Implementing Inclusive Education

by Andrew Cangemi, Cathleen Leahy, Tanya Dai, Suman Pawa, Heather Perl

I.  Introduction/Background
We are a group of five graduate students studying the implementation of inclusive education in the classroom setting.  In our research, we attempted to discover the “how” of this process.  Also, we attempted to deduce which education methods and strategies work best in an inclusive setting.
As professional educators, we cannot avoid this issue and will at some point in our careers find ourselves at the helm of an inclusion class.  As such, we believe that research into this subject can improve our abilities as the educators and guides of future generations. Our quest to gain an understanding of this practice became the driving force in our research for this project.
While inclusive education may be a household term to some, others may not know its true definition. However, almost everyone knows an individual who has been affected by inclusive education in some capacity.  Growing up, some of our group members finished school before the implementation of inclusive education!  From our research, the 1990s seemed to designate the onset of the shift in special education: no longer were special education students separate from mainstream students.  Instead, these students were “included” in the regular classroom.  This new idea was a well-received progression for some, although some parents and teachers openly rejected  this new wave in education. The ongoing debate is to what degree does inclusive education benefit the general education students, if at all. (Chira 1993) Some of this controversy still exists today. (Medina 2010; Hechinger 2011)
As inclusive education becomes more widely implemented, there is little doubt that your children will be educated in inclusive settings.  Furthermore, the politics of inclusive education often turn up in popular magazine and newspaper articles. Funding and financial considerations fuel much of the controversy surrounding these programs (Medina 2010).  Additionally, some parents still feel that mainstream students should be taught separately from special education students.  Conversely, many argue that students actually learn more in this setting.  These are just some of the points that we will be addressing in this project. We realize that few people truly understand the nature and implementation of these programs.As teachers, parents, students or, at a somewhat baser level, as taxpayers, we share in the responsibility to understand the nuances of inclusive education.  Our research group feels that in-depth interviews with inclusion teachers can answer the following question: How do teachers design lessons and curriculum which create an environment in which all students can learn and grow?  To broaden the scope of our study, each of us interviewed the parent of a student who requires inclusive education.  In doing so, we hope to deduce how these strategies influence not only an inclusion child’s education, but his or her home life as well.II. Review of Literature
Much of the literature that we read concerns the socio-political aspects of  inclusive education (Hamilton 1991; Polat 2010).  Many of the articles debate whether or not inclusive education improves the quality of education for the entire student body. (Chira1993; Staub)  Though schools have largely committed to inclusive education for the better part of two decades, there seemed to be no popular agreement as to its efficacy.
Interestingly, we noticed a divergent trend between scholarly and popular articles.  Researchers of peer-reviewed literature often write of the constructive impacts of inclusive education, focusing on the positive social skills learned by students, the sharpening of pedagogical skills, and inclusive education’s role in the promotion of Civil Rights (Polat 2010; Broderick 2005; Soodak 2003). Most important, research shows how inclusive education also had an academic advantage for the mainstream students. In contrast, authors of popular articles frequently write scathing attacks on inclusive education and primarily focus on the social aspect of inclusive education and failed to address the academic effects. (Chira 1993; Hamilton 1991)  These journalists fixated on how inclusion programs stretch the financial and personnel resources of schools, placed an increased tax burden on the public (Medina 2010), undermine the education of mainstream students (Cloud 2007; Hamilton 1991), and aim for improved graduation rates rather than quality instruction. The popular articles briefly mentioned the social advantage of inclusive education, however heavily focused on the negative political aspects of it. (Hamilton 1991)
This divergence – with research showing the advantages of inclusive education and popular texts continuing to disparage it, raised questions for us. (Miles & Singal 2010) How reliable are the sources? Who are the writers’ intended audience? Are these sources created for educational research or to sell subscriptions? How do the answers to these questions impact the common attitudes of the public towards inclusive education? Have those who disapprove of of inclusive education seen it in practice?

Some of the articles addressed specific scenarios (Soodak 2003), whereas others painted a broad picture of inclusive education (Broderick 2005). Some articles also focused on the necessity of teachers to receive training in inclusive education as part of their studies in becoming teachers.(Florian & Linklater 2010; Jordan, Schwartz & McGhie-Richmond 2008) One of the main shortcomings of all of the reviewed literature was that the implementation of inclusive education was rarely discussed, especially in the popular articles. Some of the scholarly articles did make suggestions on implementing inclusive education however neglected to include substantial evidence to support their hypotheses. For example, some utilized outdated testing methods, insufficient sample sizes, and neglected to address an opposing viewpoint.
By focusing on the practical implementation of inclusive education strategies in the classroom, we hope to fill this gap in existing literature.  While the social issues regarding inclusive education certainly merit attention, we aimed to discover the strategies which current teachers successfully employ in their classrooms.

III. Data Collection
As a group, we decided to obtain the perspectives of teachers and parents of inclusion children.  Our team created general questions for the teachers to be interviewed, and a separate line of questions for the parents.  We felt it vital to obtain the perspectives of these adults, as they spend the most time with the students.  Although the classmates of inclusion students certainly have a story to tell, we felt that the teachers and the parents of disabled students would give us the most useful feedback concerning inclusion strategies.  In doing so, we hoped to discover which strategies worked best and which could be improved to create the most positive and meaningful classroom experience.   By knowing what works and what doesn’t work, teachers and parents can better adjust their strategies and methods to benefit the entire class.
We interviewed teachers and parents whom we knew through familial, scholastic, or professional relationships. Each interviewee willingly volunteered information about inclusive education based on their experiences.  Each group member conducted and audio recorded in-person interviews with one teacher and one parent, resulting in a total of ten (10) interviewees.  Sessions generally lasted about 45 minutes, although some continued for closer to two hours.

IV. Data Analysis
All interviews were audio recorded in person or emailed.  The recorded interviews were then transcribed, which helped us to deduce patterns and glean information.  We found two main schools of thought among parents and educators.  Interestingly, these two schools contradict one another.  Five of the interviewees felt that having children temporarily pulled out of the classroom for additional attention and resources benefited the student.  Four felt that full inclusion is imperative for students with special needs. The remaining interviewee, a parent, did not have a preference, so long as her child learned and grew as a student and a person.
The contradictions that we found among teachers were based on age and philosophical influences concerning special education.  In other words, older, or more traditional teachers supported the “temporary pull-out” method, while younger or more progressive teachers prefer full inclusion.  However, we also discovered that educators, even those of disparate opinions, utilized  similar techniques to implement inclusive education.

V. Findings
From this research process, we have learned that effective inclusive education requires sustained contact between the special education and content departments.  Teachers need to discuss Individualized Education Plans with one another, and collectively develop strategies to properly implement differentiated education. In addition to professional collaboration, inclusion teachers also need to coordinate their plans with the parents of inclusion students. Another method suggested was modify the teaching method and amount of support according to the students IEP. (Janney & Snell 2006) Additionally, we found that fieldwork and early exposure to inclusive education is also beneficial in learning how and when to apply the modifications. (Florian & Linklater 2010)
Furthermore, we have learned that these differentiated instruction need not be immediately apparent.  Some of these strategies include arranging seating patterns that meet the needs of inclusive students, giving inclusion students extra time on assignments, and slight alterations in the wording of questions and directions. (Janney & Snell 2006)  Most importantly, these strategies can be implemented by the teacher without disrupting the rhythm of the class as a whole.  In other words, inclusion strategies can have a monumentally positive effect on inclusion students, yet go unnoticed by the rest of the class. In fact, many of the interviewed teachers have noticed that implementing inclusion strategies has a generally positive effect on the class as a whole, either by making assignments more straightforward, or creating an accepting and tolerant environment in which to learn.
This last finding is particularly important, because our review of literature indicates that many community members consider inclusive programs an unwelcome element in public education.  Though we did not focus our research on the social aspects of inclusive education, we found that no public consensus exists as to the necessity, usefulness, or overall effects of inclusion programs.

These key findings raise new questions for inclusion teachers.  How exactly can special education and content teachers overcome scheduling and time constraints to meet and discuss the creation and implementation of appropriate inclusion strategies?  Do administrative officials recognize this problem and, if so, will they help remedy this unfortunate situation?  Also, if inclusive education does not hinder or limit the learning of non-inclusion children, as our research indicates, why is inclusive education still a contentious issue in today’s society?

VI: Conclusion
Upon completing this research paper, we have concluded that inclusive education, though relatively new to the academic world, has both positive and negative implications. The teachers and parents who support the inclusive educational setting defend that it is successful and necessary for social and academic achievement. Those who do not support it have had unsuccessful personal experiences, and thus maintain that individualized instruction for students with special needs is more effective.

Based on our research, we believe that the implementation of inclusive education needs to be seamless, and a reflection on the successful relationship between the collaborating teachers. The mainstream teacher needs to understand each special education student’s Individualized Educational Plan, and prepare and execute lessons accordingly. Additionally, the collaborative teacher must be practiced in the content area and in special education to ensure that every lesson’s objectives are met.

Teachers must maintain a consistent and open relationship with parents as well. Keeping parents up to date with their children’s progress is essential for a number of reasons, but the most important reason is so that the teacher can communicate with the students effectively and maintain a positive relationship. An open rapport is important between parents and teachers so that the teachers are made aware if there is a problem outside of school. Some special education students receive additional services and tutoring, so the school teacher should be aware of these services and how the student is progressing. There are a number of methods a teacher can employ to effectively communicate with parents. Apart from traditional methods, such as email and phone conversations, weekly “newsletters” are sometimes used, discussing group work and highlighting personal achievement. Other teachers send home hand-written notes to add a personal effect. A more regimented way is to have parents sign graded school work and exams. Teachers need to decide what method works best for their learning environment.

It is imperative that teachers in every discipline master the ability to differentiate instruction. Therefore, the inclusive setting is an environment in which teachers’ abilities grow continually. Many mainstream teachers claimed to have become much better teachers in general because of their experience with special education. Special education training helps teachers teach to all levels, not just to those students with special needs. By extension, we encourage all future educators to become familiar with special education methods.

It is important to remind ourselves that inclusive education was popularized only about 20 years ago. Consider a new drug to the pharmaceutical market.  It takes years for the Food and Drug Administration to complete the testing of its effects and efficacy prior to its approval.  We believe we are still in the testing phase of inclusive education, and that additional research needs to be done to discover the most effective methods to implement this form of education.

Works Cited

Broderick, Alicia et. al.  (2005).  Differentiating instruction for disabled students in inclusive classrooms.  Theory into Practice, 44, 194-202.

Chira, Susan. “When Disabled Students Enter Regular Classrooms.” The New York Times 19 May 1993, Education sec. The New York Times.

Cloud, John.  (2007).  Are we failing our geniuses?  Time Magazine.  August 16, 2007.

Cohen, Bronwen (2011) Act now for Inclusion. Nursery World. Vol. 111 Issue 4252,P 12-12, 1/3P

Cramm JM, Finkenflugel H,Kuijsten R, Van Exel NJ (2009) How employment support and social integration programmes are viewed by the intellectually disabled.

J Intellect Disabil Res. 2009 Mar 19
District initiative differentiated instruction at the elementary level.  (2010).  Our Schools: Northport-East Northport Union Free School District newsletter.  December, 2010.

Florian, Lani, and Holly Linklater. “Preparing Teachers for Inclucive Education: Usn Inclusive Pedagogy to Enhance Teaching and Learning for All.” Cambridge Journal of Education 40.4 (2010): 369-86.

Frawley P. Bigby C. (2011) Inclusion in political and public life: the experience of people with intellectual disability on government disability advisory bodies in Australia. J Intellect Dev Disabil. Mar,36(1)27-38

Goodman, Janet I. (2011) Inclusion and Graduation Rates: What are the outcomes? Journal of Disability Policy Studies. January 27.2011 vol.21 no.4 241-252

Hamilton, Robert A. “Schools Are Challenged on Programs for the Retarded.” The New York Times 24 Nov. 1991, Education sec.

Hechinger, John. (2006). When Special Education Goes Too Easy on Students (Wall Street Journal  online)

Janney, Rachel E., and Martha E. Snell. “Modifying Schoolwork in Inclusive Classrooms.” Theory Into Practice 45.3 (2010): 215-23.

Jordan, Anne, Eileen Schwartz, and Donna McGhie – Richmond. “Preparing Teachers for Inclusive Classrooms.” Teaching and Teacher Education 25 (2008): 535-42.

Medina, Jennifer.  (2010).  City pushes for shift in special education.  The New York Times.  April 28, 2010.

Miles, Susie; Singal, Nidhi. (2010). The Education for All and Inclusive Education Debate: Conflict, Contradiction or Opportunity? International Journal of Inclusive Education, 14, 1-15.

Polat, Filiz.  (2010).  Inclusion in education: A step towards social justice.  International Journal of Educational Development, 31, 50-58.

Ruijs, Nienke M.; Van der Veen, Ineke; Peetsma, Thea T. D. (2010) Inclusive Education and Students without Special Educational Needs. Educational Research, 52, 351-390.

Soodak, Leslie C.  (2003).  Classroom management in inclusive settings.  Theory into Practice, 42, 327-333.

Staub, Debbie. “Inclusion and the Other Kids.” Web. <>.

Wah, Lee Lay. (2010) Different Strategies for Embracing Inclusive Education: A Snap Shot of Individual Cases from Three Countries. International Journal of Special Education. 25, 98-109.

Yongcan Liu. (2010) Inclusion or exclusion? A narrative inquiry or a language teacher’s identity experience in the ‘New York Order’ of competing pedagogies. 10.Teacher Education Research

Goodman, Janet I. (2011) Inclusion and Graduation Rates: What are the outcomes? Journal of Disability Policy Studies. January 27.2011 vol.21 no.4 241-252
Samuels, Christina A (2011) Finding Efficiencies In Special Education Programs. Education Week. Vol.30 Issue 16, P32-34,3P
Samoa Inclusive Education (You Tube Clip)

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7 responses to “Implementing Inclusive Education

  1. Everything has a good side and a bad side. I think inclusive education is a good idea. It promotes diversity, and lessens separation among the school. When I was young, I can remember students getting picked on because they were special ed. They were pretty much in a class by themselves. They had classrooms like all the way on the other side of the school smh, they ate together, and they left school a few hours before school actually let out on a smaller bus. If you were on this bus smh it was not a good thing, or a warm and fuzzy feeling. Having inclusion within the classroom increases school awareness, unity, etc. The teacher might feel uneased about teaching an inclusion classroom, but the way schools are cutting activities left and right, it might become more common than they realize…

  2. I am a graduate student also studying Special Ed-Gen Ed. The area of inclusion is not as simple as it appears on the surface. First we have IDEA and the rights of the child with the disability and the other hand we have the school and other students. When inclusion is the right fit and the teachers have support and training the outcome for all is amazing. However, when a child is pushed into a class, because the parents force the issue even thought the inclusion setting may not be the right fit, it can be disastrous for all.

    Sometime even though the school knows the fit is wrong, the legal cost to ‘fight’ the parents is too great and they allow the student in and the setting does not benefit the child.

    Socialization, high expectations and high quality education is critical for all students however, it is very important that inclusion means different things to different people.

    I have been in classes that are called inclusion and many kids are pulled out more than they are included, so I agree that more research and data needs to be collected.

    I also feel that the administrations that support inclusion need to provide support and on-going training to the teachers and support staff.

    With budget cuts coming hard this year I do not know how a real model of inclusion can survive.

    I love the idea of inclusion and believe that IDEA is on the right track I just feel that we need a better, more realistic model to implement.

  3. I agree with you in the fact that it is extremely important for the special education teacher and content teachers to communicate. Without proper communication between the two teachers the content is not going to be taught in a way that makes all the students successful. You need that communication to make sure that everything being done in the classroom will work for all of the students in the classroom.

  4. teacherexpress37

    I enjoyed this research of inclusion classrooms. I am a parent of a general education students. He began kindergarten in an inclusion setting. His teachers were 26 years in the field and a had a progressive approach to education. They hand picked him at orientation because he kept on giving the answeres to the students who needed help. They asked me if i would be ok with him in their class. Of course how could I say No. I am in the special education field and I work with some of the best inclusion teachers. I talk to the teachers about their philosophy and curriculum and was confident they would be a good match for my son. My son was the class model for those students with special education needs which gave him a higher self confidence. I did have concernes about differentiated instruction and challenging my son. But, that was put to rest at the first parent teacher conference. He left kindergarten reading at a level book of E, which is amazing to me. And as my son said, after his first week of school “mommy my teacher said I am sciencific, what is that” LOL. He is now in first grade and reading chapter books and writing short stories. His love for learning took alot of dedication from his inclusion teachers. Much love to Mrs. P and Mrs. S. Thanks for an awesome start to my sons education. You both give teaching a good name.

  5. I am also a Special Education/General education student and while I agree that time needs to be spent to figure out the placement of a student I think that inclusions is extremely beneficial to students in all grade levels. The point that sydney23 made that it gives children the proper education while allowing them to still feel welcome in their classroom could not be more accurate, especially at an elementary school level. The inclusion teachers were extremely beneficial to the children and did not affect the general population of students in a negative way at all.

  6. The needs of special education students must be met in the least-restrictive environment. Rather a student needs a regular classroom, consultant services, collaborative teaching, resource room, it doesn’t really matter as long as their needs are being met. I don’t understand why educators and parents make it a big deal if the special education student is receiving resource room support or in “inclusive classrooms”. Cut the crap with all this nonsense about inclusion and integrating students with special needs. The fact still remains clear, most educators do not support children with special needs to be in regular classes full time, a controversial practice called full inclusion. And the few educators who do support full inclusion struggle everyday to advocate for children with special needs and they go on sites like these to express their concerns. But in the end it just confuses many people what really is inclusion or what is really full inclusion? Really, it’s clear that no one cares about inclusion as long as the special needs of a child does not interfere with the progress of typically developing children.

  7. I think inclusion is a good thing. It poses a democratic environment, promotes diversity and lessens separation. I believe that well trained teachers and aids should be the instructors for classes like this because they will require much attention. Unless a child cannot be around others because they will be harmful or it will affect their learning, I don’t think there’s a problem with this.

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