7. Inclusion as a Design Strategy for Teacher-Preparation Programs (1/2) – Best Practices for Education Professionals

Chapter 7
Inclusion as a Design Strategy for Teacher-
Preparation Programs
Alicia Roberts Frank
As more primary and secondary students with exceptional learning needs are included
in general-education classrooms, general-education and special-education teacher
candidates must be prepared to collaborate in order to ensure the success of all the
students. The purpose of this chapter is to propose the best practices in preparing
general-education and special-education teacher candidates for teaching in inclusive
environments. Current obstacles to integrating the content and candidates in teacher-
preparation programs, as well as solutions and opportunities for creating inclusive
experiences are evaluated. The best practices proposed include combining content
and candidates, integrating the coursework, creating opportunities for collaboration
among teacher candidates, and infusing inclusive and collaborative philosophies into
teacher-preparation course work.
Classes in public schools today are increasingly heterogeneous in regards to the
students’ culture, language, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and ability levels. As a result
of such diversity, public school educators must take steps to create a school climate
in which all students feel included as members of the learning community. Only in a
diverse learning community will students gain the skills they need to be prepared for
today’s increasingly competitive workplace, where employees must be able to work
collaboratively with co-workers, supervisors, and clients, regardless of individual dif-
ferences. In order to compete in the current workforce, students need, above all, to
develop the ability to communicate well and solve problems collaboratively (Educa-
tion Trust-West, 2004; Friend & Cook, 2003). Educators striving to adequately pre-
pare their students are placing more of a priority on rigor, relevance, and relationships
(Washor & Mojkowski, 2007). In order to teach the growing adolescents to form rela-
tionships with their peers from all backgrounds and of all ability levels, educators must
encourage students to embrace diversity and create inclusive schools where every in-
dividual feels a part of the learning community.
What is an inclusive school? In inclusive schools, all individuals feel included
in the learning community, and no students are segregated to separate classes. There
is an effort to break down barriers between different cultural groups, ethnic groups,
academic levels, and cliques. Students do not feel threatened because they are differ-
ent or stand out from the crowd. An inclusive school is one in which there are equal
educational opportunities for all students in the same setting (Cawley, 2000). Although
teaching students of different races separately has been illegal since the Brown versus
96 Best Practices for Education Professionals
Board of Education ruling that “separate is not equal” (Warren, 1954, p. 493), sepa-
rate classes are still the norm for many students with exceptional needs (McLeskey,
Hoppey, Williamson, & Rentz, 2004). Despite the claim by the administrators, teacher
educators, and advocates for individuals with exceptional needs that special-education
is a service, not a placement, students who qualify for special-education services often
have to ght to be included in general-education classes and to be taught alongside
their peers.
The movement toward inclusion of students with exceptional needs began with the
civil-rights movement of the 1950s (Stainback & Stainback, 1995); the current driving
forces are legal mandates set forth in the most current revision (2004) of the Individu-
als with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and No Child Left Behind (NCLB) of 2001
(Friend & Bursuck, 2008), court decisions, research, including graduation and post-
secondary education requirements, and experiences of educators on the front lines,
such as the observed positive outcomes. Although the word inclusion is not included
in the text of the original IDEA, passed as PL 94–142 in 1975 (USDE, 2007), there
is an emphasis on educating students with exceptional needs along with their peers in
general-education classrooms to the greatest extent possible and segregating students
only when absolutely necessary (Falvey, Givner, & Kimm, 1995). Court decisions in
cases such as Roncker v. Walter and Holland v. Sacramento Unied School District
have favored inclusion over segregated settings for students with exceptional needs
(Villa & Thousand, 1995). In addition, inclusion is even more of an emphasis in the
most recent reauthorization of IDEA in 2004 that supports the requirement of NCLB
that all students have an access to highly-qualied teachers and meet targets of pro-
ciency on state tests (Villa, Thousand, Nevin, & Liston, 2005).
There has been a considerable amount of research supporting the desegregation
of schools for students with exceptional needs. For example, ndings include support
for early intervention and a lack of success of separate class placements (Forness,
Kavale, Blum, & Lloyd, 1997). Students with exceptional needs in regular-education
settings have been found to perform better academically than their segregated peers
(Baker, Wang, & Walberg, 1994; Luster & Durrett, 2003), as well as behaviorally and
in terms of attendance (Rea, McLaughlin, & Walther-Thomas, 2002). It has also been
found that the more those students with exceptional needs are included with their non-
disabled peers for their school day, the more likely they are to obtain a high-school
diploma (Luster & Durrett, 2003). Additionally, it has been found that including the
students with exceptional needs in general-education classrooms results in social and
emotional benets for all of the students involved (Villa & Thousand, 1995). In reac-
tion to research ndings and other factors, a growing number of schools nation-wide
are in the process of implementing more inclusive practices and desegregating educa-
tion for students with exceptional needs (McLeskey, Hoppey, Williamson, & Rentz,
In 2007, 55% of the students with exceptional needs were educated in general-edu-
cation settings (McLeskey, 2007), a percentage that has been slowly increasing as a
Inclusion as a Design Strategy for Teacher-Preparation Programs 97
result of a national push for increasingly higher academic standards and the expecta-
tion that all students will meet those standards (Hestenes et al., 2009). What this means
for educators is that students with exceptional needs are no longer being removed
from the classroom for their academic instruction. The regular-education classroom
has become one in which everyone is included, regardless of their ability level. In
order for students with exceptional learning need to succeed in an inclusive setting,
general-education teachers need to learn to educate all children, as well as to collabo-
rate closely with special-education teachers and other professionals who provide edu-
cational support (Hestenes et al., 2009). Successful collaboration depends on partner-
ships between special-education teachers and general-education teachers and should
begin in teacher-preparation programs (Harvey, Yssel, Bauserman, & Merbler, 2010).
In order to prepare the teachers to teach in inclusive classrooms, it is critical that
general-education and special-education instructors in institutes of higher education
encourage collaboration through modeling (Brownwell, Ross, Colon, & McCallum,
2005; Kluth & Straut, 2003). This modeling can occur through team-teaching, co-
planning, and providing general-education and special-education teacher candidates
with common experiences and with diverse learners.
In most teacher-preparation programs, general educators, special educators, and other
educational providers like instructors of English Language Learners are segregated as
they progress through their respective curricula. Programs that prepare general-educa-
tion teachers typically focus on content, and their graduates are usually unprepared to
address diverse needs in their classrooms (Brownwell, Sindelar, Kiely, & Danielson,
2010). In some programs, general educators may receive only one course in inclusive
schools or teaching students who are mainstreamed (Kearney & Durand, 1992). Ad-
ditionally, many teacher-education programs do not provide a course in collaboration
(Harvey et al., 2010). For example, in 1992, Kearney and Durand found that less than
a third of the teacher-education programs in New York State required training in col-
laboration. Today, according to the New York State Education Department website,
31% of the 104 institutes of higher education that offer programs leading to a teaching
certificate in childhood education have no programs in special education (NYSED).
Programs that prepare special-education teachers vary greatly in their approaches
and content (Brownwell et al., 2010). In states that require a regular-education creden-
tial as a prerequisite for the acquisition of a special-education credential, such as New
York, Louisiana, and Oklahoma, programs focus on topics specic to the education
of individuals with exceptional learning needs like law, advocacy, and specic dis-
abilities. The understanding in these programs is that the candidate already possesses
the knowledge of content and pedagogy necessary to teach in a general-education
classroom. In states that offer a stand-alone special-education credential, such as
California, Alaska, North Carolina, and Florida, the focus is on teaching individu-
als with exceptional learning needs, with the expectation that graduates will teach in
self-contained settings or resource rooms. Additionally, the content of programs that
prepare special-education teachers varies, as a result of differing credentials offered by
98 Best Practices for Education Professionals
different states (Conneley & Rosenberg, 2009). Some states, such as New York, cer-
tify special-education teachers by grade level, without a consideration for the type or
severity of the needs of the students. In other states, such as California and Louisiana,
special educators earn a credential that enables them to teach students from kindergar-
ten through high school, but restricts the scope to mild, moderate, or severe disabili-
ties. Regardless of the type of teacher-preparation program or scope of instructional
content, preparation for special-education teachers has historically been separate from
that of general-education teachers.
The rst special-education teachers in the 1800s received their training on-site at
residential centers, or training schools (Brownwell et al., 2010). It was not until 1958
that acts were passed by Congress that addressed the need in the United States for
teachers to be trained to educate students with mental retardation (USDE, 2007), and
it was not until 1963 that programs were expanded to include training for all disability
areas. Special-education teachers continued to be trained separately until the 1980s,
when the eld began to recognize the need for students with special needs to receive
their education in inclusive settings (Brownwell et al., 2010). In programs that con-
tinue to train their special-education teacher candidates separately from their general-
education teacher candidates, there are often few if any opportunities for the teacher
candidates to interact, collaborate, or learn to value and respect one another.
In order to make sure that all the teachers are prepared to work together to teach all
learners, teacher-preparation programs need to bring special-education and general-
education teacher candidates and instructors together in a collaborative, integrative,
and inclusive program. According to a research on the critical elements of teacher-
education programs, all teachers should receive instructions in collaboration, inclu-
sion, and diverse students’ needs (Brownwell et al., 2005). Additionally, any teacher
who instructs students with exceptional learning needs should at the minimum have
an understanding of the learning strategies and classroom management strategies for
students who are disruptive (Guetzloe, 1999). Consequently, instruction of inclusive
education practices should not be relegated to a single course for either general-educa-
tion or special-education teacher candidates but integrated throughout all pre-service
teachers’ programs of study.
Despite the acknowledged need for integration of general-education and special-edu-
cation teacher candidates in their preparatory programs (Brownwell et al., 2010; Kluth
& Straut, 2003), many institutions struggle to desegregate their students because of
issues of timing, logistics, and a culture of separate, allegedly parallel, programs for
individuals with exceptional needs (Stainback & Stainback, 1995). One issue with
timing that can impede integrating general-education and special-education teacher
candidates is credential requirements that separate candidates as they progress through
their respective programs. In states that require a general-education credential as a pre-
requisite for obtaining a special-education credential, special-education teacher candi-
dates have already completed the course work that their general-education colleagues
are pursuing. There are consequently few opportunities for shared course work.
Inclusion as a Design Strategy for Teacher-Preparation Programs 99
Other institutions that prepare teachers nd that there are logistical obstacles for
integrating their teacher candidates. Some institutions do not offer programs in spe-
cial-education, and consequently may lack not only special-education teacher candi-
dates, but also faculty members who have an experience teaching individuals with
exceptional learning needs. For example, at a private college in New York City that
offers certication programs leading to a teaching certicate in either childhood or
adolescence education, there are no courses offered that explicitly relate to exceptional
learners, inclusive practices, or collaboration (Barnard College). In institutions that
have general-education and special-education teacher candidates learning the same
content at the same time, the difculty of scheduling classes and nding faculty to
collaborate can impede the options for integrating the programs and students (Kluth
& Straut, 2003).
One of the biggest obstacles to integrating general-education and special-education
teacher candidates is the culture of separate but parallel programs that has pervaded
all levels of education (Stainback & Stainback, 1995). In elementary and secondary
schools, students with exceptional learning needs are considered the responsibility of
the special-education teachers. In higher education, general-education teacher candi-
dates are taught that they may have some students with exceptional learning needs in
their classes, but their success––and failure––is the responsibility of the special-educa-
tion teachers. As administrators in public schools struggle to persuade teachers that the
education of all students is everyone’s responsibility, teacher-education programs need
to lead the change in teachers’ attitudes; it is their responsibility to convince all teacher
candidates of the necessity and provide them with the skills to successfully collaborate
and work together for the educational success of all students.
There are currently many teacher-education programs and instructors that are employ-
ing creative solutions for ensuring that their general-education teacher candidates are
being prepared to teach all students, regardless of their ability level (Brownwell et al.,
2010). Solutions include combining general-education and special-education prepara-
tion programs, integrating courses that apply to both general-education and special-
education teachers, providing opportunities for general-education and special-educa-
tion candidates to complete projects together, and infusing inclusion and collaboration
throughout course content.
Best Practice in Integrating Inclusion: Programs that Combine Content and
Teacher-preparation institutions that offer combined or dual programs of study for
general-education and special-education teacher candidates provide the most inte-
grated model and are becoming more common (Brownwell et al., 2010). In these pro-
grams, some or all of the teacher candidates prepare for credentials in both general
education and special education at the same time. In the combined programs, general-
education and special-education teacher candidates pursue the same courses of study,
preparing them to teach all students in an integrated setting, with the exception that