Several years ago, a school district in Connecticut began the practice of inclusion of students with special education needs in mainstream classes. One of the main reasons given was the necessity for students with special needs to interact with their peers in regular education classes. This would have given them the opportunity to experience and learn, as any other student who did not have a special education need. However, this reporter learned that the transition did not go as smoothly as expected. In fact, there were many instances of disruptions in the classrooms, resulting in an increase in behavior modification plans and suspensions.
Fast-forward several years to the current school year and reports are that nothing seemed to have changed. Disruptions continue and no amount of behavior modification plans or suspensions seem to improve the interactions in the classrooms. This writer attempted to identify some of the mistakes made and discovered the unintended barriers when inclusion was first introduced to the school. This series of articles is intended to enlighten readers and suggest a better plan for inclusion in the future.
Though the individuals were different, the behaviors displayed seven years ago by students in inclusion classes are the same being displayed during this current school year. A look at what transpired then, with the first group of special education students who were included in regular education classes, has shed light on what should be done today to improve the situation for tomorrow.
Cohen and Manion (1994) describe quantitative research as “…analyzing the relationship and regularities between selected factors…” (p. 7) while Bell (1993) claims that quantitative research “…collects facts and study the relationship of one set of facts to another” (p. 5). These definitions describe research that uses statistical data to represent facts. Qualitative research, according to Bell, is “…more concerned to understand individuals’ perceptions of the world” (p. 6), and therefore seeks quality and meaning. Statistics are important in education research, but we cannot focus on quantitative research while ignoring the insider perspectives of the major beneficiaries of this human system responsible for satisfying the learning needs of developing minds. Therefore, I chose to use a qualitative approach. In the process of gathering information, this writer compared the literature on inclusion with notes taken by special education teachers during the inclusion process at the school. An analysis of these notes revealed what was occurring at the school during this time of transition to inclusion.
There was a need to review the literature on inclusion in an effort to answer the following questions:
- “What is inclusion?”
- “What are some of the barriers to inclusion?”
- “What are some of the experiences of students?”
- “What is expected of students with special education needs in inclusion classes?”
- “What is expected of students without special education needs in inclusion classes?”
- “Who should be placed in inclusion classes?”
- “How can inclusion be made fair for all students involved?”
- “How is inclusion best achieved?”
The second in this series of eleven articles will explain what special education needs means. Subsequent articles will define inclusion and clarify the differences between inclusion and integration. Barriers to inclusion can be physical, social and psychological. These are discussed in part four of the series before suggesting ideas for implementing inclusion in part five. Part six focuses on what is expected of all students in the inclusion classroom before drawing attention to the experiences of some of our learners with special education needs in parts seven to ten.
Part 2 of the series The Psychological and Social Effects of Special Education Inclusion explains the meaning of special education needs.
Cohen, L. and Manion, L. (1994). Research methods in education. Fourth Edition. London: Routledge.
Bell, J. (1993). Doing your research project: A guide for first-time researchers in education and social science. Second Edition. Buckingham: Open University Press.