Inclusive Education: Ideals and Reality

The objectives of modern-day education are based on the concepts of equity and equality (Clarke, 2014). Education evolved from an elitist and segregated institution reserved only for the rich, able, and powerful, towards an inclusive and integrated model. Inclusion and the introduction of students with disabilities into public schools is a worldwide phenomenon as the rights and contributions of disabled individuals become more recognized by society (Ainscow, 1999, Ruijs and Peetsma 2009).

This trend became prominent through the implementation of milestone federal legislative policy in 1975 named the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which entitled individuals with various physical and mental disabilities to the use of public classrooms (Yell, Rogers, & Lodge-Rogers, 1998). Ever since, schools and teachers were required to provide special accommodations for students with various disabilities to help them fulfill their educational needs (Yell et al., 1998).

After the IDEA was enacted, a significant number of students with disabilities began to receive education in generalized classroom settings. Although they receive special services from school authorities and education facilities, they spend the majority of their time alongside non-impaired individuals.

According to Ruijs and Peetsma (2009), the introduction of the least restrictive environment (LRE) greatly improved the autonomy of students and helped them increase their academic performance, participate in classroom and community activities, while also reducing the stigmatizing effects of special education. Nevertheless, research shows the existence of restrictive stressors associated with educators’ stereotyped perception, fit of advisors, low quality of support services, and lack of knowledge which lead to lower levels of academic success (Hong, 2015).

The ethical issue of teachers being excluding students with disabilities in educational processes and unwilling to accommodate them was brought to the forefront of public discussions. According to Dowrick, Anderson, Heyer, and Acosta (2005), special needs students do not receive and obtain the appropriate support that accommodates their needs. Despite robust federal legislation for teaching mentally disabled students, there are still problems of educators not providing the necessary instruction and neglecting students with special needs (Zhang, Landmark, Reber, Hsu, Kwok, & Benz, 2010, Damianidou, & Phtiaka, 2018). This means schools are not doing enough to accommodate learners with disabilities and help them reach academic success.

Teachers’ Exclusion of Students With Disabilities

As Leatherman (2007) claims, the majority of educators perceive inclusion as a positive phenomenon yet many also indicate a need for training and skill development, greater support from school administration, and inter-professional collaboration. To work with special education students more effectively, teachers should be trained on how to design curricula and modify instructional practices in a way that all learners’ needs are met. Allday et al., (2013), also state that the root of the issue lies in the limited professional pre-service training.

Students who study teaching are not provided with enough availability for resources of professional advancement regarding the categorization of learning disorders and the strategic instructions based on evidence that could be used in inclusive classroom environments. There is a lack to provide teachers with educational training concerning the instructional and methodological differences and collaborative options among special education and general teachers to aid the student with learning disabilities (Allday et al., 2013).

Moreover, the lack of time plays an important part in causing the object of the ethical dilemma. Westwood and Graham (2003) surveyed the number of educators, who expressed their concerns related to time limitations, properly adjusting the timeframe to meet the demands from both a child with a learning disorder and other students and tackling the issue of assisting a student with modifications and extra monitoring. Therefore, the lack of time leads teachers to ignore to satisfy the requirements of mentally disabled students.

Another assumption is a lack of inter-professional collaboration promotion between generalists and special education teachers. Fuchs (2010) discovered that general education teachers did not believe that they received sufficient support from other parties, particularly school administration and special education support staff. In general, there were inequalities in the assignment of duties between the two different educator types that led to tensions and power struggles.

As a result, generalist teachers often reject the use of administrative resources if they see doing so as unproductive. So, the negative attitudes towards teaching students with disabilities are frequently because the administration does not provide sufficient assistance in scheduling and planning collaborative measures, and efficiently distributing responsibilities among special education personnel (Fuchs, 2010).

The last assumption revolves around conscious opposition to inclusivity and the focus on individuals with disabilities during the classroom (Brandes, & Crowson,2014, Zhang et al., 2010). Historically, the teaching community was not positive about working with students with special needs. Some teachers believe that student with disabilities is not teachable or succeed as much as another student. Teacher’s beliefs and values on educating students with learning disorders are critical influencing factors, which determine the educator’s eagerness create necessary accommodative measures for mentally disabled students (Zhang et al., 2010)

As it is possible to see, the majority of assumptions behind the topic of teachers’ exclusion of students with disabilities and their failure to provide an encouraging learning environment and meet their need lies in the dimensions of time, experiences, knowledge, and support. All of these issues must be addressed to facilitate a better environment and meet the needs of all students.

Promoting Teachers’ Self-Efficacy

The second step will focus to promote teachers’ self-efficacy by providing them with the knowledge that they need about inclusive classrooms. As noted above, many teachers do not have the required levels of self-efficiency to teach and meet the needs of students with disabilities. The theory proposed by Bandura (1977b) assists in making sense of this issue. The self-efficacy approach is part of the social cognitive theory, which attributes human behavior to a variety of personal and environmental factors (Bandura, 1997b).

Self-efficacy affects human behavior by influencing their cognitive, affective, motivational, and decision-making processes. Importantly, people’s conduct is both indirectly and directly affected by the concept of self-efficacy. It determines whether a person has an optimistic or pessimistic manner of thinking and has a self-enabling or self-disabling worldview (Bandura, 1977a; Bandura 1997b).

Based on these parameters, teachers may look at particular issues positively or negatively. Self-efficacy has a large influence on the teaching process as well. According to Mojavezi and Tamiz (2012), self-efficacy is an important influence on teachers’ performance in classrooms and on students’ achievement. Educators, who believe they have knowledge and expertise in establishing a positive learning environment, arrange their educational activities and settings differently than teachers who have low efficacy beliefs. The more self-efficient a teacher is, the more likely it is for them to use their time more effectively.

This time could be spent on providing students with the appropriate instructions they need and practicing different techniques (Mojavezi & Tamiz, 2012). Therefore, it is important to boost teacher’s self-efficacy and self-perception as a way of encouraging them to learn and apply their knowledge and skills in differing situations.

Differentiated Instruction in the Classroom

The third action is the promotion of differentiated instruction in the classroom. This session will discuss the correct definition of differentiated instruction according to education experts and differentiated instruction strategies for classroom teachers to use in their classrooms. It will also give educators a chance for reflection on current differentiated instruction practices and how to develop them, and designing lessons by using the tools for differentiated instruction and sharing it with other educators.

The reason behind this step is that equity and equality could be achieved through teaching students based on their interests, level of readiness, and learning styles (Akos, Cockman, & Strickland, 2007). Sociocultural theory suggests that the interaction of students with various levels of development may be particularly helpful (Gauvain & Cole, 1997). In this scenario, learners will cooperate with more skilled students and reach the Zone of Proximal Development faster.

This concept implies that a student has specific functions he or she can develop if guided by adults or supported by more skilled peers (Gauvain & Cole, 1997). Thus, teacher-student interaction and cooperation between students, as well as responsive instruction and content knowledge scaffolding are central to differentiation (Subban, 2006).

It should be noted that the use of differentiated instruction is beneficial for all students. It implies that the teacher comprehends that all students learn at their pace, and a uniform approach is not applicable. Each student has his or her learning style, and differentiated instruction allows addressing the unique needs and capabilities of each student. Using Differentiated instruction will help to change current instructional strategies from educating the entire class with the same approach to providing learners with teaching methods, which are adaptable and adjustable for each student (Subban, 2006).