ArticlePDF Available

Supporting the enactment of inclusive pedagogy in a primary school


Abstract and Figures

While inclusion has generally been accepted as orthodoxy, a knowledge – practice gap remains which indicates a need to focus on inclusive pedagogy. This paper explores how teachers in the Republic of Ireland primary school were supported to develop inclusive pedagogy to meet the needs of learners with special educational needs (SEN). It is underpinned by a conceptual framework which combines an inclusive pedagogical approach and key principles of effective professional development (PD) arising from the literature, which informed the development of a professional learning community (PLC) for inclusive practice in a primary school. The impact of the PD on teachers’ professional practice was explored using an evidence-based evaluation framework. Analysis of interview and observation data evidenced that engagement with inclusive pedagogy in a PLC, underpinned by critical dialogue and public sharing of work, positively impacted teacher attitudes, beliefs, efficacy and inclusive practice. This research offers a model of support for enacting inclusive pedagogy.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at
International Journal of Inclusive Education
ISSN: 1360-3116 (Print) 1464-5173 (Online) Journal homepage:
Supporting the enactment of inclusive pedagogy in
a primary school
Aoife Brennan, Fiona King & Joe Travers
To cite this article: Aoife Brennan, Fiona King & Joe Travers (2019): Supporting the enactment
of inclusive pedagogy in a primary school, International Journal of Inclusive Education, DOI:
To link to this article:
© 2019 The Author(s). Published by Informa
UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis
Published online: 10 Jun 2019.
Submit your article to this journal
Article views: 230
View related articles
View Crossmark data
Supporting the enactment of inclusive pedagogy in a primary
Aoife Brennan, Fiona King and Joe Travers
School of Inclusive and Special Education, Dublin City University Institute of Education, Dublin, Ireland
While inclusion has generally been accepted as orthodoxy, a
knowledge practice gap remains which indicates a need to focus
on inclusive pedagogy. This paper explores how teachers in the
Republic of Ireland primary school were supported to develop
inclusive pedagogy to meet the needs of learners with special
educational needs (SEN). It is underpinned by a conceptual
framework which combines an inclusive pedagogical approach
and key principles of eective professional development (PD)
arising from the literature, which informed the development of a
professional learning community (PLC) for inclusive practice in a
primary school. The impact of the PD on teachersprofessional
practice was explored using an evidence-based evaluation
framework. Analysis of interview and observation data evidenced
that engagement with inclusive pedagogy in a PLC, underpinned
by critical dialogue and public sharing of work, positively impacted
teacher attitudes, beliefs, ecacy and inclusive practice. This
research oers a model of support for enacting inclusive pedagogy.
Received 2 April 2019
Accepted 26 May 2019
Inclusive pedagogy;
inclusion; teacher education;
teacher professional learning;
professional development;
professional learning
This study explores how teachers in a primary school, in the Republic of Ireland, were sup-
ported to enact inclusive pedagogy. While it is acknowledged that the concept of inclusive
education has moved beyond solely concerning persons with special educational needs
(SEN) to extend to all persons at risk of marginalisation or exclusion in society, the
inclusion of learners with SEN is the focus of this paper. Legislation advocating inclusion
in schools is now common across the developed world, however the implementation of
such continues to be met with myriad barriers. In the Irish context, the diversity of learners
has dramatically increased in mainstream classrooms as a result of rapid policy and leg-
islative reform over the past two decades (McConkey et al. 2016). The Education Act
and the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act (EPSEN) (Government
of Ireland 1998;2004) marked pivotal points in the progression of inclusive education,
providing the legislative framework for policy development (Grin and Shevlin 2011).
However, full implementation of the EPSEN act has not yet been realised due to economic
factors, which has negatively impacted policy development to support inclusion at school
© 2019 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (
licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
CONTACT Aoife Brennan School of Inclusive and Special Education, Dublin City University
Institute of Education, St. Patricks Campus, Drumcondra, Dublin 9, Ireland
level (Rose et al. 2015). In addition to the challenge of varying school policies on inclusion,
many teachers feel they lack the knowledge, skills, and understanding to create inclusive
learning environments for learners with SEN (Rose et al. 2015; Travers et al. 2010). This
lacuna can largely be attributed to the paucity of opportunities to develop teacher pro-
fessional learning for inclusive practice across the continuum of teacher education (O
Gorman and & Drudy 2010).
A further challenge to inclusion has emerged from the explicit policy focus (Depart-
ment of Education and Skills (DES) 2011;2017) on raising literacy and numeracy
scores in international rankings. This policy focus excludes learners with SEN from
norm-referenced standardised testing in literacy and numeracy and oers no direction
regarding the development of inclusive assessment methods (King 2016). The prioritisa-
tion of achievement in supranational indicators mirrors global reform movements that
arguably marginalise learners with SEN even further (McLaughlin and Dyson 2014).
The preoccupation with standardised assessments, league tables, and competition,
reinforces school structures which are underpinned by bell-curve thinkingand notions
of xed ability (Florian 2014). This system contributes to the legitimisation of ability
grouping and the provision of additional support, which serves to reinforce marginalisa-
tion of learners with learning diculties (McGillicuddy and Devine 2018; Spratt and
Florian 2015). Teachers in the Irish context have shown to accept the principle of inclusion
in a general sense, however hesitancy regarding the practical implementation of inclusion
is palpable (Shevlin, Winter, and Flynn 2013). More than ever, teachers and schools need
to be supported to challenge hegemonic assumptions regarding ability, and to develop a
sense of responsibility for including all learners (Ainscow 2014). The focus of this
paper is therefore to address the research gap relating to how teachers can be supported
to enact inclusive pedagogy to meet the needs of all learners in the classroom in a way
that avoids stigmatisation. Whether inclusive pedagogy is specialist or not warrants
exploration in this regard.
Specialist or inclusive pedagogy?
The concept of what is special about special education is widely debated. Norwich and
Lewis (2007) acknowledge the complexity of this debate but contend that there is insu-
cient evidence to support specialist pedagogy for categories of SEN. However, they note
that specialist knowledge relating to certain SEN groupings is valuable to inform pedago-
gical decisions. Others regard the separation of knowledge and pedagogy as potentially
detrimental and assert that scientic knowledge about particular types of SEN is important
in meeting the needs of all learners (Mintz and Wyse 2015). They argue for a concept of
special pedagogy which refers to specialist knowledge of diagnostic categories and knowl-
edge of the learners individual needs. In contrast, Norwich and Lewis proer that in sup-
porting learners with SEN, teachers draw on continua of strategies which reect the
adaptations of common teaching methodologies. Teaching at various points on the con-
tinua may look dierent but not qualitatively dierent to warrant specialist pedagogies.
For example, some learners may need high levels of mastery learning or more bottom-
up phonological approaches to reading but these approaches are not pedagogically dispa-
rate from teaching that encompasses less of these approaches (Norwich and Lewis 2007).
This stance is supported by other researchers in the eld who believe that all children can
learn from the same pedagogical approaches, although adaptation and dierentiation are
key to meeting the diverse needs of all (Davis and Florian 2004; Rix and Sheehy 2014;
Vaughn, Linan-Thompson, and Hickman 2003). Teachers often adapt strategies when
working with dierent groups of children but once a learner is identied or diagnosed
as having an SEN, they can feel inadequately prepared to meet the needs of such lear-
ners (Florian 2014). Individualised interventions, based on a response to a particular
impairment or specicdiculty, can compound the problem of dierence by marking
the learner as dierent. Conversely, inclusive pedagogy involves the use of specialist
knowledge to inform teaching, approaches to group work, and to attend to individual
dierences during whole-class teaching in ways that avoid stigmatisation (Florian 2014).
The inclusive pedagogical in action approach framework
The development of inclusive pedagogy emanated from a study of the craft knowledge of
teachers who eectively supported the learning of all children in their classrooms, which
included diverse learners, while avoiding stigmatisation of dierence (Florian and Black-
Hawkins 2011). It was further developed through a project which embedded inclusive
pedagogy in a postgraduate initial teacher education (ITE) programme in Scotland. In
this context, the Inclusive Pedagogical Approach in Action (IPAA) framework
emerged as a support mechanism for teachers to develop responses to individual dier-
ences in ways that do not marginalise any learner (Spratt & Florian, 2015). It is suggested
as a tool for researchers in the eld of inclusive education and for use in teacher edu-
cation and PD contexts to support students and teachers in examining their own inclus-
ive pedagogy (Florian 2014; Florian and Spratt 2013). Heretofore, published research on
how teachers enact inclusive pedagogy and the way in which the IPAA can support this
enactment, has been predominantly focused on teachers who have engaged in a post-
graduate ITE programme in Scotland (Florian and Spratt 2013; Spratt and Florian
2015). This study expands the research on how the IPAA can support practising tea-
chers, in collaboration with an external facilitator, to enact inclusive pedagogy in the
The IPAA framework identies three key assumptions that teachers must hold in order
to enact inclusive pedagogy while also acknowledging the challenges of meeting the needs
of all learners. Firstly, teachers must believe in the concept of transformability which refers
to the belief that a childs capacity to learn is not static nor pre-determined but can be
transformed by the actions undertaken by the teacher in developing teaching and learning
(Hart & Drummond, 2014). However, the dominance of bell-curvethinking presents a
challenge to rejecting deterministic beliefs about ability (Florian 2014). The second
assumption of the IPAA refers to fostering teachersbeliefs in their ability to teach students
with SEN. Research studies have highlighted the need to address teacher ecacy for
inclusive education as it can negatively impact teacher behaviour towards, and acceptance
of, students with SEN (Dupoux, Wolman, and Estrada 2005; Forlin, Sharma, and Loreman
2014). Associated with the second assumption is the view that diculties in learning are
not within the learner but are problems for the teacher to solve. In this context, teachers
must be prepared to commit to supporting the learning of all (Florian 2014). The third
assumption relates to teachers being willing to work with others which aligns with the lit-
erature that deems teacher collaboration as central to implementing inclusive education
(Ainscow 2014; Friend et al. 2010; Nevin, Thousand, and Villa 2009). Yet meaningful pro-
fessional collaboration requires systemic and school support which can often prove limited
(Kershner 2014; Travers et al. 2010).
Research on the classroom practices of newly qualied teachers (NQTs) who had
engaged with the IPAA in a postgraduate ITE context indicated that the NQTs demon-
strated responses learning diculties in ways which considered every learner, rather
than responses targeted at individuals (Spratt and Florian 2015). A variety of approaches
were evident in these classrooms which included collaborative group work, formative
assessment, and choice. Such teaching approaches have been identied as eective teach-
ing strategies both for inclusion and in general and are necessary to respond to individual
needs within the whole class context (Jordan, Schwartz, and McGhie-Richmond 2009).
However, the challenge of inclusive pedagogy is to implement teaching approaches in a
way that avoids the exclusion of any learner, as was demonstrated by the NQTs who
had engaged with the IPAA (Spratt and Florian 2015).
There has been some criticism of inclusive pedagogy arising from a study of teachers
practices for including learners with Autism in mainstream classrooms (Lindsay et al.
2014). This qualitative research study examined the strategies used by 13 mainstream
class teachers in meeting the needs of learners with Autism in their classes. While tea-
chers adhered to inclusive pedagogy, they also reported that they had to use specic
strategies to manage behaviour that could be considered exclusionary, as they targeted
individual students. The study concludes that while the IPAA is a valuable framework
to support the implementation of inclusive pedagogy, it could benet from some amend-
ments to reect the complexity of including learners with signicant behavioural needs
or the complex needs of some learners with Autism (Lindsay et al. 2014). Similarly,
research on special education teachers (SETs) who had recently completed a Postgradu-
ate Diploma in SEN in the Republic of Ireland highlighted the challenge of meeting indi-
vidual targets for learners with SEN, as outlined in individual education plans, in
mainstream classrooms (King, Ní Bhroin, and Prunty 2018). Based on the ndings, it
is recommended that PD should support teacher collaboration for whole school
approaches to incorporating individual learning targets into planning and teaching
(King et al., 2018).
Arguably the IPAA does not consider the levels of complexities of dierence that may
occur between learners, which may present varying levels of challenge to addressing
individual learner dierences in whole class contexts. However, it can support teachers
to draw on a range of eective methodologies to meet the needs of all learners. In par-
ticular, it focuses on democratic teaching practices, such as dierentiation through
choice, which advocates providing learners with choice over how they engage in and
display their learning (Florian 2014). Furthermore, the three key assumptions outlined
in the IPAA are fundamental to positive dispositions towards including all learners in
classrooms where individuals are valued. Yet these are complex concepts for teachers
to consider, in particular when they have not met these concepts in their ITE pro-
grammes. Therefore, teachers need to be eectively supported in developing their under-
standing of inclusive pedagogy in order to challenge hegemonic assumptions about
dierence and to develop inclusive practice. In this study, such support was conceptu-
alised in terms of evidenced-based approaches to transforming teacher learning for
inclusive pedagogy.
Supporting teacher professional learning for inclusive pedagogy
There is some disagreement regarding which is impacted by change rst: beliefs, practices
or student learning. Guskey (2002a) maintains that changes can occur in teachersbeliefs
and attitudes after they see evidence of improved student outcomes while others dismiss
that change occurs in a linear progression and highlight the reciprocal relationship
between changes in beliefs, practices and student learning (King 2014; Opfer and
Pedder 2011; Rouse 2008). Opfer and Pedder (2011) maintain that change can occur at
any point. It is reciprocal, with a change in one element depending on change in
another. However, for teacher learning to transpire, there must be a change in all three
areas; beliefs, practices and student learning. Similarly, Rouse (2008) describes the recipro-
cal triangular relationship between knowing, believing and doing. If teachers have positive
beliefs about inclusion and support to implement new approaches, then they are likely to
develop new knowledge about inclusive practice. Alternatively, a teacher who believes in
inclusion but does not feel capable of implementing inclusive practice could undertake PD
to develop his or her knowledge for inclusive practices, which may enhance teacher
ecacy for inclusive practice. Teachers will dier in levels of knowledge, beliefs, and prac-
tices relating to inclusive practice but all three do not have to be in place to ensure teacher
change, development of two elements is likely to inuence development of the third
(Rouse 2008). The challenge for teacher education is to support teachersunderstanding
of the complexity of change and implementation of change (King 2014) and to employ
eective pedagogies for teacher learning that develop the knowledge, beliefs and practices
to support inclusive pedagogy (Florian 2008).
A meta-review of 24 physical education PD studies published between 2005 and
2015 veried three distinct pedagogies of eective teacher learning; critical dialogue,
public sharing of work, and engagement in communities of learners (Parker,
Patton, and OSullivan 2016). These pedagogies are delineated according to Shulmans
(2005) signature pedagogy dimensions: surface, deep, and implicit structures. At the
surface structure of critical dialogue there is a focus on reection and inquiry
through deep conversations that challenge teaching and evidence of student learning
(Parker, Patton, and OSullivan 2016). At the deep structure of this pedagogy teachers
construct meaning through collaborative discourse relating to teaching and learning.
The implicit structure of critical dialogue aligns with the discursive practice approach
whichhasshowntobeaneective method for challenging and transforming determi-
nistic beliefs about dierence (Peters and Reid 2009). It is a form of resistance, exer-
cised by disability scholars, that targets hegemonic theories of disability and
impairment in order to reframe attitudes and beliefs to lead to transformative practice.
Public sharing of work relates to teachers sharing practices, beliefs, values and arte-
facts of work at the surface level (Parker, Patton, and OSullivan 2016). The deep
structure involves teachers creating and sharing elements of their practice that can
be used by others in the classroom. While it can be daunting for teachers to share
their classroom practices and evidence of student learning, at an implicit level it
can lead to armation of their work and consequently improved self-condence
(Parker, Patton, and Sinclair 2016) which suggests the potential for improved
ecacy. The pedagogy of communities of learners aligns with the professional learn-
ing community (PLC) model of teacher learning, in that it promotes collective
knowledge building around a shared concern at the surface level. The deep structure
provides the supportive conditions for such while the implicit structure provides a safe
and OSullivan 2016). The PLC model is a form of collaborative inquiry that can
manifest the pedagogies of critical dialogue, public sharing of work and working in
a community of learners and has been shown to hold promise for transformative
teacher learning (Kennedy 2014; Stoll et al. 2006). However, this model of professional
learning remains under-utilised for developing inclusive practice (Pugach and Blanton
Research approach
This research study explored how a PLC, underpinned by the IPAA, can support teachers
in a primary school in the Republic of Ireland, to meet the needs of learners with SEN. The
research approach was a qualitative, single-site case study that incorporated multiple
methods of data collection. Ten participants were recruited through purposive sampling
comprising eight mainstream class teachers, the deputy principal and the school principal,
both of whom were in administrative positions. Of the eight mainstream teachers, two
were NQTs, while the other six teachers ranged in teaching experience from 2 to 11
years. Prior to undertaking the study, ethical approval was obtained from Dublin City Uni-
versity Ethics Committee.
Monthly PLC meetings were held between January and June 2016 with each session
lasting approximately 90 minutes. At the outset, participants were introduced to the
IPAA framework. As characteristic of eective PLCs, the participants chose a shared
focus dierentiation through choice which is a key facet of inclusive pedagogy.
Each month there was engagement in public sharing of work and critical dialogue on
teacherspractice and student learning in the classroom, followed by agreement on
actions for the following month. In addition, the participants completed a reective
learning log at the end of each session in order to critically reect on any new learning
and to guide the researcher for the following session. Researcher observations from the
PLC meetings were recorded in a researcher reexive journal. Four participants con-
sented to engage in observation of practice on two occasions during the study, in
order to explore inclusive pedagogical approaches in action. This involved researcher
observation of two lessons in the four participantsclassrooms. An observation schedule
was devised based on the IPAA and Levels of Use of New Practicefrom the PD Evalu-
ation Framework (King 2014). Semi-structured interviews were undertaken with all par-
ticipants at the end of the study.
The use of the IPAA framework to support teacher learning was planned and evaluated
using the evidence-based PD Evaluation Framework as PD is more likely to be eective
when it is planned and evaluated (King 2014;2016). The paucity of research on the evalu-
ation of teacher PD prompted the development of the PD Evaluation Framework (King
2014). Building on previous research (Bubb and Earley 2010; Guskey 2002b; Hall and
Hord 1987)itoers a rened evaluation tool to capture the complexities teacher pro-
fessional learning. It was validated in a study which evaluated the long-term impact of
a PD initiative on teachersprofessional learning in ve primary schools in the Irish
context (King 2014). The framework includes key criteria to consider when planning
and evaluating professional learning (Figure 1). The Levels of Use of New Practice
(Figure 2) is included in the framework to support the evaluation of changes in teachers
practice and was used in the analysis of the research ndings in this study.
Figure 1. Conceptual framework.
Figure 2. Levels of use of new practice (King, 2014).
A six-step approach to thematic analysis (Braun and Clarke 2006) was adopted.
Phase one of the coding process involved familiarisation with the data set. At the begin-
ning of this process, the interviews were transcribed and collated with the data which
had been transcribed throughout the research; observation schedules, eld notes from
the PLCs in the researcher reexive journal and participant reective logs from each
PLC. Transcribed data were re-read and initial ideas were noted by the researcher.
These data were imported into NVivo 11.4 along with the literature. Phase two
involved the identication of interesting features or initial codes from across the
data set. These codes were then collated into relevant themes in Phase three. Following
this the themes were reviewed in relation to their relevance to the coded extracts which
resulted in seven themes. The nal round of coding involved renement which resulted
in the generation of denitions and names for each theme. The nal themes from
Phase ve of the data analysis include; changes in teachersattitudes and beliefs
towards inclusive practice, changes in teachersecacy for inclusive practice, changes
in teacherspractice, factors that supported teacher change, and factors that hindered
teacher change.
Analysis of observation and interview data evidenced that the IPAA framework was
eective in supporting seven of the class teacher participants to enact an inclusive peda-
gogical approach at a critical level and one participant at a technical level (Figure 2).
Teacher professional learning relating to the three assumptions outlined in the IPAA
(Figure 1) was discernible in the research ndings.
Challenging deterministic beliefs about ability
Analysis of interviews and research eld notes from the PLC meetings demonstrated
that there was a shift in thinking relating to learner ability among the participants
which aligns with the rst assumption of the IPAA. In the second PLC meeting,
there was a critical discussion about ability labelling. Emily, who was teaching a third
class (89 years), reected on how dierentiation through choice had impacted her
thinking about ability labelling. She reported that she became more aware of the nega-
tive impact of determining the level of each child and putting limits on what they can
do, as opposed to giving them choice and allowing learners to determine their own level
of engagement. Similarly, Rebecca, who was teaching a senior infant class (5-6 years),
added that dierentiation through choice improved her inclusive practice as she
could dierentiate for all without marking any one child as dierent. Rebecca elaborated
on this point in the interview when she referred to the signicant impact that teacher
expectations can have on student learning:
when youre dierentiating its your expectations deciding what they can achieve from the
lesson. If youre giving them the choice you have dierent options as how they are going to
express themselves in the lesson. Its really letting each child achieve. Because itsdieren-
tiation by choice its including every child, every child has a chance to achieve to the best
of their abilities but theyre not being pigeon holed as someone who is dierent. (Rebecca,
Niamh, who was teaching fourth class (9-10 years), reected that she had previously
decided on learner ability in her head and how she realised that she was putting limits
on learners as a result: sometimes you think well xs strength is this because you decide
in your own head and maybe that is wrong(Niamh, Interview). Having engaged in the
IPAA in the context of the PLC and through implementing differentiation through
choice in her classroom, Niamh exhibited a change in her attitudes and beliefs relating
to learner achievement, reecting the inclusive pedagogical approach assumption of
believing that all learners can make progress:
I kind of just think to a certain extent that anything is possible now I do think if you plan
the lesson correctly and use the right methods and everything that everyone can achieve
something in the class. (Niamh, Interview)
It is evident that the IPAA supported a shift away from deterministic thinking about
ability among the participants, a change that was inuenced by positive learner out-
comes. The teachers observed that when learners were offered choice, most were
more motivated and engaged in their learning, and produced work of improved
quality. Some of the participants (n= 4) expressed surprise regarding what certain chil-
dren could achieve when they determined their own level of engagement in their learn-
ing, mirroring research ndings evincing teacherssurprise at learner engagement when
opportunities for learning were made available to all children (Florian and Linklater
2010). For example, Kieran, who was teaching a senior infant class (learners aged 56
years), reected:
It surprised me how productive they were when they were given that free choice and they
were proud of their work I found their strengths by letting them pick how they wanted
to do things and it showed me their strengths and it showed me how to work with them.
(Kieran, Interview)
Through the provision of choice, the learners in Kierans class whom he had previously
regarded as the weaker kidsdisplayed their learning in ways which surprised him and
this challenged his thinking about ability. However, a move away from deterministic
beliefs about ability was not evident in the practice of one participant, who was teaching
a third class (8-9 years). There was an inclination towards ability grouping for the teaching
of numeracy, you cant teach maths to high achievers and low achievers at the same time
(Anne, Interview). This participants beliefs about ability remained static, unlike the other
participants who rejected ability grouping in their classrooms. For most participants the
changes in practice led to changes in beliefs, however this participant demonstrated
limited attendance at PLC meetings (3/6) and as a result implemented the new practice
at a technical level. For this participant, increased engagement in collaborative pro-
fessional inquiry may have resulted in changes in practice at a deeper level. Considering
this nding, sustained support may be required beyond a six-month period to challenge
and deconstruct deterministic beliefs about ability.
Teacher ecacy for inclusive practice
The second assumption of the IPAA framework refers to teachers believing that they are
capable of teaching all children. The class teacher participants (n= 5) displayed increased
ecacy for inclusive practice arising from successful outcomes in their classes which
encouraged sustainability of new practices throughout the duration of the study (King
2014;2016). Emily discussed the impact of dierentiation through choice on one particu-
lar learner whom she had concerns about:
He is a reluctant learner but denitely, by giving him the choice he really ourished and he
came up with some really creative stuand it was really just amazing. (Emily, Interview 5)
The implementation of the new practice had motivated this learner to engage in the
classroom as he could choose how he wanted to display his learning, thus creating a
more inclusive learning environment. While this was self-reported in the interview,
Emily had previously shared her experience regarding this learner in the PLC and
shared evidence of his learning with the group. Emily had used a choice board
(Figure 3) with her class and mentioned how the learners were more motivated as
they could choose a preferred mode of learning. The learner she discussed had composed
a rap based on the class novel, while another learner composed a piece of music to
accompany the rap which was performed for the class. Emily shared the learnersrap
with the PLC along with other learnerswork samples and this provided a stimulus
for critical dialogue on learners having control over their own learning and learner
agency. Through implementing differentiation by choice Emily realised that: it includes
the kind of children you didnt even think needed including in the rst place and thats
the beauty of it really(Emily, Interview). This inuenced Emilys approach to differen-
tiating her planning and teaching to meet the diverse learning needs in her classroom: I
think it just made me look at that and how I could include more people by giving them
that choice or giving everybody the same choice(Emily, Interview 5). Offering choice to
her learners provided opportunities for learners to have autonomy over their learning
which Emily came to view as a positive aspect owing to improved learner motivation.
There was also evidence of improved ecacy amongst other participants. In responding
to whether engagement with the IPAA had impacted on her condence in her capability to
develop inclusive practice Niamh reected:
Denitely, especially the two children which I originally came here for at rst. Theyre
prouder of their work because to them theyre choosing whats easiest or more interesting
Figure 3. Choice Board Example: Responding to a Text (Brennan, 2019).
to them and theyre completing that rst and by the time they get to something that they
think might be dicult theyre on that roll and suddenly theyre doing it without even
being aware. (Niamh, Interview)
Niamh mentioned that the new practice differentiation through choice had positively
impacted her class, especially for the two children that she was initially concerned about
including. She had gained new knowledge about inclusive practice in terms of offering
choice in her classroom and she subsequently put this knowledge into practice. This
aligns with the literature that purports teacher change as a cyclical rather than linear
process (Opfer and Pedder 2011; Rouse 2008). As Rouse (2008) proffers, the changes in
beliefs came after two of the elements were in place, knowledge and doing. Niamhs
knowledge of how to develop inclusive practice was enhanced through the PLC and she
used this knowledge to implement differentiation through choice. Niamhs belief in her
ability to implement inclusive practice was impacted after she witnessed improvement
in the learnersachievement. Therefore, her efcacy for inclusive practice was developed
in a positive way.
Teacher collaboration
The development of inclusive schools depends on school leaderscommitment to
inclusion and the development of a culture of respect for dierence through ongoing col-
laboration (Ainscow and Sandill 2010). The principal and deputy principal demon-
strated this commitment to supporting teacher learning for inclusive pedagogy from
the outset. They showed enthusiasm for collaborative PD and dialogue which bolstered
the development of teacher professional learning for inclusive pedagogy. The principal
commented: I am very committed to the idea of teachers learning from each other. I
think much of our most worthwhile learning comes from the dialogue we have with
other teachers(Principal, Interview). This kind of support from school leaders is para-
mount to the success of teacher professional learning, as is emphasised in the literature
time and again (Day et al. 2009; Harris and Jones 2010; Stoll et al. 2006). In addition, the
principal demonstrated a commitment to inclusion which is fundamental to the devel-
opment of inclusive schools (Mac Ruairc 2013). The participants highly valued the
support from school leadership which empowered them to take agentic approaches to
their practice and to collaboration, identied as important for developing teacher pro-
fessional learning (King 2014;2016).
The teachers in the study successfully enacted the third concept of the IPAA regarding
working with others in creative ways to develop inclusive practice. The participants
engaged in various forms of collaboration including collaborative problem-solving,
shared planning, lesson study and observation, and the development of inclusive practice
through co-teaching. Two of the class teachers were engaged in co-teaching with SETs
during the study, something which was being piloted in the school. These teachers capi-
talised on this opportunity to support the development of inclusive pedagogy. They
reported that this collaboration proved very eective in implementing new inclusive prac-
tices in the classroom and had some impact on the dissemination of new practice, as noted
by Niall:
I think through the team teaching it spread because I know two of the learning support sta
were in Niamhs class and they were also coming down to my class and they could see we
were trying similar things and they might say oh Niamh tried it this way and it might
work better that wayso it is kind of ltering through. (Niall, Interview)
However, a limitation of this study is that no SETs elected to participate in the PLC which
restricted the extent of such collaboration. The IPAA suggests that teachers should collab-
orate with other adults in the school, in addition to other professionals outside the class-
room in developing inclusive practice. However, participants reported that there was
limited scope for working with other professionals such as psychologists and speech thera-
pists, which presented as a challenge to meeting the needs of learners with SEN. While
teachers are not expected to provide therapeutic support to learners, there was an expec-
tation from some external professionals that teachers would incorporate some suggested
activities into their teaching. However, there was no space for teachers to collaborate
with external professionals, who could provide guidance in meeting the specic needs
of learners with SEN in the classroom. This echoes ndings on barriers to inclusion in
Irish schools (Shevlin, Kenny, and Loxley 2008; Travers et al. 2010). Professional colla-
borative inquiry could include professionals external to the school setting which may
enhance teachersprofessional learning in meeting the individual needs of their learners
in the context of the classroom.
Research on inclusive pedagogy has documented practices which are informative and
valuable in understanding how teachers can enact inclusive pedagogy in their classrooms
(Florian and Black-Hawkins 2011; Florian and Spratt 2013; Spratt and Florian 2015).
However, there is a lack of research into how teachers can enact pedagogy that marks
no one as dierent in situations where learners experience signicant challenges. While
participants in this study were successful in creating environments that provided learning
opportunities for all learners without marking any individual as dierent most of the time,
six participants reported that dierentiation through choice did not work for all learners.
There were some situations where the participants struggled to avoid approaches which
marked some learners with SEN as dierent, despite engaging in critical dialogue and
sharing of practice. For example, Kieran expressed disappointment regarding one child
who had diculty with choice:
perhaps part of that was a failing on my part for not teaching him how to make a choice and
stick with it but it fed into other areas of school life as well. I think its a language disorder.
(Kieran, Interview)
Despite giving this learner individual attention within lessons, Kieran struggled to facili-
tate this learner in engaging in choice. He suggested that more explicit and intense instruc-
tion on choice was needed for this learner, reecting the IPAA assumption that this
challenge was a teaching dilemma to solve. However, he concluded that perhaps a
language disorder was the problem thus reverting to the view of the difculty in learning
as a decit withinthe learner (Florian 2014). In order to enact inclusive pedagogy, tea-
chers must move away from the view of SEN labels as learner deciencies, towards the
consideration of difculties in learning as teaching problems to be solved (Florian
2014). This nding demonstrates the pervasive inuence of the decit view of learning dif-
culties and indicates that sustained PD is needed to challenge this view. Furthermore, it
reects the importance of collaboration with the SET in meeting individual learning
targets (King et al., 2018) which might have supported the learner to choose in this
Another example of diculty with dierentiation through choice was observed during
a lesson in Rebeccas classroom, where a child with Autism struggled to stay on task and
demonstrated frustration. Rebecca had taken an inclusive pedagogical approach by devel-
oping a whole class lesson, which accounted for the diverse learning needs of all learners,
in addition to avoiding ability grouping. She reected on how she had to give one learner a
lot of individual support in order for him to engage in the task, which meant that she could
not provide support to the other learners, demonstrating a conict with the IPAA.
However, this additional support enabled the learner to engage in the lesson.
Arguably the learners in the participantsclasses who needed something dierentthan
their peers required pre-teaching before they were expected to engage in choice. Explicit
instruction and modelled practice with the whole class in preparation for the lessons may
have prevented the learners from encountering the level of diculties that were experi-
enced. Again, this nding demonstrates the importance of collaboration between the
class teacher and the SET to focus on individual targets (King et al. 2018) in preparation
for and/or in tandem with dierentiation through choice. The teachers in these cases had
to modify their teaching approaches to meet the needs of the learners who had diculty
with choice, demonstrating the notion of continua of teaching approaches that may be
adapted to dierent degrees of intensity depending on learner needs (Norwich and
Lewis 2007). However, considering the research ndings, it could be argued that IPAA
did not support the teachers to include some learners with SEN without marking them
as dierent. This nding is consistent with research carried out by Lindsay et al. (2014)
which identied elements of the inclusive pedagogical approach that proved impracticable
in certain cases. Lindsay et al. (2014) suggest that inclusive pedagogy could prove dicult
to enact for some learners with Autism, who may need individualised strategies to address
behavioural issues, echoing arguments that learners with Autism may need dierent
approaches (Jordan 2005). Contrary to the ndings of Lindsay et al. (2014) there was evi-
dence of the IPAA supporting teachers to eectively include learners with Autism and
other learners with SEN. In relation to one learner with Autism, Niall reported that
socially, getting to choose which group he was part of was of great benetto him
(Niall, Interview). While Diane expressed concern regarding including a learner with a
Moderate GLD (Down Syndrome) engaging in choice, she successfully supported him
to make choices by using pictures that were available to all the class. This reects an inclus-
ive pedagogical approach of responding to learner diculties in ways that consider all chil-
dren, rather than using strategies aimed at individual learners (Spratt and Florian 2015).
It is proered that a minor adjustment to the IPAA would be benecial, which could
acknowledge that there may be certain cases where individualised strategies may be
necessary to meet learner diculties, as arguably no one strategy or approach will work
with all learners in all contexts. However, teaching strategies which highlight dierence
serve to compound the marginalisation of learners who already experience isolation
(Florian and Spratt 2013). Therefore, it is critical that any adjustment to the IPAA
would not be a carte blanche for teachers to use exclusionary approaches in meeting
the needs of learners with SEN, for example, deciding at the outset of a lesson that a learner
with SEN will need additional support to engage in an activity or depending on overt
dierentiation such as dierentiated expectations for learners. This demonstrates the
importance of teachers developing a repertoire of pedagogies that can be drawn upon
to meet dierent learning needs, rather than one set of pedagogies for all learners
(Florian 2014;OGorman and & Drudy 2010). Furthermore, the third principle of the
IPAA, working creatively with and through others, behoves class teachers and SETs to col-
laborate in ways that support the inclusion of learners with SEN without highlighting the
dierence. Such collaboration can support learnersindividual targets in a whole class
setting (King et al., 2018).
Teaching dilemmas in inclusive practice cannot be simply solved by providing the same
type of support or approaches, as dierences in learners cannot be characterised as hom-
ogenous (Lawson, Boyask, and Waite 2013). In such cases, critical dialogue and public
sharing of work are valuable teacher education pedagogies that can disrupt hegemonic
beliefs about dierence and disability. These pedagogies were critical to supporting tea-
chers to enact inclusive pedagogy in this study. Critical dialogue and public sharing of
work in the PLC diminished teacher isolation and subsequently armed participants
practice and improved their self-condence which corroborates research on the benets
of collaborative social learning (Ainscow and Sandill 2010; Cochran-Smith and Lytle
1999,2009; Stoll et al. 2006) and research which demonstrates that this type of learning
arms teacherspractice (Parker, Patton, and OSullivan 2016). The external expertise
in this study facilitated these pedagogies and was also highly valued by the participants
to support their engagement with the IPAA. While these pedagogies could be facilitated
internally within schools, there is a danger that a collegial community will only serve to
embed existing practice if it fails to challenge current teaching methods and lacks focus
regarding meeting learnersneeds (Timperley 2008). Furthermore, models of collaborative
professional inquiry will not transform practice if they are contrived eorts to promote
external interests rather than meaningful teacher and student-driven collaboration
(Kennedy 2014). Thus, external support may prove necessary in supporting teachers to
engage in pedagogies such as critical dialogue and public sharing of work, which as evi-
denced in this research, can scaold collaborative problem solving around teaching
Teacher learning for inclusive practice across the teacher education continuum is para-
mount to the development of inclusive schools. Yet the literature has demonstrated that
initial teacher education does not suciently prepare teachers to eectively include all
learners (Forlin 2010;ODonnell 2012) and PD opportunities in inclusive education are
insucient (Rose et al. 2015; Shevlin, Kenny, and Loxley 2008; Travers et al. 2010). It is
not suggested that the IPAA is a menu of options nor that the enactment of inclusive prac-
tice occurs in a typical way, it will depend on the unique context and the individual lear-
ners in the class context (Spratt & Florian, 2013). Hence, considering that each context, as
well as each learner, is unique, it is unlikely that any one framework will cover all aspects
and situations of practice in developing inclusive pedagogy. However, this study has
shown that the IPAA can eectively support newly qualied and experienced teachers
to enact inclusive pedagogy, with positive outcomes for teachers and learners This was a
single-site case study and therefore the ndings cannot be generalised to the population.
Notwithstanding, the research ndings demonstrate that the IPAA can position teachers
to meet the needs of all learners when they are supported with engagement in critical dia-
logue and public sharing of work in a PLC. Furthermore, collaboration with SETs in this
context could ensure an awareness of individual needs and may support class teachers in
devising inclusive choices for learners.
Teachers work within a system in which dierence can be viewed as a decit and there-
fore as advocated by Lawson et al. (2013), policy needs to support teachers to acknowledge,
problematise, question, and rethink dierence in a way that becomes embedded in practice
at classroom level. As demonstrated in this study, external expertise can provide facili-
tation of eective pedagogies for teacher learning that challenge teacher beliefs.
However, university-school partnerships could support teachers who have engaged in
postgraduate studies in inclusive education to facilitate collaborative inquiry for inclusive
pedagogy in their own contexts. The conceptual framework underpinning this study
(Figure 1) presents a model to guide the development of such teacher professional learn-
ing. Furthermore, school leaders must encourage open dialogue within schools that
explores dierence and diversity and how it can be addressed in a way that is inclusive
for all (Mac Ruairc 2013). In order to build an equitable society, educational endeavours
must work towards eliminating decit conceptualisations of disability. In this context, tea-
chers need to be prepared to commit to supporting the learning of all learners without
marking any one learner as dierent. In order to foster that commitment, teachers
must be supported to develop an understanding of inclusive pedagogy for the benetof
all learners and how to enact it in the classroom. This research oers a model of how criti-
cal dialogue and public sharing of work in a PLC can support teachers to contribute to the
goal of equality for all learners.
Disclosure statement
No potential conict of interest was reported by the authors.
Notes on contributors
Aoife Brennan is an assistant professor in the School of Inclusive and Special Education. She pre-
viously worked as a mainstream and learning support/resource primary teacher. Teaching across
seven undergraduate and postgraduate teacher education programmes up to and including doctoral
level, Aoifes areas of teaching interest include inclusive pedagogy and dierentiation, diversity and
special and inclusive education, teacher professional learning, collaborative practice and leadership
for inclusive schools. She is the Chair of the Professional Certicate/Diploma in Special and Inclus-
ive Education.
Fiona King is an assistant professor in the School of Inclusive and Special Education, Dublin City
University (DCU). Fiona began her career as a primary teacher and spent 25 years teaching in a
variety of contexts including mainstream primary schools both in Ireland and the U.S. and a
special school. In January 2014 she joined St. Patricks College of teacher education and now cur-
rently works in DCU, Institute of Education where she specialises in the following areas: teachers
professional development and learning. leadership and teacher leadership, collaboration and colla-
borative practices, change, and inclusive practice. Fiona is Programme Chair for the Professional
Doctorate in Education (EdD) in the Institute of Education.
Dr Joseph Travers is an associate professor and the rst Head of School of Inclusive and Special
Education in Dublin City University (DCU) Institute of Education, the rst education faculty in
an Irish university. Previous to this he was Director of Special Education (20082016) in St. Patricks
College, Drumcondra joining the College in 1998. He is a former primary school teacher (main-
stream, special class, learning support/resource teacher for Travellers). He has published in the
areas of policy and practice in special education/learning support for mathematics, inclusion, lea-
dership and early intervention. He teaches across a range of teacher education programmes from
initial to postgraduate Diploma, Masters and Doctoral level.
Fiona King
Ainscow, M. 2014.From Special Education to Eective Schools for all: Widening the Agenda.In
The Sage Handbook of Special Education, edited by L. Florian, 172185. London: Sage.
Ainscow, M., and A. Sandill. 2010.Developing Inclusive Education Systems: The Role of
Organisational Cultures and Leadership.International Journal of Inclusive Education 14 (4):
Braun, V., and V. Clarke. 2006.Using Thematic Analysis in Psychology.Qualitative Research in
Psychology 3 (2): 77101.
Brennan, A. 2019.Dierentiation Through Choice as an Approach to Inclusive Practice.REACH
Journal of Special Needs Education in Ireland 32 (1): 1120.
Bubb, S, and S Earley. 2010.Helping StaDevelop in Schools. London: Sage.
Cochran-Smith, M., and S. L. Lytle. 1999.Relationships of Knowledge and Practice: Teacher
Learning in Communities.Review of Research in Education 24: 249305.
Cochran-Smith, M., and S. L. Lytle. 2009.Inquiry as Stance: Practitioner Research for the Next
Generation. New York: Columbia University: Teachers College Press.
Davis, P., and L. Florian. 2004.Searching the Literature on Teaching Strategies and Approaches for
Pupils with Special Educational Needs: Knowledge Production and Synthesis.Journal of
Research in Special Educational Needs 4 (3): 142147.
Day, C., P. Sammons, D. Hopkins, A. Harris, K. Leithwood, G. Qing, E. Brown, E. Ahtaridou, and
A. Kington. 2009.The Impact of School Leadership on Pupil Outcomes. Final report. Retrieved on
6th January 2019 from
Department of Education and Skills (DES). 2011.Literacy and Numeracy for Learning for Life: The
National Strategy to Improve Literacy and Numeracy among Children and Young People 2011
2012. Dublin: DES.
Department of Education and Skills (DES). 2017.National Strategy: Literacy and Numeracy for
Learning for Life: 20112020 Interim Review: 20112016, New Targets: 20172020. Dublin: DES.
Dupoux, E., C. Wolman, and E. Estrada. 2005.TeachersAttitudes Toward Integration of Students
with Disabilities in Haiti and the United States.International Journal of Disability, Development
and Education 52 (1): 4358.
Florian, L. 2008.Inclusion: Special or Inclusive Education: Future Trends.British Journal of
Special Education 35 (4): 202208.
Florian, L. 2014.Reimagining Special Education: Why new Approaches are Needed.In The Sage
Handbook of Special Education, edited by L. Florian, 922. London: Sage.
Florian, L., and K. Black-Hawkins. 2011.Exploring Inclusive Pedagogy.British Educational
Research Journal 37 (5): 813828.
Florian, L., and H. Linklater. 2010.Preparing Teachers for Inclusive Education: Using Inclusive
Pedagogy to Enhance Teaching and Learning for All.Cambridge Journal of Education 40 (4):
Florian, L., and J. Spratt. 2013.Enacting Inclusion: A Framework for Interrogating Inclusive
Practice.European Journal of Special Needs Education 28 (2): 119135.
Forlin, C. 2010.Teacher Education for Inclusion: Changing Paradigms and Innovative Approaches.
Oxon: Routledge.
Forlin, C., U. Sharma, and T. Loreman. 2014.Predictors of Improved Teaching Ecacy Following
Basic Training for Inclusion in Hong Kong.International Journal of Inclusive Education 18 (7):
Friend, M., L. Cook, D. Hurley-Chamberlain, and C. Shamberger. 2010.Co-teaching: An
Illustration of the Complexity of Collaboration in Special Education.Journal of Educational
and Psychological Consultation 20 (1): 927.
Government of Ireland. 1998.Education Act. Dublin: Stationery Oce.
Government of Ireland. 2004.Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act [EPSEN].
Dublin: Stationery Oce.
Grin, S., and M. Shevlin. 2011.Responding to Special Needs Education: An Irish Perspective.
Dublin: Gill Education.
Guskey, T. R. 2002a.Professional Development and Teacher Change.Teachers and Teaching:
Theory and Practice 8 (3): 381391.
Guskey, T.R. 2002b. Does It Make a Dierence? Evaluating Professional Development. Educational
Leadership, 59 (6), 4551.
Hall, G. E., and S. M. Hord. 1987.Change in Schools: Facilitating the Process. New York: Suny Press.
Harris, A., and M. Jones. 2010.Professional Learning Communities and System Improvement.
Improving Schools 13 (2): 172181.
Hart, S, and M Drummond. 2014. Learning Without Limits: Constructing a Pedagogy Free from
Determinist Beliefs About Ability. In L. Florian (Ed.), The SAGE Handbook of Special
Education (2nd edition, pp. 500515). London: SAGE
Jordan, R. 2005.Autistic Spectrum Disorders.In Special Teaching for Special Children? Pedagogies
for Inclusion, edited by A. Lewis and B. Norwich, 110122. Maidenhead: Open University Press.
Jordan, A., E. Schwartz, and D. McGhie-Richmond. 2009.Preparing Teachers for Inclusive
Classrooms.Teaching and Teacher Education 25 (4): 535542.
Kennedy, A. 2014.Understanding Continuing Professional Development: The Need for Theory to
Impact on Policy and Practice.Professional Development in Education 40 (5): 688697.
Kershner, R. (2014). What do Teachers Need to Know About Meeting Special Educational Needs?
In The Sage Handbook of Special Education, edited by L. Florian, 841858. London: Sage.
King, F. 2014.Evaluating the Impact of Teacher Professional Development: An Evidence-Based
Framework.Professional Development in Education 40 (1): 89111.
King, F. 2016.Teacher Professional Development to Support Teacher Professional Learning:
Systemic Factors from Irish Case Studies.Teacher Development 20 (4): 574594.
King, F., Ó Ní Bhroin, and A. Prunty. 2018.Professional Learning and the Individual Education
Plan Process: Implications for Teacher Educators.Professional Development in Education 44 (5):
Lawson, H., R. Boyask, and S. Waite. 2013.Construction of Dierence and Diversity Within Policy
and Practice in England.Cambridge Journal of Education 43 (1): 107122.
Lindsay, S., M. Proulx, H. Scott, and N. Thomson. 2014.Exploring TeachersStrategies for
Including Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Mainstream Classrooms.
International Journal of Inclusive Education 18 (2): 101122.
Mac Ruairc, G. 2013.Including who? Deconstructing the Discourse.In Leadership for Inclusive
Education: Values, Vision and Voices, edited by G. Mac Ruairc, E. Ottesen, and R. Precey, 9
18. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.
McConkey, R., R. Kelly, S. Craig, and M. Shevlin. 2016.A Decade of Change in Mainstream
Education for Children with Intellectual Disabilities in the Republic of Ireland.European
Journal of Special Needs Education 31 (1): 96110.
McGillicuddy, D., and D. Devine. 2018.““Turned oor Ready to y”–Ability Grouping as an
Act of Symbolic Violence in Primary School.Teaching and Teacher Education 70: 8899.
McLaughlin, M., and A. Dyson. 2014.Changing Perspectives of Special Education in the Evolving
Context of Standards-Based Reforms in the US and England.In The Sage Handbook of Special
Education, edited by L. Florian, 889914. London: Sage.
Mintz, J., and D. Wyse. 2015.Inclusive Pedagogy and Knowledge in Special Education: Addressing
the Tension.International Journal of Inclusive Education 19 (11): 11611171.
Nevin, A. I., J. S. Thousand, and R. A. Villa. 2009.Collaborative Teaching for Teacher Educators
What Does the Research say?Teaching and Teacher Education 25 (4): 569574.
Norwich, B., and A. Lewis. 2007.How Specialized is Teaching Children with Disabilities and
Diculties?Journal of Curriculum Studies 39 (2): 127150.
ODonnell, M. 2012.TeachersEcacy Beliefs for Including Pupils with Special Educational
Needs.In Special and Inclusive Education: A Research Perspective, edited by T. Day and J.
Travers, 6984. Dublin: Peter Lang.
OGorman, E., and S. & Drudy. 2010.Addressing the Professional Development Needs of Teachers
Working in the Area of Special Education/Inclusion in Mainstream Schools in Ireland.Journal
of Research in Special Educational Needs 10 (1): 157167.
Opfer, V. D., and D. Pedder. 2011.Conceptualizing Teacher Professional Learning.Review of
Educational Research 81 (3): 376407.
Parker, M., K. Patton, and M. OSullivan. 2016.Signature Pedagogies in Support of Teachers
Professional Learning.Irish Educational Studies 35 (2): 117.
Parker, M., K. Patton, and C. Sinclair. 2016.“‘I Took This Picture Because …’: TeachersDepictions
and Descriptions of Change.Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy 21 (3): 328346.
Peters, S., and D. K. Reid. 2009.Resistance and Discursive Practice: Promoting Advocacy in
Teacher Undergraduate and Graduate Programmes.Teaching and Teacher Education 25 (4):
Pugach, M., and L. Blanton. 2014.Inquiry and Community: Uncommon Opportunities to Enrich
Professional Development for Inclusion.In The Sage Handbook of Special Education, edited by
L. Florian, 873888. London: Sage.
Rix, J., and K. Sheehy. 2014.Nothing Special: The Everyday Pedagogy of Teaching.In The Sage
Handbook of Special Education, edited by L. Florian, 459474. London: Sage.
Rose, R., M. Shevlin, E. Winter, and P. ORaw. 2015.Project IRIS Inclusive Research in Irish
Schools.In A Longitudinal Study of the Experiences of and Outcomes for Pupils with Special
Educational Needs (SEN) in Irish Schools. Trim: National Council for Special Education (NCSE).
Rouse, M. 2008.Developing Inclusive Practice: A Role for Teachers and Teacher Education.
Education in the North 16 (1): 613.
Shevlin, M., M. Kenny, and A. Loxley. 2008.A Time of Transition: Exploring Special Educational
Provision in the Republic of Ireland.Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs 8 (3): 141
Shevlin, M., E. Winter, and P. Flynn. 2013.Developing Inclusive Practice: Teacher Perceptions of
Opportunities and Constraints in the Republic of Ireland.International Journal of Inclusive
Education 17 (10): 11191133.
Shulman, L. S. 2005.Signature Pedagogies in the Professions.Daedalus 134 (3): 5259.
Spratt, J., and L. Florian. 2015.Inclusive Pedagogy: From Learning to Action. Supporting Each
Individual in the Context of Everybody.Teaching and Teacher Education 49: 8996.
Stoll, L., R. Bolam, A. McMahon, M. Wallace, and S. Thomas. 2006.Professional Learning
Communities: A Review of the Literature.Journal of Educational Change 7 (4): 221258.
Timperley, H. 2008.Teacher Professional Learning and Development. Educational Practices Series-
18. UNESCO International Bureau of Education. Retrieved on January 6, 2019 from http://www.
Travers, J., T. Balfe, C. Butler, T. Day, M. Dupont, R. McDaid, M. ODonnell, and A. Prunty. 2010.
Addressing the Challenges and Barriers to Inclusion in Irish Schools: Report to Research and
Development Committee of the Department of Education and Skills. Drumcondra: St. Patricks
Vaughn, S., S. Linan-Thompson, and P. Hickman. 2003.Response to Instruction as a Means of
Identifying Students with Reading/Learning Disabilities.Exceptional Children 69 (4): 391409.
... Practitioner cognition is viewed as having personal, situated and distributed dimensions within nested activity systems at classroom, organisation and community levels (Opfer and Pedder, 2011), with fundamental shifts in cognition emerging from these "practice-complexes" (Watson, 2014). This is conceptualised as reciprocal interaction between new knowledge, reflection on existing beliefs and assumptions, and experimentation with practice that aids retrieval of what has been learned and ensures its practical application (Brennan et al., 2019;Rouse, 2008). ...
... Research into the enactment of inclusion in educational settings tends to use a mixed methods approach which incorporates talking to practitioners and learners with observations of practice (Brennan et al., 2019). A limitation of this study, therefore, is that it gained information from practitioners' descriptions of practice only and did not combine this with information gained in other ways, mainly because of restrictions on data collection during the COVID-19 pandemic. ...
... Despite this, it is believed that important implications for practice emerge from the findings of this study, most particularly that critical reflection, particularly on lived experience, constitutes an essential element of professional learning in relation to Autistic learners. Difficulties with educational inclusion for this group have prompted calls for the greater use of specialised practices (Brennan et al., 2019;Ravet, 2018), but it is possible that more input into professional learning particularly of Autistic people's perspectives and experiences as they describe them is the key to educational change in this area. ...
Full-text available
Purpose Professional learning has been highlighted as critical to improvement in educational practice for Autistic learners. Empirical evidence about what is effective for professional learning in education suggests it is a “bottom-up” process of intellectual, practical and emotional engagement and application of new knowledge to specific contexts. The purpose of this study was to gather information about postgraduate professional learning that sought to combine lived experience with reflection on practice in a critical pedagogy approach for practitioners working with Autistic learners in post-16 education. Design/methodology/approach Participants in the study represented all further education (FE) colleges in Wales and included experienced teachers and leaders, most of whom have a role focused on inclusion and learning support within their setting. Two phases of data collection were carried out, namely, a baseline survey ( n = 36) and follow-up interviews ( n = 15) at the end of the year of study. Interviews explored personal experiences of learning, knowledge and beliefs about practice and change in this respect and professionals’ priorities for the development of practice. Findings Findings present information gathered from the interviews and indicate that the course did not provide practitioners with new knowledge about autism but supported the development of more nuanced understandings of autism and more professional confidence about practice. However, familiarisation with lived experience and critical reflection on practice were described as supporting the questioning of basic assumptions and greater appreciation of the nature of difference for Autistic learners. Originality/value Study findings reframe what should be considered the focus of support practices for Autistic learners in FE.
... This is reflected in an increased emphasis on equity and quality education for all as evidenced in international policy such as the United Nation's Education 2030 Framework for Action (United Nations Educational & Scientific and Cultural Organization [UNESCO], 2016). However, system level change such as this requires policies and actions at macro, meso and micro levels to make this happen, reflecting the need for leadership (Ainscow, 2020;Brennan et al., 2019;Chapman et al., 2012) and professional learning (Florian & Spratt, 2013;King, 2017) at all levels of the system. Change may be technically simple, but it is socially complex (Ainscow, 2020). ...
... Change may be technically simple, but it is socially complex (Ainscow, 2020). This paper focuses on the development of teacher leadership for inclusion among early career teachers in the absence of much literature on leadership development of early career teachers (Forde et al., 2018) or evidence of transformative models of professional learning and development to support teachers as leaders for inclusion (Brennan et al., 2019). ...
... Inclusion and equity require a collective will to make it happen (Ainscow, 2020;Chapman et al., 2012), a commitment to the values and beliefs around inclusion (Florian & Spratt, 2013;Kugelmass, 2001) along with collaborative practice, as developing inclusive schools is a social process (Chapman et al., 2012;Ní Bhroin, 2020). This not only requires professional learning models that support sustainable processes to allow for the development of leadership for inclusion (Brennan et al., 2019), it also involves collaborative interactions within and across spaces and contexts (Ainscow & Sandill, 2010). Though a focus on inclusion and equity may appear technically simple, it has implications for leadership and professional learning. ...
Full-text available
This paper explores leadership learning of seven early career teachers who attended eight leadership for inclusion community of practice (LIn-CoP) workshops in the Republic of Ireland. A meta-model approach was used to inform this research drawing upon a community of practice approach using participatory action learning action research processes, evidence-based frameworks of teacher leadership development (focused on growth as a teacher, researcher, leader and personal growth) and the six facets of equity to support inclusion. Findings attest to enhanced individual competencies; growth as a teacher, researcher, leader and personal growth, with no one growth aspect more important than another. This paper adds to the existing research showing how certain growth aspects were more aligned to evolving needs at particular points in a teacher’s professional learning journey. Furthermore, growth was influenced by teachers’ personal and contextual challenges and needs thus questioning existing research on the use of the leadership development framework within PLCs in schools. Findings contribute empirical evidence of leadership learning among early career teachers, when prospectively using the framework, within a school university partnership model. The study answers the call for research into models of professional learning to empower teacher leadership through using the meta-model of professional learning.
... Spratt and Florian (2014, p. 90) argue that inclusive education now encompasses "all learners who may be excluded or marginalised by the processes of schooling." Brennan et al. (2019) support this perspective, arguing that inclusive pedagogy avoids the exclusion of any learner. The PDST Primary STEM team is tasked with supporting teachers in realising inclusive pedagogy for all pupils in primary mathematics, science, and the STEM disciplines. ...
... Professional development is central to supporting teachers in understanding and implementing inclusive pedagogy in primary mathematics. Brennan, King and Travers (2019) affirm this perspective when they assert that "teachers need to be effectively supported in developing their understanding of inclusive pedagogy in order to challenge hegemonic assumptions about difference and to develop inclusive practice." (p.4). ...
... Despite this principle informing educational policy formation in many western countries, the actual practice of the inclusion of SEN learners is not always consistent with policy. It depends on teacher perceptions and understandings of inclusion and attitudes towards SEN learners presenting in the mainstream setting (Brennan et al., 2019). Perceptions, attitudes, and understanding of SEN pupils and their needs significantly impact the success or otherwise of the inclusion process in educational contexts and, particularly, a willingness among school personnel to contribute to the inclusion process (Skidmore, 2004). ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
With an increasing focus on STEM (DES, 2017) and mathematics education (DES, 2011) in Irish preschool education contexts, this paper reports on the findings of a qualitative study which explored the beliefs and self-reported practices of eight early childhood educators in relation to mathematics in preschool settings. This paper focuses in particular on the answers of participants to questions focusing on educator ‘noticing’: educator recollections of observations of mathematical concepts in children’s free play and their responses to them. Findings show that while participants could recall mathematical aspects of children’s free play or interests, these were not always responded to, or if responded to were responded to in a non-mathematical way. These findings align to those in international research and contribute to the gap in the research context in relation to mathematics in Irish preschool settings.
... The trend for developing PLCs for school improvement in the US during the 1980s and later in the European context did not extend to using PLCs to develop inclusive school practice. The lack of attention to PLCs for inclusive education in policy discourse is myopic considering that collaborative PLD can support whole-school reform (Harris & Jones, 2010) and PLCs have shown to result in enhanced efficacy and practices related to inclusive practice in schools (Brennan, King, & Travers, 2019;Pugach & Blanton, 2014). This paper addresses this research gap by building on a previous qualitative case study with eight classroom teachers and two school leaders in an urban primary school who engaged in a PLC for inclusive practice facilitated by the lead author (Brennan et al., 2019). ...
... The lack of attention to PLCs for inclusive education in policy discourse is myopic considering that collaborative PLD can support whole-school reform (Harris & Jones, 2010) and PLCs have shown to result in enhanced efficacy and practices related to inclusive practice in schools (Brennan, King, & Travers, 2019;Pugach & Blanton, 2014). This paper addresses this research gap by building on a previous qualitative case study with eight classroom teachers and two school leaders in an urban primary school who engaged in a PLC for inclusive practice facilitated by the lead author (Brennan et al., 2019). It draws on findings from revisiting the same school two years later to explore if and how teachers can sustain inclusive practices over time, as research has previously confirmed the lack of evidence of sustainability of practices arising from PLD in the longer term (Jones, 2020;King, 2014King, , 2016. ...
... This emphasis on collaborative practice aligns well with the call for social learning processes (Ainscow & Sandill, 2010) to support inclusion. Adopting this view and exploring research related to PLCs for inclusive practice revealed a gap (Pugach & Blanton, 2014), which led to the first phase of this research study reported in Brennan et al. (2019). This involved one of the researchers undertaking a study to explore the impact of a PLC on teacher professional learning for inclusive practice in a primary school in the RoI. ...
Full-text available
The literature supports transformative models of professional learning and development (PLD) such as professional learning communities (PLCs). However, there is a research gap relating to PLCs for inclusive practice. This paper draws on findings from a qualitative study with 10 teachers in an urban primary school in the Republic of Ireland, who engaged in a PLC for inclusive practice facilitated by one of the researchers. Two years later the researchers undertook semi-structured interviews with nine of the original participants and five classroom observations to explore if and how teachers can sustain inclusive practices in changing times. The findings evidenced sustained changes in teachers’ individual and collaborative practices, affirming an argument that PLCs can support teachers to develop and sustain inclusive practices in the longer term. This paper offers a conceptual framework for prospectively planning PLCs to narrow the values practice gap for inclusive practice.
... In particular, networks of teachers and learning communities, as socio-constructivist approaches, are efficient approaches that lead to effective online professional development (Ní Shé et al., 2019). Such approaches can contribute to the sustainability of new practices over time (Brennan et al., 2019). Only 8.8% of respondents engaged in online university-related programs. ...
... However, such forms of professional cooperation have proven to be most beneficial for teachers since this type of cooperation implies a high degree of interdependence ( Johnston & Tsai, 2018;Little, 1990, according to Markočić Dekanić et al., 2020. Bhrion et al. (2020) highlight effective school administration that can support teacher change by creating a culture of professional development and collaboration within the school as a contextual factor influencing participant engagement and the application of what is learned at the school level (Brennan et al., 2019;Curry, 2008;Jensen et al., 2016;King, 2016). ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Communication in companies is essential to achieve the set goals of the company. If all team members are not equally committed to achieving organizational goals, they will not be achieved or will not be achieved to the extent planned. With the joint action and effort of all employees and managers, the synergy effect in companies will be more significant, and the involvement of all workers. Without communication, it would be impossible to achieve the set goals in companies, the desired planned profit and customer satisfaction, or customers. Managers are responsible for the communication process in companies, and all stakeholders in the communication process, all employees, are co- responsible. When there are “noises” in communication, then communication in the company is one-way, which reflects very quickly on the business process and ultimately on the company’s profits and customer or customer satisfaction. Communication between co-workers or co-workers and managers is not twoway but one-way, inefficient, even stressful, and harmful. The scientific contribution of this paper is to determine the reasons for unclear, one-way, or even harmful communication in the company between employees and their superiors, from the point of view of employees and find out and define possible ways to improve the communication process of employees with their managers. There is no statistically significant difference between the sexes of the respondents with the respondents’ attitudes about the importance of communication in their workplaces. A high percentage of respondents stated that communication in their workplaces is essential. The success of managers’ communication with employees is not related to a higher executive education level. As the leading reason for unsuccessful communication of managers with employees, respondents state the lack of time of managers. They also state that the first way to improve the communication process is for managers to find time to communicate more often with employees, individually, and more often by organizing meetings with employees and asking employees how they feel.
Full-text available
La mejora de la calidad de la enseñanza sigue siendo una tarea pendiente vinculada estrechamente con el conocimiento de su profesorado para brindar oportunidades de aprendizaje a todos los niños y todas las niñas. Este estudio pretende conocer, describir y comprender qué tipo de formación considera relevante el profesorado inclusivo de infantil para que otros colegas sepan dar respuesta a la diversidad.
Full-text available
Assessment for all? A SMART research review of special needs education and assessment of knowledge. The interest in this review lies in two research fields: Special Education and Classroom Assessment and explores if and how these fields interrelate. A review of classroom assessment with regards to special educational needs has not yet been published; the knowledge of the impact of assessment in education concerning students in special needs is thus scarce. Therefore, this study aims to contribute with knowledge about how assessment practices can be understood in relation to special educational needs. From a broad overview of present research within the two fields, 17 articles from 2010 to 2020 were selected and analyzed. The focus of these articles is on content that overlaps in both assessment of knowledge and special needs. Four dyadic themes were found showing practices of inclusive assessment in the research: equity & equivalence, inclusion & access, interaction & relation and self-regulation & identity. These themes are considered important strategies in inclusive assessment practices. Intersections between disability, language- and cultural background as well as class, make visible dimensions of marginalization and special needs on various levels of education. These aspects are informative to policy makers, education staff as well as academic researchers. In addition, they can be approached separately or as entangled areas of knowledge. Key words: inclusive assessment, intersectionality, special needs, education, classroom, review.
Full-text available
We wanted to know how teachers and parents perceive one another and how their perceptions could impact upon their behaviour. Qualitative research was best suited to our study. We interviewed teachers and parents repeatedly over the course of eight months, conducting 97 interviews in total. The teachers reflected stereotypical views of people living in poverty, a fact that the parents realised. Some parents responded by trying to create a good impression. Most parents reacted defensively or forcefully, upsetting the teachers. All teachers had emotionally fraught encounters with parents. Lacking in emotional training, the teachers adopted various coping strategies. A social justice orientation and training in the emotional sphere in initial teacher education may better equip teachers for family-school partnerships. We identify the implications of the study for initial teacher education and for the continuing professional development of teachers. Finally, we offer recommendations for future research in this area.
Classrooms have become increasingly diverse places where students from various backgrounds share their learning experiences. To promote inclusive school settings for all, building teacher capacity for inclusive teaching represents a key policy area. Education systems need to ensure that teachers are adequately prepared for inclusive teaching and supported throughout their career. Mechanisms to attract and retain a more diverse teaching body as well as to monitor and evaluate teacher preparation and work with respect to diversity and inclusion should also be developed. While teacher policies have increasingly addressed some of these areas, most education systems lack comprehensive capacity-building frameworks for inclusive teaching. This paper maps policies and practices to build teacher capacity for inclusive teaching across OECD countries. It then presents core elements and competences to design and implement inclusive teaching strategies. Finally, the paper reviews some of the evidence available on teacher diversity and interventions for inclusive teaching.
Full-text available
Teacher professional learning is widely accepted as a mediating factor for enhancing student outcomes. While many teachers across the world engage in professional development (PD) to enhance their professional learning, what is less evident is how to support that learning to result in change following teacher PD. Acknowledging that not all teacher PD needs to result in new practices and change, this paper focuses on a transformative model of PD, focused on implementing and sustaining change. This paper offers evidence of successful implementation and sustainability of practices by drawing from in-depth semi-structured interviews with teachers and principals in five Irish case study schools. It reports on the Systemic Factors to support implementation and sustainability of change: Support, Initiative design and Impact and Teacher Agency. Implications are drawn for bridging the gap between knowledge and practice or teacher PD and change within schools.
Full-text available
Signature pedagogies [Shulman, L. 200551. Shulman, L. 2005. “Signature Pedagogies in the Professions.” Daedalus 134 (3): 52–59. doi: 10.1162/0011526054622015View all references. “Signature pedagogies in the professions.” Daedalus 134 (3): 52–59.] are a focus of teacher educators seeking to improve teaching and teacher education. The purpose of this paper is to present a preliminary common language of signature pedagogies for teacher professional development (PD). In all, 24 papers from the study of physical education PD projects with clearly articulated pedagogical objectives and documentation on achieving those objectives were included in the analysis. In total 479 teachers and 48 facilitators across the US and Europe were interviewed and/or surveyed. Three discrete PD signature pedagogies holding potential to enhance teacher growth and learning within the context of PD were identified: critical dialogue (process of acquiring knowledge through communicative interactions), public sharing of work (testing out practices in classrooms and share ideas with larger audiences), and communities of learners (collective learning around a shared concern or a passion). It is our hope in providing the beginnings of a common vocabulary for pedagogies of teacher professional learning we have encouraged additional steps toward developing signature pedagogies for learning across different PD settings and content areas.
Policy and legislation internationally advocates curriculum access and inclusion for pupils with special educational needs. The individual education plan (IEP) process, which focuses on individual planning for pupils with special educational needs, has been mandated as a means of achieving this goal in many countries. As a concept it has been challenged in terms of its potential to perpetuate difference which is antithetical to inclusion. As a practice concerns have been raised regarding its development, implementation and review. In the Republic of Ireland (ROI) IEPs have been legislated for but not enacted. Nonetheless policy guidelines promote use of the IEP process and state funding supports teacher professional development in this area through an award-bearing model. This article draws on a mixed methods study to evaluate the impact of this award-bearing model on teachers’ professional learning, in the context of IEPs. Findings indicate enhanced teacher expertise for supporting curriculum access for individual learners. However collaborative practices to support contextualisation of learner goals into class planning and practice need to be addressed. This article argues for teacher educators to focus on enhancing teacher leadership and capacity building within schools to ensure that curriculum access is achieved within an inclusive environment.
This paper presents findings from a mixed methodological study exploring teacher perspectives on the use of ability grouping in primary schools in Ireland. Results indicated that teachers were shown to ‘funnel and filter’ children into differentiated ability groups, conceptualised as acts of symbolic violence. This had particular implications for learners assigned to the ‘weaker’ groups, most especially boys, minority ethnic/migrant children and those with additional support needs. Factors related to length of teacher experience and engagement with continuous professional development were found to mediate the strength of framing of children's learning in ability groups.
There has been an increasing focus in policy and practice on adopting inclusive pedagogy as a way of reconceptualising how schools work with children with special educational needs (SEN). The paper considers the split between knowledge and pedagogy inherent in some dominant strains of inclusive pedagogy. Drawing on the ‘knowledge turn’ in curriculum studies, we argue that although an analytical distinction between knowledge and pedagogy may be useful, too strong a delineation between the two fails to best serve the needs of children with special needs. Specific implications for teacher education in relation to SEN in England are considered.
The idea of inclusion is ‘generally understood around the world as part of the human rights agenda that demands access to, and equity in, education’ (Florian, 2008, p. 202). As a concept it was originally aligned to the developments within special education when thinking shifted from the idea of integration to the more challenging idea of inclusion and mainstreaming of special education provision (Warnock,1978).