The interpretation of inclusive education among educators

Understanding Inclusive Education Among a Triad of Stakeholders

Aug 07 2022

Within American school districts, there is a call to reimagine what inclusive education looks like to respond to the overall need for equity. As a means to initiate this transformation, the study seeks to assess the current understandings of inclusive education amongst a triad of stakeholders (school administrators, special educators and general educators) in order to outline next steps for creating inclusive schools.

Inclusive Practices in Planning Professional Development Opportunities

School administrators play a significant role in ensuring that all stakeholders in the school commit to equity, including all staff, parents/guardians, and students. Thus, when planning professional development opportunities, school leadership must carefully consider how both general and special educators can be collaboratively involved in professional learning contexts regarding inclusive practices. However, it is also important to acknowledge that it takes time for inclusive practices to become institutionalized (5 or more years) and administrators should be prepared to encounter some level of resistance given the disruptions to the status quo, including but not limited to shifts in power dynamics, established practices, and the role of the teacher as an expert to a learner. All members of the school community must be willing to grow, experiment, and learn in order to initiate positive changes in the area of inclusion.

Feedback From General Educators vs Special Educators

Ricci, Scheier-Dolberg, & Perkins’ study surveyed K-12 administrators, special educators, and general educators from 21 U.S. schools across 9 districts in Southern California and Las Vegas areas. The participants worked in both charter and public schools. Through the collection of written responses to a series of questions, the researchers were able to identify emerging themes that served as part of their qualitative analysis. The study revealed that all stakeholders agreed that inclusive education prioritizes focusing on every learner as an individual, emphasizing practices that are centered around relationship building, providing appropriate accommodations and modifications, and meeting the needs of all learners. However, special educators were amongst the most to comment on this theme as important compared to general educators and administrators. Other significant themes that arose from the results included: a focus on the school, focus on the content, focus on instruction, focus on providing support for teachers, focus on personal characteristics, and a focus on collaboration.

Collaboration Needed Between Different Departments in a School

As discussed in the article, “collaboration between administrators, general educators, and special educators is needed to understand the frames of reference (e.g. the beliefs, values, experiences, and expectations that affect how individuals perceive and react to situations) that each stakeholder brings to the school and how these assets can be leveraged to promote inclusive practices.” Ricci et al. highlight that schools must move away from the idea that inclusion is the sole responsibility of special educators, but rather that inclusion is a shared practice across the school community. Thus, professional development opportunities that encourage stakeholders to reflect on their own practices and see inclusion through the perspectives of one another must be provided to achieve the goal of fully inclusive schools.

Notable Quotes: 

“We believe that it is important to cast aside this rigidity in role-based responsibilities to move all stakeholders toward taking ownership for all aspects of schooling and for all students. This calls for special educators to become content experts as well, just as general educators should increase their skills in differentiation of instruction for all learners.” 

“Despite the importance of collaboration among stakeholders for promoting inclusive practices, it is noteworthy that focus on collaboration with others was the theme least often mentioned. This finding lends itself to the question of who is ‘in charge’ of collaboration? This highlights the importance of administrators taking a stronger lead in facilitating crucial conversations between general and special educators to promote inclusive practices at their school sites.”

“Our schools are in urgent need of transformational leadership approaches that bring all adults in a school building together to seek solutions to barriers to teaching and learning for all students, regardless of ability.”

Personal Takeaway

As a special educator, collaboration is a key part of providing effective support for my learners. Working in partnership with administrators, general educators, educational professionals, students, and their families, creates the strong foundation needed to support positive learning outcomes. Therefore, as the article suggests, providing increased professional development opportunities for various stakeholders to exchange ideas and practices regarding inclusion will likely strengthen the overall inclusivity of the school community, positively impacting student performance and wellbeing. As special educators, we must advocate for inclusion and help to create a space for members of our school communities to embark on this professional learning journey alongside us — a point strongly emphasized in Ricci et al’s. article.


Taryn McBrayne

Summarized Article:

Ricci, L., Scheier-Dolberg, S., & Perkins, B. (2022). Transforming triads for inclusion: understanding frames of reference of special educators, general educators, and administrators engaging in collaboration for inclusion of all learners, International Journal of Inclusive Education, 26(5), 526-539, DOI: 10.1080/13603116.2019.1699609.

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