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

100 Best Practices for Education Professionals
special-education teacher candidates pursue additional courses that provide them with
advanced knowledge of special-education law, specific disabilities, and instructional
practices for individuals with exceptional learning needs. An example of a combined
program for preparing general-education and special-education teacher candidates is
presented in Table 7.1.
Table 7.1. Sample Combined Program for Childhood Education/Special Educationa.
Exploring Teaching, Learning, and Human
Ethics, relationships, and multicultural competencies
Social context in learning I Social context in learning II
Foundations: Pedagogy in Reading and Writing,
Technology and Special Education
Applications: Connecting Pedagogy, Methods, and In-
tegrated Literacy to Disciplines (Science, Social Stud-
ies, Math, Language Arts)
Curriculum Design: Implementation of Instruc-
tional Planning, Assessment of Student Learn-
ing, and Classroom Organization/Management
Literacy for Students with Exceptional Learning
Autism Spectrum Disorders/PPD
Student Teaching for General-Education Majors (with
graduation following)
Masters courses for General/Special-Education Majors
Masters courses for General/Special-Education
Student Teaching for General/Special-Education
Majors (with graduation following)
Results in a BA for Childhood Education Majors and both a BA and a MsED. for Special Education
N.B. Special-Education only courses are italicized.
In dual programs of study, all teacher candidates pursue credentials in general edu-
cation and special education simultaneously. General-education and special-education
teacher candidates follow and complete the exactly same course of study, because all
candidates are both general-education and special-education teacher candidates. All
the courses are designed to instruct teacher candidates to reach all learners, as well
as provide them with an advanced knowledge of special-education law, specic dis-
abilities, and instructional practices for individuals with exceptional learning needs.
An example of a program that prepares teacher candidates in both general education
and special education is presented in Table 7.2.
Table 7.2. Sample Dual Program for BS Childhood Education/Special Education.
Phase I Phase II Phase III Phase IV
Child Psychology
Inquiry into Learning
Health and Drug Education
for Teacher Candidates
Introduction to Special
Emergent Language and
Literacy Diverse Learner
in Social Studies
Special Education Meth-
Language, Literacy, and the
Diverse Learner in Math-
Diverse Learner in Science
Assessment in Special Edu-
cation and Society
Practicum and
Inclusion as a Design Strategy for Teacher-Preparation Programs 101
The advantage of both the combined and dual programs is that general-education
and special-education teacher candidates pursue courses of study together. Their pro-
grams are not separate; they are not segregated from one another. Collaboration hap-
pens naturally, and the students see each other as classmates and colleagues. Through
the coursework, instructors are able to model inclusive practices, collaborating with
their own colleagues, and continued professional development. Teachers who have
been prepared both in their content and pedagogy as well as differentiation, assess-
ment and intervention, are better prepared to teach all students in inclusive settings
(Harvey et al., 2010). Additionally, they will be accustomed to collaborating with
other educators, an expectation of IDEA and its emphasis on students with exceptional
needs being educated in the general curriculum alongside their peers (Brownell et al.,
2010). They will have an advantage over their veteran colleagues, few of whom have
been explicitly trained in collaboration skills (Friend & Cook, 2003).
In teacher-preparation programs that provide separate courses of study for general-
education and special-education teacher candidates, there are ways that the students
and content can be integrated and collaboration emphasized. One way is to require the
same course or courses in both programs, for example courses on inclusive practices
or collaboration. The demographics of these courses could be intentionally mixed to
include both general-education and special-education teacher candidates. Another is
for instructors to co-teach courses that cover similar content. For example, at a uni-
versity in Western New York, a general-education methods instructor and a special-
education instructional-practices instructor collaboratively plan their courses and co-
teach many sessions (Kluth & Straut, 2003). This model allows general-education
and special-education teacher candidates to work together on projects, join together
as classmates and colleagues, and experience different models of co-teaching. The in-
structors are also able to model their collaborative processes. Although the university
instructors in this program have not empirically measured its effectiveness in terms of
promoting collaborative skills in their students, they have observed general-education
and special-education teacher candidates working together and learning to value one
Creating Opportunities for Collaboration
In separate programs for general-education and special-education teacher candidates,
opportunities for collaboration can be created in parallel courses and field experi-
ences. Special-education teacher candidates learning about specific disabilities can
create presentations or workshops for general-education teacher candidates. Students
can be brought together to work on curriculum-designed projects or to complete other
problem-based learning tasks such as service-learning experiences or community out-
reach. In field experiences, general-education and special-education teacher candi-
dates can be placed in schools or classrooms together, giving them the opportunity to
join together as classmates and colleagues. Institutions that provide programs only in
general education or only in special education can partner with teacher-preparation
102 Best Practices for Education Professionals
programs at other institutions in order to provide opportunities for their students to
collaborate with other teacher candidates.
Infusing Inclusion and Collaboration
Separate programs for general education or special education that do not have the
means to create opportunities for integration of general-education and special-edu-
cation teacher candidates can still infuse the philosophy of inclusion and collabora-
tion into their courses. Courses for general-education teacher candidates can include
content about reaching all learners and collaborating with colleagues, provided the
instructors have the necessary knowledge. This may require additional professional
development or collaboration with a special-education instructor. Courses for special-
education teacher candidates can include the content in advocating for inclusive set-
tings and collaborating with colleagues, provided the instructors to have the necessary
expertise. Special-education instructors who only have experience in self-contained
settings may need additional support and professional development in this area. Every
step that teacher-preparation instructors take to encourage inclusive practices increas-
es the likelihood that their general-education and special-education teacher candidates
will gain the knowledge, attitudes, and skills to all welcome learners into their class-
rooms, regardless of their ability level.
There is no one way to create an inclusive program for the graduate teacher candidates
who will be prepared to teach all students. What is important is that teacher-education
program faculty makes a conscious effort to integrate general-education and special-
education course content and teacher candidates so that the latter will begin to see the
obstacles to inclusion as opportunities for integration, and they will begin to change
the attitude of accepting the dominant culture of separate programs for students of dif-
fering ability levels. Too often, special-education classrooms have become dumping
grounds for students no one wants to teach. When students are removed from their
peers, when they are told that they can earn their way back into the general-education
classroom, they are being told that the sense of belonging is a privilege, not a right
(Villa & Thousand, 1995). In order to provide all the children with a sense of belonging
and the ability to collaborate with diverse peers, their teachers must model respect and
collaborative skills, skills that can be gained in their training programs from explicit
integration of special-education and general-education concepts and professionals.
Design strategy
Infusing inclusion
Integrating coursework