Mediating Factors Influencing the Successes & Limitations of Inclusion/Mainstreaming
The successes of inclusion are heavily contingent on a wide array of factors. The teacher directly affects whether or not inclusion will be a successful tactic. The level of preparation given to teachers prior to receiving students with special needs in their classroom directly affects the successes of inclusion. According to Vos & Bufkin the main priorities for preparing teachers for inclusion are adding content on special needs and appropriate interventions to the course material in education training courses and practical experience in an inclusive classroom. These two strategies provide teachers with knowledge about differentiation as an instructional strategy and other methods, and with the opportunities to develop collaborative skills with parents, and other paraprofessionals in the field. All of these factors have been shown to help teachers to develop confidence in their ability to include all students and therefore enhance positive attitudes towards inclusion. In further demonstrating this, Vos & Bunkin found that teachers were significantly more confident in their ability to educate special needs students after undergoing a 400-hour continuing education class. Although this study demonstrated that continuing education can improve the successes of inclusion, teachers that cannot access continuing education focusing on students with disabilities tend to lack the confidence and knowledge needed to education this population.
Although many attribute the successes of inclusion to the teacher, the child’s parents also plays a vital role in influencing whether or not inclusion will be successful. The attitudes of the parents to inclusion also play a part in the school’s decision and how effectively inclusive practices will work. Runswick-Cole interviewed parents to examine their attitudes to inclusion. The results were conflicting, and almost at opposite ends of the spectrum. Some parents were wholly committed to mainstream school or inclusion and others held on to the belief that their child’s educational needs could only be met in a special school. There were three groups of parents in the study: those who only accepted mainstream schooling, those who later changed their mind about being committed to mainstream schooling, and those who only wanted special school for their children. This study helped to demonstrate that parents are still conflicted as to which approach works best in educating their child. Yet, this study also demonstrated that the parent’s perception of the school’s decision to include their child in a traditional classroom directly affected the successes of inclusion.
Although parents and teachers play an important role in influencing inclusion, other stakeholders also influence whether or not inclusion will be successful. In a 2011 study Vos and Bufkin explored the role of all stakeholders including: parents, teachers, school administrators, therapists, and policy makers in order to determine how inclusion was perceived at a preschool level. The results indicated that there was an increased need to have support from all stakeholders for inclusion to be successful. The authors concluded that there was a need to change the attitudes of those in charge of monitoring the delivery of special education services. Furthermore, Vos and Bufkin argue that there is a need to educate all stakeholders on the benefits of inclusion for this practice to be successful.
School leaders are another group that influences the decision to move towards inclusion. The attitude school leaders exhibit towards inclusion is believed to affect whether or not inclusion is successful. In demonstrating this, Ball & Green surveyed one hundred and seventy elementary and secondary principals and assistant principals of K-12 schools located in a Southeastem United States public school district. This survey explored the role of the training the school leader had and their attitude towards inclusion. The results indicated that unlike the attitudes of teachers, the attitudes of the school leaders exhibit towards inclusion are slightly negative. Although the leaders generally supported the placement of students with disability in the general classroom, the perception of placement according to the disability differed among the participants. School leaders were in support of including students with physical, language or other health disabilities, but did not approve of including students with emotional, intellectual or multiple disabilities. The research concluded that the school leaders were more inclined to support inclusion when they perceived that the disability required less support and resources. However, the results further indicated that many school leaders did not have a background in working with children with special needs, which may have impacted their perception of including children with special needs into a traditional classroom.
Ball and Green argue that a change needs to take place in order for inclusion to be successful. Specifically, schools need organizational, attitudinal and instructional changes to benefit from inclusion. A good school leader must have the skills to initiate and direct these changes and to motivate the school staff to commit to inclusion. A shared vision was also found to be an essential element influencing the successes of inclusion. However, the school leader must have the skills to create a positive culture within the school and implement strategies that promote inclusion. Just as the teachers need to be trained and prepared to embrace inclusion, the school leader must also undergo the necessary training to be able to lead the school in adopting inclusive practices. DiPialol & Tschannen-Moran further concurred in outlining requirements of the school leaders as “a solid understanding of special education laws, research-based practices related to special education, and the instructional challenges faced by teachers who work with students with disabilities. The lack of proper training and preparation of the school leaders could be a possible cause for schools not opting for inclusion or for the unsuccessful implementation of inclusive education programs in some schools.
Special education is a broad term used to define the allocation of additional resources used to educate students suffering from disabilities. However, the type of disability the child suffers from tends to vary. Despite the variation in disabilities, special education programs were designed to help educate students by providing them with additional resources. Yet the successes of special education programs are heavily contingent on the type of disability and severity of the disability the child suffers from. Despite this prospect, more children throughout the United States are currently enrolled in special education programs than ever. The need to determine the best way to educate these children has been heavily explored in research. The role of mainstreaming/inclusion was heavily discussed. Many scholars concur that including children with special needs is critical to helping these children learn. However, some scholars argue that the extent of the child’s disability influences whether or not full inclusion in a traditional classroom is successful. The role of other external factors influencing the successes of special education and inclusion were further explored. As a whole, the child’s teacher, parents and the community all play a role in mediating the successes of special education programs.