Inquiry and intellectualism: professional development for inclusive education

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Date: November-December 2014
From: Childhood Education(Vol. 90, Issue 6)
Publisher: Association for Childhood Education International
Document Type: Essay
Length: 2,464 words
Lexile Measure: 1600L

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The systems, structures, and purpose of schooling in the United States are built on notions of social efficiency and assimilation (Kliebard, 1987), which can be highly problematic. Overtly determining students' future potential based on their race or socioeconomic status or asking students to disregard their cultural backgrounds and try to be more "American" can easily be classified as unacceptable practice. Yet these practices are commonly pursued through the hidden curriculum (Anyon, 1996), high-stakes testing (Taubman, 2009), and special education (Ferri & Connor, 2005). Inclusive education seeks to disrupt these problematic and covert practices through an explicit naming of the practices that systematically sort and segregate students and through continuous implementation of and reflection on practices intended to work counter-hegemonically (Brantlinger, 2006).

Drawing from almost 40 years of research on inclusive education, multicultural education, and culturally responsive pedagogies, the Teachers College Inclusive Classrooms Project (hereafter TCICP) seeks to provide teachers with the language, practices, and approaches to rethink their own classroom practices and consider how they can support and teach all of their students. This article begins with a brief explanation of inclusivity as a stance in contrast with inclusion as a space, and discusses how this notion of inclusivity is enacted through a commitment to inquiry (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 2009) and positioning teachers as intellectuals. I then provide an explanation of the professional development that TCICP offers to teachers as well as a broad overview of some outcomes from this work, with the hope of expanding mindsets and transforming inclusive education practices.

Inclusivity: A Stance, Not a Space

Inclusive education is built on a belief in equity in education for all (Ainscow, 2005). As a stance, inclusivity not only assumes and anticipates human difference, it values difference and what differences can teach us (Ainscow, Howes, Farrell, & Frankham, 2003). This is in contrast to a dominant educational discourse that pathologizes and seeks to minimize or eliminate difference. Enacting an inclusive stance means the disruption of ideas about "normal" or "abnormal" and the removal of barriers to learning opportunities and education that have been constructed upon these notions of normalcy (Barton & Armstrong, 2008). Inclusive practices are a tool for challenging cultural assumptions about difference and ability. These practices should be enacted with the understanding that there is no formula for success, but rather a continuous and ongoing learning process that requires work on one's self and constantly assessing one's own assumptions about difference (Allan, 2008).

A fundamental first step toward inclusive educational practices is the rejection of inclusion as a location or service delivery model (Ainscow, Dyson, & Booth, 2006) focusing specifically on special education students (Slee, 2001). Inclusive education is something other than a model within a continuum of service delivery and something other than mainstreaming (Brantlinger, 2006). Enacting inclusivity requires that teachers question their assumptions about students, behavior, ability level, and engagement while entering an ambiguous unknown where failure and messiness are a real possibility. It asks that teachers push against the accountability structures that are continuing to...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A393988539