Lots of claims that inclusion positively effects the learning of students with disabilities. However shouldn't this depend on how these effects are defined and measured? How do we determine whether the positive effects are the result of the learning environment and not because the chosen learning environment happens to be the appropriate one for these particular students?


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  • Maneesh Choubey · Gyan Ganga Institute of Technology & Sciences
    The learning environment whether chosen or not has a great impact They may be tangible at times and intangible sometimes.The positve environment definitely improves yields good results.
  • Deleted
    While the learning environment does have great impact. How do we know that those who thrive better in the inclusive environment actually do so because their environment is better than that of more involved students? Just because a certain learning environment is good for some students does not mean that that same environment is good for ALL students.
  • Deleted
    Your comments really hit home with me, although I am saddened and shocked by them. I am lucky to work in a school where the teachers are very caring and good about welcoming my students with LD into their regular classroom settings. It may not continue this way, however, if they institute their merit pay plans, basing teacher pay on the results of their students standardized tests.

    Have you read Diane Ravitch's book?
  • Alicia Roberts Frank · State University of New York at Plattsburgh
    While my experiences echo yours, Kathleen, I want to go back to the original question of how we define the positive effects of inclusion...this has been an area of interest to me for quite some time. After seeing a junior who was struggling to earn a D- in general education English after being in special-education classes for who knows how many years, I asked his mom if we'd made a mistake changing his placement. She said, "No. I've never seen him work so hard in my life."
    So the question becomes HOW we measure success -- the grade, or the growth, whether on assignments or tests.
  • It works, we know it works but unfortunately there is lack of political will to ensure that inclusion is successful in all schools
  • Gail Thompson · Public School in Georgia
    Fletcher (2009) cited a study with 11,737 participants on inclusion of student with disabilities with results that indicated that inclusion of some students with disabilities in some classrooms actually caused regression in not only students with disabilities, but also their non-disabled classmates. We do not actually know that it works because many of the studies are flawed due to small samples of many of the studies, nebulous definitions, or fidelity of implementation.

    Fletcher, J. (2010). Spillover effects of inclusion of classmates with emotional problems on test scores in early elementary school. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 29(1). 69–83. ( DOI: 10.1002/pam.20479
  • Gail Thompson · Public School in Georgia
    I agree with Alicia's question regarding the definition of the positive effects of inclusion. Are we measuring social or academic or effects of character development?
  • Professor Gary Thomas, in the aftermath of Baroness Warnock’s 2005 assertion that inclusion is not working, wrote an article in the TES (published 14 October 2005) in which he states:

    “But 25 years on, it is revealed that inclusion is difficult. Did anyone expect otherwise? Of course special schooling is more convenient for the education system. Children who make serious demands on teachers' time are removed to special schools. The real issue - if we believe that inclusion is the right thing to do - is about how to make it work. Here, some brave decisions are needed from policy-makers about funding.”

    I sincerely believe that it does work..perhaps because of my time in the classroom teaching the 'unteachables'.
  • Some recent research has, in fact, supported benefits of inclusion not only to the child with a disability, but to nondisabled children and to general education staff (c.f., Downing, 1996; (Giangreco, Dennis, Cloninger, Edesman, & Schattman, 1993; Helmstetter, Peck, & Giangreco, 1994; Janzen, Wilgosh, & MacDonald, 1995; Karagiannis, 1996, et al., Kishi & Meyer, 1994; National Study of Inclusive Education, 1995; Peck, Carlson, & Helmstetter,1992). However, it is important to remember these benefits are only available in properly conducted inclusive programs.
  • the sad fact of the matter is that many educational 'solutions' become caught in the 'whimsical' nature of political expediency. Is inclusion not not working because it is a political hot potato (especially in the UK) or was it working when the research quoted above was done because the political cause was all for it! Something to think about....
  • Alicia Roberts Frank · State University of New York at Plattsburgh
    again, from experience, inclusion works when people believe it will and put the effort into it. I left my last post teaching high school because the efforts we had been making toward inclusion were being destroyed...and I could not fight alone. And fight for my students, I did. Too often have I seen students in tears because their teachers, the school psychologist, did not believe in them. I have had students say to me, "When Ms X tells me I can't make it in a general-education classroom, it makes me feel stupid."
    I now fight for inclusive attitudes in the future educators I teach -- because NO TEACHER should make a student feel stupid.
  • That is very true... and yet an unwise comment, a word out of place and some of us make them feel stupid and useless! Belief is a necessary precursor to implementation...
  • Şerife Akböğür · Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart Üniversitesi
    I think this is where the importance of the least restictive environment comes in b/c when the classroom environment is desinged to meet the needs of those children, children with special needs focus on learning like other children. I agree with Ms. Yasmin about believing in the effect of inclusion and then implementing it
  • Gail Thompson · Public School in Georgia
    We still must not overlook the research. The definitions of inclusion around the world are very diverse, as are definitions of disability. For example a South African study I read identified inclusion as allowing students with disabilities to go to a special education school or a special education classroom within a public school. Whereas studies in the United States have defined inclusion as having the students educated with their non-disabled peers in the regular classroom setting. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in the United States there are 13 categories of disability under which a student could be served, whereas in parts of China there are 7.
  • Carlo Schmidt · Universidade Federal de Santa Maria
    Dear Mr Thompson
    I´m very interested exactly in this point. What do we mean as inclusion(s)? I found one study (Humphrey, 2008) that take inclusion as four clear topics: 1) promotion of all pupils’ presence (e.g., without the use of withdrawal classes or other forms of ‘integrated segregation’), 2) participation (e.g., the quality of pupils’ educational
    experiences), 3) acceptance (e.g., by teachers and peers) and
    4) achievement (e.g., greater academic progress, better social
    and emotional skills). It seems that this claim expands and define not only where the pupil must be, but what should happen in school setting to promote learning. Moreover, still allows measures for inclusion.
  • A study assessing the effectiveness of inclusion was done at Johns Hopkins University. Called Success For All ,it was a school-wide restructuring program, student achievement was measured. The program itself involves family support teams, professional development for teachers, reading, tutoring, special reading programs, eight-week reading assessments, and greater opportunities for early childhood programs.

    Comparisons were made at first, second, and third grades. While assessments showed improved reading performance for all students, the most significant improvements occurred among the lowest achievers. There was a similar finding in the comparison of attendance rates. The research also found the best results occurred in schools with the highest level of funding and concluded that when resources are available to provide supplementary aids, all children do better.

    This study supports inclusion but raises the spectre of funding as a contributory factor.
  • Hi...I'm new here. But here is my take on things- I did my dissertation on "The Effectiveness of Training Formats Preferred by School Personnel" where the main focus was on teachers, particularly regular ed. teachers, teaching children with mental health issues (e.g.: behavioral and emotional issues). These children are being included but are, in spite of the educational legislation, being left behind. Why....because regular education teachers are not being prepared for this population. Many of the research information out there support this as well as highlight it as being one of the areas needing attention. Children with emotional and behavioral issues are indeed part of that population of students identified as having a disability and are on IEPs and 504 Plans. I noted that Yasmin, you site the study at John Hopkins University and that there was a professional development completed with the teachers. Here again, I wonder what kind of training it was and were the teachers successful in transferring all that they learned to the classroom environment once the research project ended. Did they continue on with the skills that they learned? Sometimes the success lies not with the child but the adult who is interacting with them (e.g.: the environment as Gail indciated). There are so many factors that play a role when it comes to the success of children with special needs/disabilities within the all inclusive classroom- one that many teachers are not prepared to deal with.
  • Sushama Sharma · Kurukshetra University
    I agree to some extent ..One of my students recently has worked on comparative study of teachers working in Inclusive schools and special schools.It was found that teachers in inclusive settings are better in teacher efficacy and creating positive learning environment..Teachers expectations are quite low in special schools (my experience)..I would share her findings once she is awarded the degree since it is still in process..
  • Tauber (1998) states that "few educators understand exactly how to use the Pygmalion effect or self-fulfilling prophecy (SFP) as a purposeful pedagogical tool to convey positive expectations and, maybe even more importantly, to avoid conveying negative expectations."
    It is a worrying trend the educations systems in so-called first world countries (Australia being among them) perpetuate a low-expectations curricula in high schools that leads neither to university nor challenging employment.

    Tauber goes on to suggest four factors that teachers could use to facilitate higher expectations. A "climate" conducive to learning must be created - an amenable learning environment
    Both affective and cognitive "feedback" must be provided to learners- holistic, relevant and constructive.
    "Input" is increased as teachers teach more to students of whom they expect more - planning and developement of effective and challenging lessons
    "Output" is also increased as teachers encourage greater responsiveness from students for whom they hold high-expectations- engagement and motivation increased

    Teacher's own belief about their own effectiveness is another fundamental part of expectations
    'Teachers who produce the greatest learning gains, accept responsibility for teaching their students. They believe that students are capable of learning and that they (the teachers) can teach them '(Encyclopedia of Educational Research 1992).

    Encyclopedia of Educational Research. 1992. Sixth Edition. Marvin C. Alkin, editor. New York: Macmillan.

    Tauber,R.T. (1998 ). Good or bad, what teachers expect from students they generally get!
    ERIC document ED 426 985.

  • Gail Thompson · Public School in Georgia
    Do you have any more current research on this topic?
  • Tom Vander Ark High Challenge, High Support: The district’s role in high school system can be boiled down to two strategies: defining high expectations and offering an array of options
    published in The School Administrator, January 2006, vol 1 , 63
    Interesting read!
  • Timo- I totally agree. My dissertation should be available online now............
  • Richard Rose · The University of Northampton
    In order to assess the impact of inclusion upon learning we need to consider a number of issues within this question. Firstly we need to examine what kind of learning we are talking about. Unfortunately learning outcomes are often narrowly defined in academic terms. These are undoubtedly important, but if we are only concerned with measuring learning in terms of the formal academic curriculum we are in danger of recognising that education is also about issues of social adjustment and personal well being. If we expect our students to take their place as well adjusted individuals within society it is important that they learn the skills of interaction, communication and cooperation that are often seen as a by-product rather than the core of teaching. Inclusion is often associated purely with "mainstreaming" whereby children are placed in mainstream schools. This in itself is insufficient if we are sincere about inclusion. For real educational inclusion to take place students must engage with learning and not simply be present in the classroom. However, if children are excluded from mainstream opportunities the opportunities to develop those skills of sociability and adjustment are usually limited. The answer to gaining successful learning outcomes depends upon the ability to extend the value and the balance we as educators achieve between academic and social demands made upon students. There is evidence that schools can provide an academically challenging curriculum whilst recognising the need to acknowledge and accredit social learning. The work of Black-Hawkins and her colleagues from UK is interesting in this respect as is the argument put forward by Lamport in a study from USA.

    Black-Hawkins, K. (2010) The Framework for Participation: a research tool for exploring the relationship between achievement and inclusion in schools, International Journal of Research & Method in Education, 33: 1, 21-40 [Online] DOI: org/10.1080/17437271003597907

    Black Hawkins, K., Florian, L. and Rouse, M. (2007) Achievement and Inclusion in Schools, London: Routledge.

    Lamport, M (2012) Special Needs Students in Inclusive Classrooms:
    The Impact of Social Interaction on Educational Outcomes
    for Learners with Emotional and Behavioral Disabilities. European Journal of Business and Social Sciences, Vol. 1, No. 5, pp 54-69
  • Cristina Devecchi · The University of Northampton
    I agree with how Richard has outlined the need to think about learning and learning outcomes in a broader and more comprehensive way. In my view both learning outcomes (those we are so keen to measure) and outcomes of learning (the broader learning which impacts on how individuals learn about themselves and their relationship with others) should be taken into account when evaluating how inclusive a school is.

    I would just like to add that an inclusive school should be inclusive for all, including the adults who work for and with the children. An inclusive school is one which allows and enables participation and learning for children and adults, who treats all with fairness and justice. This view is based on my own experience of working as a teaching assistant and on my research on the employment, deployment and training of teaching assistants and their collaboration with teachers.
  • Richard Rose · The University of Northampton
    Cristina raises an interesting point here. Inclusion will only move forward once the adults in schools take an inclusive stance. This requires that they also feel valued for their professionalism in a manner that encourages them to respect the diversity of the children in their classes. Unfortunately there are many education systems that place a significant value upon the assessment and academic outcomes of children managed by policy makers who have given insufficient attention to the need to create inclusive learning environments.

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