However, the respondents said that there are always disciplinary hearings of learners and they are constantly dealing with these issues at school. To them it is a very tiresome job and it is stressful.
2. What are you doing to manage discipline currently?
The respondents also mentioned that small issues that happen in class are dealt with in class by educators first, and then comes grade heads and finally the disciplinary committee if the offences are more serious. These educators complained that parents are not involved in their children’s work at school and most of them are always defensive when they come to hearings at school. According to them most parents always think their children are right and the educators involved are to be blamed. These educators claimed that because of high disciplinary problems at the school, much of their time is wasted being involved in this, than doing actual teaching, thereby depriving disciplined and committed students from being taught.
3. What is classroom management to you?
To the respondents, good classroom management leads to good discipline in class. They argued that educators must be firm and fair in dealing with in class. Educators must be responsible for minimizing disciplinary problems and must try by all means to deal with most of the problems in class before sending the learners to the grade heads. They also said that educators are role models and must lead by example. Everything the educator does from punctuality, orderliness in class and being at school consistently, makes an impression on learners.
5. What can be done at your school to improve classroom discipline?
The respondents argued that clearer rules from the Department must be put in place to help educators deal with ill-discipline in schools. They also said that to eliminate ill-discipline in schools, there must be a massive campaign to educate parents on the importance of being involved in their children’s academic progress at school. They also advocated for more in-depth training for educators to keep them updated on the latest methods on controlling ill-discipline in class. One of the respondents said: “There is a need for the school principal to interact more with the parents regarding their children`s behaviour in school. Government must put more strategies in place to help educators when dealing with learners` disciplinary problems at school.”
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