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Abstract

Inclusive education is a child’s right, not a privilege. The amount of current attention given to children and to childhood is unprecedented. In a world affected by financial crises, attitudes about children’s needs are very important. Recent years have seen innovations in the focus of research, as political moves that challenge the ways different children have been excluded and silenced. Inclusive education is a real and urgent need for all educational systems around the world. Inside our university, the Teachers Training Department needs to take serious measures to create a professional environment for all the students involved in the initial training for becoming teachers at all levels. This study reveals the interest and the planning of our trainers to develop their competencies for inclusive education, supported by new ways of international support with the professional involvement of two experts in university education from London Metropolitan University. We discovered that inclusive education is a serious priority, most of their courses and seminars need continue improvement in this area and their interest to develop new skills is high. We need to increase attention to our professional development as a factor that can contribute to a healthy society.
The benefits of inclusive education: new
challenges for university teachers
Alina Georgeta Mag1,*, Sandra Sinfield2, and Tom Burns2
1 Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu, Faculty of Social and Human Sciences, Department for Teacher
Training,
Calea Dumbravii Nr. 34, 550324, Sibiu, Romania
2London Metropolitan University, London, N7 6PP, United Kingdom
Abstract. Inclusive education is a child’s right, not a privilege. The
amount of current attention given to children and to childhood is
unprecedented. In a world affected by financial crises, attitudes about
children’s needs are very important. Recent years have seen innovations in
the focus of research, as political moves t
hat challenge the ways different
children have been excluded and silenced. Inclusive education is a real and
urgent need for all educational systems around the world. Inside our
university, the Teachers Training Department needs to take serious
measures to create a professional environment for all the students involved
in the initial training for becoming teachers at all levels. This study reveals
the interest and the planning of our trainers to develop their competencies
for inclusive education, supported by
new
ways of international support
with the professional involvement of two experts in university education
from London Metropolitan University. We discovered that inclusive
education is a serious priority, most of their courses and seminars need
continue improvement in this area and their interest to develop new skills
is high. We need to increase attention to our professional development as a
factor that can contribute to a healthy society.
1 Introduction
The education system in the entire world is changing and evolving constantly. Experts in
Educational Sciences are directly involved in developing their own skills to be competent
and able to meet the challenges of a socio-economic environment
in a continuous process
of change.
Inclusive education is one of the most sensitive ongoing issues, because not all children
enjoy an education experience that enables them to develop to their full potential [1-2].
Inclusion in the UK context means primarily inclusion of those with physical or learning
disadvantage – whilst the thrust here is also about equality of educational opportunity in re
the socio-economic circumstances of the child. Inclusion in education means if it means
anything is respect for the diversity of all our children, and if this is to be realised must
include several changes of substance in terms of educational content, pedagogical and
* Corresponding author: alina.mag@ulbsibiu.ro
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© The Authors, published by EDP Sciences. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative
Commons Attribution License 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
didactical approach, the structure of the education system and educational strategies.
Although many programs and projects are implemented to enable inclusion of children with
different special needs in mainstream schools, in many countries, the results are often
positive, but dissemination of results and best practices is not systematically undertaken.
2 Problem statement
Children can change the world and education can change the way children perceive the
world.
Inclusion refers
to all children, because inclusive education is one in which all
children have access to quality education in an inclusive environment that provides three
components:
• all children mean “children with disabilities, gifted children, homeless children, children
belonging to nomadic groups, children belonging to linguistic minorities, ethnic or cultural,
children with HIV or belonging to any other vulnerable groups” per Salamanca’s
Declaration (1994);
• quality education -
means creating real opportunities to achieve suc
cess in the learning
experience; in other words, the quality of education is not measured in terms of
performance, graduation, infrastructure, technology and comfort, but the system capacity,
the school and the teacher to create learning opportunities for every child;
• inclusive environment - which means that environment is welcome, protect and educate
all children, regardless of gender, physical, intellectual, economic, linguistic or other
characteristics (UNESCO).
Inclusive education is one of the top challenges
in today’s world, and whilst educational
systems make efforts to become more inclusive, new teachers must be developed to be
more inclusive in their future practice. University teachers involved in Education Studies
arguably must address this in the theory and practice that they deliver on Teacher Training
courses.
Nowadays Romania is facing huge economic and political crises. The level of the
economic stress is high, affecting both adults and children. It is therefore appropriate to
explore the conditions of inclusive education in Romania today and ask how far the c
urrent
anxiety about children’s rights is justified – and to ask ourselves: How can university
teachers develop their own competencies to become truly inclusive? Is this theme a current
pressing priority for their own training? These important questions were investigated in a
university from Romania. The attitudes, opinions and lived experiences of inclusive
education of future teachers were investigated and this research is focused on the
opportunities created by listening to their opinions and the challenge is to harness their
richness to produce better solutions. The vision of an expert in education from London
Metropolitan University, United Kingdom was a real support during the study.
3 Theoretical foundation and related literature
Recently we have seen innovations in the focus of research, as political moves that
challenge the ways different children have been excluded and silenced [3-4]. Inclusive
education is a child’s right, not a privilege. The amount of current attention given to
children and to childhood is unprecedented [5]. Inclusion promotes quality and equitable
education for all, without exclusion, including those who may be potentially marginalized
by learning need or social position. In a world affected by financial crises, attitudes about
children’s needs are very important.
Inclusive education is now firmly established as the main policy imperative with respect
to children who have special education needs or disabilities. It is championed to remove
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barriers, improve outcomes and remove discrimination. Inclusion is however, a complex
and contested concept and its manifestations in practice are many and various [6].
Recent studies demonstrated that if children’s educational needs are not fulfilled in the
first years of life, serious gaps will appear in their development [7-8]. The attitudes of
adults, in all their different roles and relationships, affect children deeply. Children have
been silenced and excluded in many ways, because they were underestimated. They have
different needs
or special needs, and they need inclusive education for a proper
development. In fact, all children are born with sophisticated capacities and adults should
not restrict or limit their potential. Educators should work with children in new ways driven
by a rights perspective [5].
Politicians and the media debate today’s children’s educational needs. According to
recent studies children’s mental and emotional health depends on the efficiency of the
relationships that adults construct with them from conception [9]. Parents and teachers are
responsible for children’s health and development and they should practice inclusive
education. New studies into children’s competencies from birth changed the vision on
children’s potential and needs [10]. In the century of change, adult’s abilities are vital, such
as supporting children’s emotions, understanding stressful situations, developing
relationships and communication skills, promoting critical and creative thinking and
demonstrating empathy.
Inclusive education in Romania is based on several national documents like: the
Constitution of Romania 1991; Law no. 53/1992 on special protection of disabled persons
and Law no. 57 on the emplyoment of disabled persons (amended by Ordinance no.
47/1997, subsequently repealed by Ordinance no. 102/1999 on special protection and
employment of disabled persons) and Education Law no. 84/1995. The main international
documents for inclusive education are: World Declaration on Education for All (1990);
CoE recommendations on coherent policy for the rehabilitation of persons with disabilities
(1992); Standard rules on equalization of opportunities for persons with disabilities (1993);
Declaration of World Conference on Special Education, Salamanca (UNESCO, 1994). All
efforts inside the educational departments in different universities all over the world relay
on these important documents.
Educational partnership is one of the key words of the contemporary pedagogy [11].
Partnerships are indispensable for a qualitative inclusive education. Anxieties among
teachers because of the financial crisis, too many changes brought by educational reform,
anxieties about parents’ involvement in education,
the growing number of children with
behavioural and emotional disorders are important issues in today’s education in our
country. The efforts to create an inclusive environment for Romanian children are still a
challenge [1].
4 Purpose of the study
In this paper, we intend to assess what university teachers from the Teacher Training
Department of “Lucian Blaga” University from Sibiu, Romania, consider to be their key
efforts to support inclusive education, at the beginning of this year.
The key argument of
this study is that inclusive education is a real and urgent need for our educational system,
starting with early childhood and ending with university’s education. The main factors of
inclusion are: the teachers, the colleagues in the classroom or school and the school
environment. It’s obvious that inclusion depends largely on the teachers’ training, on their
attitude and on their way to report to the children with SEN, as well as on the teaching
strategies used.
The aim of this investigation is to find new ways of international support, of
collaboration and good practice, with the professional involvement of experts in university
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education from London Metropolitan University, so that we can take new measures to
create a professional environment for all our students that will become the next generation
of teachers at all levels.
5 Methodology
The study started with a systematic review of current guidelines in teacher training from
Inclusive Education frameworks available nationally and internationally and of the
competencies required in this area for university teachers today. The next step was
an
analyse of the current situation and needs for training in inclusive education in the
Romanian Teacher Training Department. In recognition of the importance of professional
learning we conducted a survey with open questions to identify teachers’ ongoing
professional learning needs about inclusive education. This is a big challenge for all but it is
an opportunity to advance the Teacher Training Department as a change factor that
promotes dialogue and participation, making possible well-being through an education of
quality for all without exception, for the commitment of the community
. We also used
focus group as a technique to collect data from 20 university teachers in our Department in
Sibiu, Romania. They were voluntarily involved in the study. The survey was built to reveal
the next professional concerns:
• What is inclusive education in the vision of the teachers from the Teacher Training
Department?
• How do university teachers specialised in e
ducation made the distinction between
inclusive education as a right and inclusive education as efficacy in their own practice?
• How do university teachers develop their own competencies in the field of inclusive
education?
• What are the benefits of inclusive education for their perspectives?
We examined the personal arguments and the evidence presented for their personal
professional development in this area, having the support and expertise for analysing the
findings from London Metropolitan University, United Kingdom.
6 Findings
Evidence shows that the quality of teaching has one of the largest impacts on students
learning. Building teaching excellence through pre-service and in-service training is central
to making educational settings more inclusive. The teachers involved in the study started
with a swot analysis of the inclusive education in Romania revealed that this is a real
challenge for our staff.
Findings revealed that t
he main strong points are: children with soft
and medium disabilities are included; intervention team; intervention instruments; efficient
learning strategies: individualised learning, cooperative learning; partnership with family
and local community; initial and continuous development of teachers. The low points are:
discontinuities in educational policies and incoherence in reforms application; having a
certificate of SEN; insufficient number of support teachers and hours for activities with
children with SEN; a great number of children in the class; different assessment in primary
school and gymnasium; national exams are not different. We also evaluated the
opportunities -
Romania Integration in European Union, accessing European money
through national and international projects, teacher continuous development - and the main
barriers: stereotypes and misjudgement; financial resources crises; infrastructure and
inadequate material resources.
This radiography of the Romanian inclusion was analysed by the 20 university teachers
from the Teacher Training Department. They consider that inclusive education is a serious
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priority and they admit that most of their courses and seminars need continue improvement
in this area and their interest to develop new skills is high. Their motivation to develop the
opportunities, to reduce the low points and to fight the barriers starts with their own
preparation to promote inclusive education. During the focus group, the university teachers
were interviewed with all the questions mentioned, so they offered an objective overview of
their perspectives, efforts, acti
ons and plans to develop their competencies in this area. We
will present the findings in a synthetic perspective, to each question.
At the first question, they admit that inclusion requires a large vision and specific
competencies for all teachers. Now teachers need to know that diversity is present in the
classroom, and that they should attend to learners with a range of diverse needs. In this
frame, it is imperative to develop the following professional aptitudes: researcher, strategic
and resilient. They identified important educational aspects that every teacher needs to be
inclusive: e
quality; promoting the same opportunities for all, quality; offering functional
and meaningful learning and equity; responding to special educational needs.
At the second question part of the teachers report that a lack of teacher training in
facilitating the learning of students with disabilities is a barrier to individuals being able to
succeed in education. Knowing students’ rights, it’s not sufficient. Teachers’ educational
efforts are valued by the student success in time, not just in school. As with all professional
learning activities, it is important to stay up-to-date with current thinking and keep building
professional expertise as new research and knowledge
emerges.
At the third question, the teachers presented all their actions and plans to develop the
skills to provide an inclusive environment, where every student can learn and achieve their
full potential. The last years’ most of them were engaged in relevant professional learning
activities to prepare their own development in this area: research, observation and practice,
training courses and seminars, conferences, workshops, an important project about
mentoring in inclusive education managed by one of our professor in which four colleagues
were trainers in inclusive education
. Some of them already published relevant studies about
inclusive education.
Professional learning is most effective when it is relevant, collaborative and future
focused, and when it supports teachers to reflect on, question and consciously improve their
skills. According to the teachers interviewed, they also need to have high expectations for
all (inclusive vision), develop inclusive projects including diverse teaching strategies and
support systems (inclusive practices) and participate in a collective work. The group
investigated from the Teacher Training Department proposed the development of a new
master program about Interventions in inclusive school.
The last question proved the benefits of inclusive education per the university teachers
involved in the study. All children benefit from inclusive education, because it allows them
to: develop individual strengths and gifts, with high and appropriate expectations for each
child, i
nvolve their parents in their education, foster a school culture of respect and
belonging, inclusive education provides opportunities to learn about and accept individual
differences, lessening the impact of harassment and bullying, develop friendships with a
wide variety of other children, each with their own individual needs and abilities and
positively affect both their school and community to appreciate diversity and inclusion on a
broader level. The inclusive teacher has a holistic educational view with strong skills and
experience
to participate in diverse contexts.
Findings were analysed together with two London experts to find new ways of
international support, of collaboration and good practice that can help us improve our
perspectives. A creative way that we approached this in one UKHE setting was to develop a
first-year undergraduate module for Education Studies students that modelled inclusive
practice in learning, teaching and assessment.
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The module was creative and emancipatory, designed to challenge and engage ALL the
participants, including those with their own Specific Learning Needs (typically this
included students with Dyslexia) and those who had experienced previous educational
rebuff because of socio-economic status (this included what we term ‘non-traditional’
students and those who had been ‘looked after’/in care).
The module “Becoming an Educationist” was delivered mainly in ‘workshop’ mode,
with role play and simulations, draw-to-learn and music workshops, real qualitative
research, student-led ‘performances’, active-, question- and project based learning - and
choice – for example, choice about which projects to submit for the final assessment.
Students were required to ‘blog’ their learning as part of reflective practice – and to develop
a writing habit that thus also improved their formal academic writing.
The goal was to develop student self-
efficacy at the same time as expanding their notion
of what education was, what it could be and how it could promote inclusion and equality
for all. The graduates from this module reported increased self-confidence and increased
academic success. In a succeeding Becoming a Teacher module, they all cited “Becoming
an Educationist” as a role model of good practice to harness in their own future teaching
practice. Ideally, we would have such a module at every level of an Education Studies
student’s under- and postgraduate programmes. Inclusivity has to part of a trainee teacher’s
own tuition if it is to be realised
in a future teacher’s practice.
7 Conclusions
Children need to be listened to, valued and re-evaluated. Their rights should be respected,
no matter what economic issues affects adult’s lives. Children need to be respected by
parents, carers and professionals, but this respect is shaped by their attitudes towards
children – and their own experiences of teaching, learning and assessment. Certain attitudes
and practices affect many children in ways that are not beneficial, and which can harm or
restrict them. The language and actions of power and regulation held by adults in making
and overseeing children’s lives has been explored through the ways in which research,
thinking and practice around inclusive education is reconstructing education and children in
new ways.
It is a fact, every educational system in the world needs to improve and work towards
the best results for all. By respecting children’s educational needs, and developing
empowering curricula and pedagogy, we have the chance to regain essential universal
values for peace, justice and welfare. We must reach out with empathy to those next to us,
listen to children, and fight for justice, for principles and for values. The study had a
significant impact in our teachers’ motivation to practice inclusive education. We need to
increase attention to our professional development as a factor that can contribute to a
healthy society and to a better live for children in Romania.
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(Polirom Pub., Iasi, 2001)
5. P. Jones,
Rethinking childhood. Attitudes in Contemporary Society
, New childhoods
(Continuum, New York, 2009)
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The Gulliford Lecture 2002 was given by Professor Geoff Lindsay, Director of the Centre for Educational Development, Appraisal and Research (CEDAR) at the University of Warwick. Professor Lindsay's lecture, on which this paper is based, addressed a number of key topics, including the development of inclusion and inclusive practices; models of special educational needs and disability; and the values that underpin our thinking about these matters. Basing his argument on the research evidence, Professor Lindsay provides a searching critique of prevailing notions about inclusion and of current approaches to research. His conclusions will be of interest to everyone concerned with the education of children and young people with special educational needs.
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Lucrarea sintetizeaza si clarifica problemele fundamentale legate de asistenta, educatia si integrarea socioprofesionala a persoanelor cu cerinte speciale, raspunzind nevoii de informare si de formare de deprinderi si competente necesare pentru proiectarea si implementarea programelor didactice. Terminologia de specialitate actualizata, aspectele privind organizarea sistemului si programelor educationale incluzive ori prezentarea modalitatilor concrete de interventie in educatia si asistenta elevilor cu dizabilitati, cu dificultati de invatare sau proveniti din medii sociale defavorizate recomanda volumul tuturor categoriilor de specialisti care desfasoara activitati de educatie, asistenta si sprijin pentru persoane cu cerinte educationale speciale sau aflate in situatii de risc. Cuprins: Integrare, incluziune, diferentiere: perspectiva teoretica si relevanta practica • Premise ale integrarii si incluziunii scolare a elevilor cu cerinte educationale speciale • Scoala incluziva sau scoala pentru diversitate • Evaluarea si diagnosticul complex al elevilor cu cerinte speciale • Modele si forme de integrare scolara a copiilor cu cerinte educationale speciale
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„Este timpul ca printr-o serie de cercetari si activitati de cercetare-actiune sa intervenim pe toate caile, astfel incit sa formam la viitorii profesori si educatori imaginea reala a ceea ce insemna «scoala pentru toti» si, in acelasi timp, sa atragem atentia parintilor si cadrelor didactice asupra necesitatii si avantajelor educatiei integrate.” (Alois Ghergut) Cuprins: Clarificari conceptuale • Izvoare teoretice • Managementul procesului de introducere a educatiei integrate • Politici educationale • Pregatirea cadrelor didactice si a specialistilor • Proiectarea unui curriculum • Solutii privind integrarea scolara • Metode activ-participative • Procesul de diagnostic • Integrarea si reabilitarea copiilor cu deficiente • Terapia educationala complexa si integrata
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Working with Children in the Early Years is an accessible introduction to early years theories, policy and practice, offering practitioners in a diverse range of settings the opportunity to develop their knowledge, understanding and skills for working with young children. This fully updated second edition builds on new government agendas and interests in supporting quality provision for young children and their families. Bringing together current research and thinking in a broad range of areas, it covers: the diversity of practitioner roles and multi-agency working working with families listening to children observing and assessing developing professional roles health and well being curriculum and pedagogy the importance of play and learning in the early years
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