EMPIRICAL STUDY OF INCLUSIVE EDUCATION AND THE EFFECTS ON TEACHING OF BIOLOGY
1.1 Background to the study
Over the past decades, local and national governments have adopted inclusive education policies. International human rights framework states that schools are responsible for providing equal educational opportunities and that classroom teachers are the key agents in promoting inclusion for all students (UNESCO, 1994, 2000). However, despite a large body of literature on inclusion, there is a lack of empirical evidence on its impact on student growth (Fuchs & Fuchs, 1994; Farrell, 2000; Lindsay, 2003, 2007; Kauffman, 2008; Kavale & Forness, 2000). Disability is one of many individual differences and from this perspective, inclusive education is defined as providing appropriate educational practices to students with disabilities by classroom teachers in regular classrooms (Loreman, 2007; Porter, 2008). While opponents of inclusion argue that inclusive teaching takes away from the learning opportunities of students without any special needs, some suggest that inclusion benefits all students (Demeris, Childs, & Jordan, 2007; McGhie-Richmond et al., 2013). Research also suggest that although students with special needs may benefit socially from inclusion, the academic benefits remain unclear (Farrell, 2000). Lack of empirical evidence on inclusive education may be perhaps due to conceptual limitations such as a lack of consensus over a definition of inclusion and methodological challenges such as establishing control in natural settings (Dyson, Farrell, Polat, Hutcheson, & Gallannaugh, 2004; Farrell, 2000; McGhieRichmond et al., 2013; Nind & Wearmouth, 2006).
1.2 Problem Statement.
According to Dyson et al. (2004), there are limited numbers of classroom-based observation studies examining effective teaching practices in inclusive classrooms. Indeed, a component that is often not included in research examining effectiveness of inclusion and its impact on student outcomes is an observation of the quality of classroom teaching. Farrell (2000) suggests that studies should examine observation of actual teaching as opposed to focusing on comparisons of placement labels such as “inclusive” versus “special” classrooms. Thus, focusing on classrooms as units of analysis is a step forward in identifying how inclusive education can be implemented effectively in practice for all students (Erten & Savage, 2012). There are also other factors to take into consideration when examining pathways to successful inclusive practices. Many scholars state that moving towards inclusion requires systematic evaluation at the overall school-level including identifying the attitudes and perceptions of school professionals (Carrington, 1999; Loreman, 2007; Porter, 1997, 2008; Singal, 2008; Villa & Thousand, 2005). Research findings point out that classroom teachers’ positive attitudes towards inclusion is amongst the most important factors in creating inclusive classrooms (Avramidis & Norwich, 2002; McGhie-Richmond et al., 2013). However, evidence also suggests that classroom teachers are reluctant about implementing inclusion and adapting instruction for all students (Avramidis & Norwich, 2002). In addition to school-level factors, factors at the classroom-level also influence impact of inclusive education. Classroom teachers are expected to take the leading role in providing support for students with special needs within the regular classroom context (Pressley, Wharton-McDonald, Mistretta-Hampston, & Echevarria, 1998; Loreman, 2007; McGhie-Richmond, Irvine, Loreman, Cizman, & Lupart, 2013). Evidence from studies of effective teaching reveal that teaching in inclusive classrooms requires not only a general understanding of best practices in teaching but also a more specialized knowledge of adapted instruction for students with special needs (Bender, Vail, & Scott, 1995; Jordan, Lindsay, & Stanovich, 1997; Jordan & Stanovich, 2001, 2003, 2004; McGee, 2001; McGhieRichmond, Underwood, & Jordan, 2007; McGhie-Richmond et al., 2013; Tomlinson, 2001, 2003; Voltz, Brazil, & Ford, 2001). However, research findings on teachers’ negative attitudes towards students with disabilities may also suggest that teachers are reluctant to implement inclusive practices (Avramidis & Norwich, 2002). In educational psychology, although literature examining the link between teachers’ behaviour and attitudes is quite extensive, research focusing on empiral study of inclusive education and the effects on teaching of biology are limited.
1.3 Research Objectives
Two research objectives shape the present study. The first objective is to examine whether there is a relationship between teachers’ teaching practices and their perceptions of inclusion in inclusive education and effects on teaching biology.The second objective is to explore whether any classroom-level factors including various components of teachers’ teaching practices and attitudes are significantly related to student outcomes of reading attainment, social inclusion, self-concept, bullying and students’ perceptions of inclusion. Through a nested design with students nested within classrooms, the present study will examine individual variation in reading attainment of biology.
1.4 Research Question
(1) what is inclusive education?
(2) how is it implemented?
(3) what are its effect on teaching practices?
1.5 Significance of the study
The present study seeks to examine how students’ develop in relation to different classroom contexts as measured by observations of classroom teaching of biology and attitudes towards inclusion surveys through hierarchical analyses. The present study will aim to make substantive conceptual and methodological contributions to the field of inclusive education by 1) examining normal classroom variation through looking at growth in attainment and social outcomes and 2) by exploring the shared classroom variation as the dependent variable independent of unique student-level variance. Finally, the present study aims to guide professional development in the implementation of inclusive education particularly at the classroom-level and its effects on teaching of biology.
1.6 Scope of the study
The study focuses on Empirical study of inclusive education and the effects on teaching of biology.
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