October 7, 2009
Are all students benefiting from full inclusion in American classrooms? Full inclusion, also known as collaborated teaching, refers to classrooms that bring together special education students and regular education students. Under this model, both populations of students learn under this format throughout the duration of the school day. The classroom is lead by both a special education teacher and a regular education teacher. This approach differs from team teaching, which involves two regular education teachers and typically does not involve full inclusion of special needs students. The intent is to create a cooperative learning environment where all students can learn from each other.
The Individual with Disabilities Educational Act (IDEA) is a federal law that was enacted in 1990 and it was reauthorized in the year 1997. According to the National resource Center of ADHD (http://www.help4adhd.org/en/education/rights/idea),
this law is fueled by section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. IDEA was created to provide a free and appropriate education for individuals with disabilities. It’s also intended to create the least restrictive environment for this population. These efforts lead to teaching instructions such as assistive technologies, specialized instructions, test accommodations and full inclusion. Local school districts such as Dekalb County Georgia, Rockdale County Georgia and Gwinnett County Georgia (to name a few) employ these teaching approaches.
Controversy permeates from the use of this pedagogical practice in public schools. Educators and other school stake holders remain divided over the effectiveness and the fairness to all with the application of a collaborative teaching approach. Some argue that the special needs students have problems keeping pace with regular education students and causes student frustration, leading to other problems. Also, teachers have expressed their inability to effectively pre-plan together. Minimal time and conflicting schedules are reasons described as the problems for the in-ability to pre-plan together. Educators also describe the various teacher efficacies and skill sets that cause problems with full inclusion. In some cases, regular education teachers do not have the skill set and training to effectively teach special needs students. In addition, special needs students do not have the content-based training to facilitate learning among regular education students. Each of these challenges increase low productivity in the teacher learner relationship.
There are some benefits from the use of collaborative teaching. In a recent presentation, a group of Troy University/Covington, GA campus (http://covington.troy.edu/) students provided a passionate and robust presentation to their classmates as a final requirement for a master’s of education course. Some of their research findings indicated that full inclusion provided instructional benefits, academic benefits, and social benefits. Instructional benefits were said to consist of the possibility of teacher collaboration and having two effective teachers in the classroom increases student interaction. Social benefit helps to free student with special needs of their feelings of isolation.
Many teaching models have come and went in the image of fads. Full inclusion has been described as a 180 marriage between two people. Perhaps full inclusion is a fad; maybe it’s here to stay. The world of public education will have to wait and see if full inclusion’s divorce rate will mirror that of the traditional husband and wife divorce rate.
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