Planning for Individual Student Needs

Introduction to the Study

Introduction

Educators across the nation are embarking on a new era of education for students with disabilities. The concept is called inclusion and the focus is on the outcomes achieved by the whole child as he or she attends a home school with age and grade peers.

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Ideally, inclusion is the point in the continuum of services, which places the disabled student in a regular education classroom, with appropriate support personnel, to receive an education and related services alongside peers. In an ideal, fully inclusive school, the student with a disability will be learning in the same curricular areas as same-age peers, but with the help of teachers, aides, or peer tutors to learn content at an appropriate level. Inclusive classrooms include special education students in every aspect of school life and make them a part of the school community.

Several Laws have proposed to open doors for public school students with special needs. The first one, Public Law 94-142, the Education of All the Handicapped Children Act (1975, 39-44), provided services to children with special needs in the least restrictive environment (LRE). After going through several revisions, this law was renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1997 (IDEA). It provided all students with special needs a free and appropriate education (F.A.P.E.) as well as the right to be educated in the general curriculum with nondisabled peers to the maximum extent appropriate. IDEA states that a continuum of placement options be made available to meet the needs of students with special needs.

The law requires that to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities are educated with children who are not disabled and that special classes, separate schooling, or another removal of children with disabilities from regular environments occur only when the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be attained satisfactory (IDEA, Sec 612 5B).

In the last few decades, the view of special education has changed in all societies. Instead of segregating students with special needs in special classes and schools, the ideology of inclusive education is about fitting schools to meet the needs of all students. The education system is responsible for including students with special needs for appropriate education for all. The inclusion of students with special needs in the general education classrooms is an ideology that is supported by IDEA. In addition, The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), states that all students, with or without disabilities, will be grade-level proficient by the year 2014.

In the realm of special education, the word Inclusion is likely to bring about a passionate debate. Inclusion is a movement seeking to create schools that meet the needs of all students by establishing learning communities for students with and without disabilities, educated together in age-appropriate general education classrooms in neighborhood schools (Ferguson, 1996, p. 131).

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Although questions regarding the integration of students with disabilities should no longer be controversial, passionate discussion about inclusion continues to escalate because its philosophy not only focuses on students with disabilities of any type and severity level but also seeks to alter the education for all students including general education students. For about 25 years, integration has been the norm, according to the U.S. Department of Education (1997, p. 144), which reported that about 95% of students with disabilities are served in general education settings.

The movement toward greater integration has thus resulted in a significant change in the structure of special education, but questions remain about the success of special education. Empirical evidence about the efficacy of special education continues to be equivocal, and this has resulted in the discussion being increasingly fueled by political and ideological concerns (O’Neil, 1994-1995). O’Neil (1994-1995, p. 158) states that these differences have often resulted in a contentious discussion about how and for whom the inclusion of students with disabilities should be accomplished.

The world of academics is designed to prepare students for the world of work (Bradley, King-Sears, & Tessier-Switlick, 1997, p.12). Studies show that special education students who graduated from self-contained special education programs are employed less and have lower self-esteem than those who received their education in the mainstream (Brown et al., 1987; Lipsky & Gartner, 1989; Thousand, 1991; Wagner, 1989). When appropriate programs and services are provided in inclusive settings, students tend to develop into more viable adults with fewer needs for costly taxpayer-supported adult services (Brinker & Thorpe, 1984; Madden & Slavin, 1983; Piuma, 1985; York & Vandercook, 1989).

Inclusive education requires far more than individuals with and without disabilities participating as much as possible in the same classroom (Bradley, King-Sears, & Tessier-Switlick, 1997, p. 169). They continue by stating that inclusion requires specific planning to ensure that this participation is meaningful for all of the members of the classroom grouping.

Target outcomes or goals are determined not only in terms of specific objectives, but are based also on the impact the program will have on the individual’s future goals and ultimately the quality of life (Giangreco, Cloninger, & Iverson, 1993).

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Statement of the Problem

The problem being investigated is the perception general education teachers have toward the quality of lesson planning for students with learning disabilities being educated in the inclusive classroom. Results of education have been called into question for several years (Adler, 1990; Goodlad, 1984). According to Ford, Davern & Schnorr, (1992), these questions revolve around concerns about graduates acquiring a solid base of knowledge, their ability to integrate it, apply it, manage it, build on it, and put it to use in a meaningful way.

They go on to say that this failure, at least in part, is a result of deficit-based planning both in general and special education classrooms. Bradley, King-Sears, & Tessier-Switlick (1997) state that quality instruction for a highly diverse group of students requires collaborative teams to develop and implement educational programs designed to meet the needs of each student as an individual (p. 169). According to Schulte, Osborne, and Ecru (2004), there are several impediments to effective instruction of special education students in regular education classrooms.

These obstacles include deficits in regular education teachers’ skill levels, time available for instructional planning, and difficulty implementing individualized and/or small group instruction within a large group. Huefner (2000) expands on this matter by citing increased paperwork, lack of financial compensation for teachers, decreased funding for special education programs and required time for additional training and outreach for special and regular education teachers (Browder, & Cooper-Duffy, 2003).

“One of the most basic assumptions of inclusive education is that students with disabilities in a general education classroom will have an instructional program based on their individual strengths and needs — that the students’ instructional program will extend beyond social integration and address the students’ academic areas of need directly. Instructional differentiation is possible, desirable, and perhaps more difficult than was originally believed (Fuchs, Fuchs, Hamlett, Phillips, & Karns, 1995; Janney, Snell, Beers, & Raynes, 1995; Schumm et al., 1995).”

The effort required in the process and the implementation of IEP goals and objectives in daily lesson plans has not been of particular concern after the first authorization of IDEA in 1997. Dudley-Marling (2004), was one of the few to attempt to bridge the gap between the policy of individualized education plans and their actual implementation. Dudley-Marling (2004) investigated the usefulness of IEPs by special education teachers (Browder, & Cooper-Duffy, 2003).

Teachers of learning disabled children being educated in inclusive settings were surveyed to determine if IEPs made qualitative differences in the education of disabled children. Results of this study by Dudley-Marling (2004) indicated that IEPs assisted the majority of teachers in developing educational programs, however, IEPs were time-consuming to prepare and were not especially useful in planning day-to-day activities. Eighty-six percent of this sample reported that IEPs were inaccessible since they are locked away in a central location or locked in a file cabinet within the classroom (Browder, & Cooper-Duffy, 2003).

Nature of Study

This study is a qualitative research study using a case study approach. Creswell’s description of qualitative research (1998, p. 15) states,

Qualitative research is an inquiry process of understanding based on distinct methodology traditions of inquiry that explore a social or human problem. The researcher builds a complex, holistic picture, analyzes words, reports detailed views of informants, and conducts the study in a natural setting.

Creswell’s description of a case study (1998, p. 61) states,

A case study is an exploration of a “bounded system” or a case (or multiple cases) over time through detailed, in-depth data collection involving multiple sources of information-rich in context. This bounded system is bounded by time and place, and it is the case being studied – a program, an event, an activity, or individuals.

This qualitative research study was bounded by 4 weeks of interviews and questionnaires regarding lesson planning in a suburban Illinois Middle School.

Research Questions and Subquestions

  • How does teaching students with learning disabilities (LD) in inclusive classrooms influence teachers’ daily lesson planning procedures?
    • Are the IEP goals and objectives of each LD student represented in the daily lesson plans?
    • Is a special education teacher available to help modify the curriculum for the LD students in the classroom?
  • Has inclusion made it more difficult to cover the required curriculum for one school year in the lesson plans?
    • If yes, how?

The researcher predicted that this study would examine the perceptions of general educators towards lesson planning in inclusive classrooms to meet the needs of students labeled LD. The results of this study will be used in an effort to explain whether or not lesson planning in inclusive settings is meeting the academic and IEP needs of LD students being educated in general education classrooms.

The rationale of the Study

One intention of an IEP is to provide individualized education plans for children with special needs. This invention recognizes the fact that not every child learns in the same way or at the same rate. An IEP should reflect the uniqueness of the child, the environment, and the resources available to provide quality education (Kaye & Aserlind, 2004). Numerous studies have identified the attitudes of teachers and administrators as impediments to the inclusion of children with disabilities into the regular education classroom (Cook, 2001; Cook, Semmel, & Gerber, 1999, Cook, Tankersley, Cook, and Landrum, 2000; Praisner, 2003; Pivik, McComas, & Laflamme, 2002; Dudley-Marling, 2004).

According to Cook (2001), the majority of teachers surveyed in a study responded that IEP goals and objectives were student-specific rather than curriculum specific indicating that individual needs of children were primary in the development of the IEP. Survey results clearly indicated that more training is needed for regular education teachers on the purpose, development, and implementation of an IEP (Cook, 2001).

Special education students being educated in self-contained classrooms are taught using a modified curriculum specifically written according to their IEP goals and objectives. Special education students educated in inclusive settings are taught using an ongoing general education curriculum with modifications in presentation, practice, and evaluation methods that match individual learner needs (Bradley, King-Sears, & Tessier-Switlick, 1997, p.143). McLaughlin (1993) notes that students with disabilities may be learning objectives from more than one curriculum option. He goes on to say that, consequently, educators and related service personnel need to become familiar with more than one curricula and sometimes more than one grade level in order to meet the specific educational needs of all students.

Purpose of Study

The purpose of this qualitative case study was to determine the perceptions of general education teachers towards the lesson planning process taking place in the inclusive classroom. Selecting and adopting a planning process to each unique school setting requires a basic understanding of planning and knowledge of the existing planning processes available (Bradley, King-Sears, & Tessier-Switlick, 1997, p. 170). The researcher gathered data on the thoughts and perceptions general educators have related to the quality of their lesson plan in relation to the IEP goals and objectives of their LD students.

Conceptual Framework

Effective planning to meet the individual needs of all students in the general education setting is possibly the greatest challenge facing educators today (Bradley, King-Sears, & Tessier-Switlick, 1997, p.168). Albert Bandura’s theory of self-efficacy created the framework for this particular study. The concept of self-efficacy is the focal point of Albert Bandura’s social cognitive theory. According to Bandura (1994), people’s beliefs in their efficacy are developed by four main sources of influence.

They include mastery experiences, seeing people similar to oneself manage task demands successfully, social persuasion that one has the capabilities to succeed in given activities, and inferences from somatic and emotional states indicative of personal strengths and vulnerabilities. Bandura (1994) goes on to say that people must, therefore, have a robust sense of efficacy to sustain the perseverant effort needed to succeed.

People who doubt their capabilities shy away from difficult tasks which they view as personal threats. For general education teachers, writing lesson plans for special education students could easily be seen as a difficult as well as a foreign task. Bradley, King-Sears, and Tessier-Switlick (1997) state that inclusive education requires far more than individuals with and without disabilities participating as much as possible in the same classroom. It requires specific planning to ensure that this participation is meaningful for all of the members of the classroom grouping.

As Schulte, Osborne, and Ecru (2004) stated earlier, there are several impediments to effective instruction of special education students in regular education classrooms. Regular education teachers’ skill levels, time available for instructional planning, and difficulty implementing individualized and/or small group instruction within a large group are three of those impediments. Bandura (1994) notes that a strong sense of efficacy enhances human accomplishment and personal well-being in many ways. He goes on to say that people with high assurance in their capabilities approach difficult tasks as challenges to be mastered rather than as threats to be avoided.

Definitions

  • Accommodations: An accommodation is a modification to the delivery of instruction or a method of student performance that does not significantly change the content of the conceptual difficulty of the curriculum (Bradley, King-Sears, & Tessier-Switlick, 1997, p. 239).
  • Curriculum: Program of learning developed for students.
  • Disability: A general term used for a functional limitation that interferes with a person’s ability, for example, to walk, hear, learn, or lift. It may refer to a physical, mental, or sensory condition (Bradley, King-Sears, & Tessier-Switlick, 1997, p. 50).
  • Free Appropriate Public Education (F.A.P.E.): Special education and related services which (A) are provided at public expense, under public supervision and direction, and without charge, (B) meet the standards of the State educational agency, (C) include preschool, elementary, or secondary school education in the State involved, and (D) are provided in conformity with an individualized education program required under section 614(a)(5) (20 U.S.C., section 1401 (a) (18)).
  • General Education Curriculum: Curriculum used with nondisabled students.
  • General Education/ Regular Education Teachers: Professional teachers who have completed the education necessary to teach regular students without disabilities.
  • Goals and Objectives: Goals are written for the results that the IEP committee would like the child to achieve during that year (annual goals). Objectives are shorter-term benchmarks, designed to measure progress along the way to the goal (from: http://www.fragilex.org/html/components.htm).
  • Inclusion: The provision of free services, with nondisabled age-mates, in neighborhood schools, in general, education classes, under the guidance of general education teachers, with the assistance of special education staff and resources, to the full extent possible, as determined appropriate by an individualized education planning committee (Price, 1993, p. 25).
  • Individualized Education Plan (IEP): A written document that synthesizes the educational program necessary for the special education student to benefit from education (Bradley, King-Sears, & Tessier-Switlick, 1997, p. 28).
  • Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): The amended version of Public Law 94-142, The Education for all Handicapped Children Act of 1975. This law provides the legal authority for early intervention and special education services for children birth to 21 years of age. It requires that students with disabilities receive their education in the least restrictive environment (Copenhaver, 2005, p. 17).
  • Learning Disabilities: Neurobiological disorders that interfere with a person’s ability to store, process, and retrieve information. Most often, these disabilities affect children’s reading and language skills (including writing and speaking). They can also impair math computation skills and social skills.” (Shalaway, 1997).
  • Least Restrictive Environment (LRE): Educational environment which must satisfy two criteria: (1) to provide students with disabilities an education appropriate to their unique learning needs and (2) do so in as close proximity as possible to normally developing, age-appropriate peers (Fuchs & Fuchs, 1994).
  • No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB): The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 reauthorized and amended federal education programs established under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965. The major focus of No Child Left Behind 2001 (also known as ESEA) is to provide all children with a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education (from: www.k12.wa.us/AlternativeEd/ProgramImplementationGuidelines/AcronymsandTerms.doc)
  • Perception: A capacity for comprehension of ideas and concepts.
  • Special Education: The term “special education” means specially designed instruction, at no cost to parents or guardians, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability (20 U.S.C., 1401 (16).
  • Special Education Needs (SEN): Children with SEN are described as pupils who need additional help at school because they have learning difficulties or disabilities which significantly affect their access to the curriculum.
  • Special Education Teacher: Professional teacher who has completed an educational degree specializing in the training and education of children with learning disabilities and other special needs.
  • A student with Disability: Students who have an IEP and require special education modifications in the classroom.

Assumptions and Limitations

The researcher was guided by the following assumptions:

  1. the use of interviews and questionnaires are sufficient forms of data collection tools when investigating the perceptions of general education teachers regarding the quality of lesson plans in inclusive classrooms.
  2. All of the participants in this study will be honest, professional, and cooperative in their responses to the survey and interview questions.
  3. LD students being educated in general education classrooms are not receiving instructional programs based on their individual strengths and needs

A limitation to this qualitative study is that the perceptions of general education teachers at Wredling Middle School may or may not be equivalent to the perceptions of teachers in elementary or secondary schools. Requirements and strategies for inclusion classrooms may differ at various levels. The findings of this qualitative study, therefore, cannot be generalized to other schools or situations.

This study is limited to the results collected and analyzed from Wredling Middle School, which is a large school with a good number of special education teachers and other special service professionals. The results of this study will come from a collection of surveys and interviews among four special education teachers. Because teacher preparation and experience, school requirements, and school and community cultures differ between classrooms and school districts, the conclusions made in this study may or may not be feasible when compared to the needs of other classrooms and schools. Certain aspects of the findings may be practical to other special education staff when it comes to creating and implementing lesson plans in the inclusion classroom.

Scope and Delimitations

This study will examine the perceptions general education teachers have toward the planning process that takes place in inclusive classrooms. It will be limited to 4 middle school teachers teaching in a suburban Illinois middle school, 40 miles outside of Chicago. The only participants in this study are general education teachers who have special education students in their classrooms.

Significance of the Study

Prior to the passage of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act in 1975 (now the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 1997), Congress found that of an estimated eight million children with disabilities in the United States, as many as one million were totally excluded from public education and at least three million were being underserved (Smith, Dowdy, Polloway, & Blalock, 1997). Since the passage of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, legislation, litigation, and social change has resulted in dramatic and significant changes in the way children with disabilities were educated in U.S. public schools. Although these legal and social changes have resulted in important new services and protections for children with disabilities, they have also brought about new challenges and problems.

This qualitative research study is significant to special education because the goals and objectives included in IEPs need to be implemented into the daily lesson plans of the general education classroom curriculum. Special education students have a right to a free and appropriate public education. When being educated in inclusive settings, lesson plans need to be written according to the goals and objectives stated in their IEPs. If the results of this study indicate that specific goals and objectives are not represented in daily lessons of special education students, a reexamination of how special and general education teachers work together to fulfill the academic needs of all students should be considered.

Summary and Transition Statement

All students have the right to receive the benefits of a grade-level curriculum. How the children are taught this curriculum is up to the teachers. Special education students being educated in inclusive settings deserve to have their special educational needs met, whether it is through individualized instruction, cooperative learning, or peer tutoring. These students have Individualized Education Plans written for them annually.

Annual academic goals and objectives are a fundamental part of the IEP and legally must be implemented into the students’ curriculum. This qualitative research study is an attempt to examine general education teachers’ perceptions on whether or not these goals and objectives are actually being implemented into the lesson plans of special education students educated in inclusive classrooms. The hypothesis of the researcher is that even though there are deficits in regular education teachers’ skill levels, time available for instructional planning, and difficulties implementing individualized and/or small group instruction within a large group, special education students in inclusive classrooms do receive a modified curriculum according to their IEPs.

Literature Review

Introduction

Issues on Children with Special Educational Needs have often been discussed and have come a long way since differences in children were acknowledged and given importance. Several theories and concepts had been presented and are still continually changing and evolving as parents, educators, and legislators, focus on the benefits of each program that had stemmed up from these theories and concepts. Clear definitions are required to further study inclusion as it is considered at the present times.

Learning Disabilities

Definition

A lot of normal children have difficulty in some areas of their cognitive development. “Learning disabilities are neurobiological disorders that interfere with a person’s ability to store, process, and retrieve information. Most often, these disabilities affect children’s reading and language skills (including writing and speaking). They can also impair math computation skills and social skills.” (Shalaway, 1997).

The earliest and most widely used definition of learning disabilities (LD) is as follows:

“The term “specific learning disability” (SLD) means those children who have a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language spoken or written, which disorder may manifest itself in imperfect ability to listen, think, read, write, spell or do mathematical calculations. The term includes such conditions as perceptual handicaps, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia. The term does not include a learning problem which is primarily the result of visual, hearing or motor handicaps or mental retardation, or emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural or economic disadvantage” (U.S. Office of Education, 1977, p. 65083)

Assessment

Assessment of learning disabilities is somewhat more difficult to determine because one cannot ‘see’ a learning disability. Often called the ‘hidden disability’, it leaves many individuals that have it suffer in silence and isolation.

“Learning disabilities typically originate in childhood and if identified early, parents and teachers can use various interventions to help the child cope with his or her disability. Some important signals that parents can look for that may be a sign of a learning disability include difficulty understanding and/or following directions; poor memory; failure to master major milestones in scholastic development on time (i.e. reading, math, writing) usually resulting in poor performance in school, problems with reversing letters and/or numbers, lack of hand-eye-movement coordination, and other behaviors that seem out of the ordinary when considering the child’s age and developmental stage.” (http://ohp.nasa.gov/cope/a_ld.htm ).

Several types of assessments and procedures are used in testing for LDs:

  • Intelligence Tests: Also called IQ tests, these instruments measure aptitude. IQ tests include activities designed to provide a complete picture of how students learn. Typical tests include language-based and visual reasoning.
  • Developmental and Social History: Usually completed by parents or guardians, these narrative questionnaires provide important facts about the student’s development.
  • Records Review: Research on the student’s background can help examiners rule out or identify other factors that may have caused the student’s learning problems.
  • Behavioral Observations: May identify factors in the classroom that are affecting the student’s learning.
  • Achievement Testing: Determines the child’s current skill levels in reading, math, written language, or content areas such as science and humanities.
  • Adaptive Behavior: Assesses a student’s ability to perform tasks necessary to maintain self-care, interact in socially appropriate ways, and to work in and around his school and home in a responsible and safe manner.” (Logsdon, n.d.)

Once diagnosed, children may be given the intervention that is appropriate for his or her learning disability. Learning strategy instruction appears to hold great educational potential because strategy training emphasizes helping students learn how to learn and how to use strategies found to be effective in promoting the successful performance of academic, social, or job-related tasks. Students need these skills not only to cope with immediate academic demands but also to address similar tasks in different settings under different conditions throughout life. They are resources for an individual to use, especially when faced with new learning situations. (Sturomski, 1997).

Legal Framework

Public Law 94-142, The Education for All Handicapped Children Act” of 1975, was established to ensure that children with disabilities are provided the services they need. It contains six major principles namely: zero reject, least restrictive appropriate placement, nondiscriminatory evaluation, procedural due process, parental participation, and individualized education programs or “IEPs” (Turnbull & Turnbull, 1978).

Of the six principles, the individual education program or IEP is the written program designed to provide what each disabled child needs. It is mandated that at the beginning of each school year, “each public agency shall have in effect an individualized educational program for every handicapped child who is receiving special education from that agency” (Sec. 300.342 a), handicapped being children who are mentally retarded, hard of hearing, deaf, speech impaired, visually handicapped, seriously emotionally disturbed, orthopedically impaired, other health impaired, deaf-blind, multi-handicapped, or as having specific learning disabilities, who because of those impairments need special education and related services” (Sec.300.5).

It is the responsibility of the State Education Agency (SEA) to implement an IEP for each handicapped student. In cases in which the child is placed in a private school or institution, the public agency is still responsible for initiating and facilitating an IEP meeting with a committee before the private facility commences its services for the child. The SEA is also legally responsible for preparing teachers in educating the child including training and the development of skills such as writing IEP objectives for each handicapped child.

A special IEP team is called upon to develop, review and revise, if necessary, a handicapped child’s IEP. The team’s other functions include determining the specific placement of the student (percentage of time in regular and special programs), specifying the necessary related services needed by the student, and establishing monitoring procedures for the implementation and revision of the IEP.

Individual Educational Plan

An important intervention tool for people with learning disabilities is the IEP or Individualized Educational Plan. It gives a child a customized plan for instruction that considers his unique needs and ways of learning best. The IEP builds on the initial detailed diagnosis of his learning disabilities. According to Sec. 300.346 of the PL 94-142, all IEPs should contain the following:

  1. A statement of the child’s present levels of educational performance;
  2. A statement of annual goals, including short term instructional objectives
  3. A statement of the specific special education and related services to be provided to the child, and the extent to which the child will be able to participate in regular education programs
  4. The projected dates for initiation of services and the anticipated duration of the services; and
  5. Appropriate objectives criteria and evaluation procedures and schedules for determining, on at least an annual basis, whether the short-term instructional objectives are being achieved.

Some accommodations/ interventions included in most IEP’s for learning disabilities are:

  • special education classes for several hours per week, or assignments to a special education classroom, or even assignments to a special school for students with learning disabilities;
  • equipment to aid the learning disabled: word processors, voice synthesis programs, voice recognition programs, portable tape recorders, talking calculators, electronic spellers and dictionaries, and audio textbooks;
  • assistants to help your child: tutors, note-takers, readers, proofreaders, and transcribers;
  • different strategies of teaching, such as outlining the lesson at the beginning of class or reading out loud the notes on the board and transparencies; or
  • individualized accommodations, such as preferential seating or alternative homework assignments.

Three Views on Special Educational Needs

Frederickson and Cline (2002) offered three views on Special Educational Needs. The first view, also referred to as the traditional way of thinking about SEN, was to look at SEN as an individual deviation from the norm. An individual child is compared to the majority of the children of the same age.

It is assumed that the cause of the difficulties in children lies within the child – either or several biological or cognitive or behavioral factors prevent him or her from functioning or developing in the same way as most children do. This thinking presents several problems. It is based on the assumption that all children have the same learning opportunities before they start school, which is obviously not the case. The social and educational context is ignored and exclusive focus on the individual is given. (Frederickson and Cline, 2002)

The second view presented by Frederickson and Cline (2002) is the opposite of the first view and argues that SEN arises when inappropriate environmental demands are placed on an individual. This view recognizes the past learning experiences of the child that helps him or her in his present level of achievement. However, this view presents problems when there is a mismatch between the present skills of the child and the curriculum requirement of the school. It places the responsibility for problems faced by people with special needs on the environment rather than on the people themselves. It fails to recognize the individual differences of children and the different responses to different ways of teaching. (Frederickson and Cline, 2002)

The third view, which is now widely accepted, relies on an interactional analysis. It recognizes the different factors and complex interactions of these factors like the child’s strengths and weaknesses, the level of support available, and the appropriateness of the education being provided. This view poses a more balanced view on SEN.

From Mainstreaming to Inclusion

Although often confused with the term mainstreaming, inclusion stems from a different set of philosophies. Hence, it is important to note the conceptual distinction between the two concepts. Mainstreaming is closely linked to the traditional form of refers to selective placement of special education students in regular education classes. It is assumed that some special education students may keep up with the workload in regular classes and may therefore join the group. Inclusion, on the other hand, believes that the child should always begin in the regular environment and be removed only when appropriate services cannot be provided in the regular classroom (Stout, 2001).

Inclusion in Education

The concept of inclusion has evolved throughout the years. It is often discussed mainly to refer to children with Special Educational Needs (SEN). Children with SEN are described as pupils who need additional help at school because they have learning difficulties or disabilities which significantly affect their access to the curriculum. Recently, inclusion is seen as a social concept of equality.

According to the Early Childhood Forum (2003), National Children’s Bureau in the UK, “ECF believes inclusion is a process of identifying, understanding and breaking down the barriers to participation and belonging.” It is a process of including ALL children regardless of the condition or experience of a child. Inclusion is a term that expresses commitment to educate each child, to the maximum extent appropriate, in the school and classroom, he or she would otherwise attend. All services must be given to the child in the school setting and he or she does not need to go out.

Booth and Ainscow (2000) provided a summary of what inclusion in education should involve:

  • Valuing all students and staff equally.
  • Increasing the participation of students in, and reducing their exclusion from, the cultures, curricula, and communities of local schools.
  • Restructuring the cultures, policies, and practices in schools so that they respond to the diversity of students in the locality.
  • Reducing barriers to learning and participation for all students, not only those with impairments or those who are categorized as ‘having special educational needs’.
  • Learning from attempts to overcome barriers to the access and participation of particular students to make changes for the benefit of students more widely.
  • Viewing the difference between students as resources to support learning, rather than as problems to be overcome.
  • Acknowledging the right of students to an education in their locality. Improving schools for staff as well as for students.
  • Emphasizing the role of schools in building community and developing values, as well as in increasing achievement.
  • Fostering mutually sustaining relationships between schools and communities.
  • Recognizing that inclusion in education is one aspect of inclusion in society.

What Researches Say on Inclusion

The prevalence of inclusion in education has encouraged researchers to conduct an investigation on its effects. Advantages in different aspects are seen as well as the disadvantages of inclusion.

Advantages

According to Becker, Dumas, and Roberts (2000) studies have demonstrated social, academic, and behavioral benefits for students with disabilities who are placed in inclusive settings, without negatively impacting the educational experience of the other students. “Special-needs students educated in regular classes do better academically and socially than students in non-inclusive settings,” (Kartsen et al., 2001).

Meta-analyses confirm also a small to moderate beneficial effect of inclusion education on the academic and social outcomes of special needs students. (Carlberg, C. and Kavale, K. 1980; Baker, E.T., and Wang, M.C., and Walberg, H.J., 1994-95). Many evaluations of inclusive education programs report positive effects on academic, behavioral, and social outcomes for students with disabilities, while no negative consequences for the non-disabled students are reported (Karsten, Peetsma, Roeleveld, & Vergeer, 2001).

Weiner (1985) found out that the mean academic performance of the integrated group was in the 80th percentile, while the segregated student’s score was in the 50th percentile (Weiner R., 1985). Success for All Program at Johns Hopkins University measured student achievement. It involves family support teams, professional development for teachers, reading, tutoring, special reading programs, eight-week reading assessments, and expanded opportunities for pre-school and kindergarten children. Students in special education and regular education showed several positive changes, including:

  • Reduced fear of human differences accompanied by increased comfort and awareness (Peck et al., 1992);
  • Growth in social cognition (Murray-Seegert,1989);
  • Improvement in the self-concept of non-disabled students (Peck et. al., 1992);
  • Development of personal principles and ability to assume an advocacy role toward their peers and friends with disabilities;
  • Warm and caring friendships (Bogdan and Taylor, 1989).

According to P. Wilson, children “benefit in the same way as their classmates, knowing that we value them for who they are rather than what they can do or learn by a certain age. ‘Typical’ children often develop personality or character traits that take us by surprise – but they suffer from alienation and isolation when we make ‘exclusive’ classrooms the norm, just as our children with disabilities do.”

Piuma (1989) found that over a fifteen-year period, the employment rate for high school graduates with special needs who had been in segregated programs was 53%. But for special needs graduates from integrated programs the employment rate was 73%. Furthermore, the cost of educating students in segregated programs was double that for educating them in integrated programs (Piuma, 1989).

In a study done by Bosworth, D. L.(2001) with children with Down Syndrome, she found out that “these children gained in language development, peer acceptance, and real-world experience from being in the classroom during the years of kindergarten through third grade” (Bosworth, D. L., 2001).

Several studies show that, in fact, supported benefits of inclusion not only to the child with a disability, but to nondisabled children and to general education staff (c.f., Downing, 1996; (Giangreco, Dennis, Cloninger, Edesman, & Schattman, 1993; Helmstetter, Peck, & Giangreco, 1994; Janzen, Wilgosh, & MacDonald, 1995; Karagiannis, 1996, et al., Kishi & Meyer, 1994; National Study of Inclusive Education, 1995; Peck, Carlson, & Helmstetter,1992).

From an administrative point of view, inclusion programs may be seen as advantageous in terms of reducing the cost of special education. It eliminates shortages in certified special education teachers and likewise with space problems in overcrowded schools (Ellis et al, 1993).

Short and Martin (2005) identify instructional benefits of inclusive educational programs as increased cooperative learning, collaborative teaming, partner learning, peer tutoring, student empowerment, and creative problem solving (Williams & Fox, 1996)

Disadvantages

Several disadvantages were also noted in having an Inclusion program. John McDonnell believes that “Although there is a research base on school reform and systems change, the nuts and bolts of what schools should specifically be doing to make inclusion work is just emerging,” (Sharpe, 2005). McDonnell cited three “needs” to focus on. One is the need for more research, which will determine the technology that best supports disabled students in the general education curriculum and in general education classes.

Second, there is the need to start training new teachers to serve all kids. “I believe that there is a need for both well-trained general educators who have deep knowledge about subject areas and special educators who have expertise in effective instruction for students with disabilities,” said McDonnell. Lastly, he pointed out the need to redesign teacher education programs. They should be more aggressive in redesigning teacher education programs to provide novice teachers with the common knowledge base and set of experiences. (Sharpe, 2005).

According to several authors, the problem lies in poorly planned and poorly implemented inclusion programs (Ferguson, 1995; LaMaster, et al., 1998). There is a need to study specific techniques, staffing models, and training protocols needed to make inclusion work more effectively. Studies also showed that some children with autism had been successfully placed in general education classrooms, but others found such environments restrictive and counterproductive for learning (McEachin, Smith, & Lovaas, 1993; Smith, 1996).

A possible misinterpretation of the law as it relates to the “continuum of services” may be responsible for this. (Wigle, 1994). At times, students with disabilities can not do the work required in a general education classroom, even with modifications, thus the best placement would not be the inclusion classroom. This could especially be true in the case of full-inclusion situations where no other option is available to the student or to the teacher (Martin, 1995).

Are We Ready for Inclusion?

It seems that the heart of the advantages of inclusion is not inclusion itself but the implementation of the program. Theoretically, inclusion programs in schools present an advantageous program for children with Special Educational Needs and other children. It is time to conduct a further investigation on Inclusion. One of the most important questions to pose at present is how our educators are handling the Inclusion Programs in school.

The inclusion of learners with special educational needs in general education is a must as the law states. Are our teachers ready for learners with special educational needs in the general education classroom? It is not only a question of readiness but also a question of attitude, behavior, and acceptance of teachers towards inclusion. According to several pieces of research, successful implementations of inclusive education rest significantly on the sense that the understanding of pre-service educators’ attitudes is critical for the successful implementation of inclusive education (Mowes, 2000; Elloker, 1999; Gudium, 2002; Dover, 2002; & Mckeskey & Waldrom, 2002).

Various special education researchers have begun to examine the success of inclusion, as well as the attitudes and beliefs of general educators towards the inclusion of learners with disabilities in the general education classroom (Ivey & Reincke, 2002; Avrandis, 2001; Van Reusen, Shosho & Barker, 2000; Choles, 2000; Gordon, 2000; Kgare, 2000; Bothna, 1998; Van Staden, 2001; Hyan, 2001; Makunga, 2002; Siebalak, 2002). If inclusion is to be successful, teachers’ attitudes are one of the most important factors to consider (Baker & Gottlieb, 1980). Attitude studies have suggested that general educators have not developed an empathetic understanding of disabling conditions.

However, a study by Heller (1988) supported a wider positive view of integration by those in the front line-mainstream teachers. Another study by Clough and Lindsay (1991) investigated the attitudes of teachers towards integration and to different kinds of support. Their research provided some evidence that attitudes had shifted in favor of integrating children with special educational needs over the past ten years or so.

Scruggs and Mastropieri (1996) in their meta-analysis of American attitude studies, revealed that only one-third or less of teachers believed they had sufficient time, skills, training, and resources necessary for integration. These studies indicated that teachers are often not prepared to meet the needs of students with significant disabilities and that the severity of the disabling condition presented to them determines their attitudes towards integration.

A paper by Martin E. Block focused on the issue of having a quality general Physical Education for an Inclusion program. He claimed that there are four large assumptions about general physical education that in many cases proven to be wrong. First, the assumption that general physical education programs were of high quality with individual instruction already in place. In reality, most physical educators still taught to the middle, which then tends to force children with special needs to cope up with the regular students.

A second assumption was that “physical education class sizes mirrored the general education classroom, and that most typically developing children were well behaved and highly motivated.” It seems that more children who do not necessarily have special education labels pose significant, chronic behavior problems in general physical education (Boyce, 1997; Lavay, French, & Henderson, 1997; Mehas et al., 1998). Due to large classes, class management was a major problem for many general physical educators.

Inclusion into such an environment sets the child up for failure from the very beginning. The third assumption is that general physical educator were willing to take on the challenge of working with children with disabilities (Stanton & Colvin, 1996). Bricker (1995) called an attitude of teachers having an add-on approach to inclusion, in which the child was simply added to the program. This results in children with SEN not being functional or active members of the class. Ferguson (1995) noted children with disabilities were “in but not of the class” (p. 284). And again the issue of proper training was reiterated.

Even those who were willing to take children with disabilities had very little training and really did not know where to begin (Chandler & Greene, 1995; LaMaster, et al., 1998). As Bricker (1995) noted, “Most professionals and paraprofessionals prepared to work with nondisabled children know little about disabilities, about how impairments may affect children, or what strategies to use in addressing questions and problems in ways that expand and enhance positive attitudes in young children” (p. 188).

Lastly, there was an assumption that general physical educators would receive training, and that adapted physical education specialists, who previously worked with children with disabilities in special settings, would be able to provide this training (Block, 1994; Murata & Little, 1995; Kelly, 1994a; Kelly & Gansneder, 1998). The reality was that many general physical educators did not receive adequate training, and many more received no training at all (Chandler & Greene, 1995; LaMaster, et al., 1998).

Teachers’ Perception on Inclusion

Recent research indicated that the success of inclusion programs is dependent on teachers’ attitudes toward inclusion (Cook, Semmel, & Gerber, 1999; Salend, 2001; Van Reusen, Shoho, and Barker 2001). Well-established literature on the link between teachers’ beliefs and their actions (Lieber, Capbell, Sandall, Wolfberg, Horn, & Beckman, 1998). The positive attitude of teachers is a positive factor for the success of the Inclusion program.

The attitudes that teachers hold toward the inclusion of students with disabilities in the general education classroom are critical for the success of inclusion. Leatherman (2007) interviewed general education preschool teachers in a study and overall, they felt children with disabilities should be in inclusive classrooms. Vygotsky’s (1978) constructivist theory proposes that knowledge is shaped or constructed through the social influences and interactions within our environment. So if a teacher has positive experiences and interactions with learning disabled children, their families, and their colleagues, then he or she may see that classroom as a positive inclusive experience.

The same goes for negative experiences. Leatherman’s study (2007) reports five themes that came out of the interviews. The teachers thought that inclusive programs are great places for children and teachers; there is a need for training or workshops for regular teachers; positive experiences lead to success; support from administrators, peers, and therapists are significant to the program; and the decision to make a program inclusive should involve all teachers and staff in the school.

Teachers have also raised concerns about the lack of sufficient funding and personnel as well as the extra time and training necessary for appropriate collaboration (Trump & Hange, 1996) It was indeed challenging to collaborate work in an inclusive classroom where small group interpersonal skills may be specialized, thereby training is necessary for it (Wood, 1998).

Bunch et al (1997) reported that although most teachers were optimistic about inclusion programs, they also had strong reservations about the adequacy of their pre-service and in-service professional development. Hobbs and Westling (1998) even went on to argue that while general education teachers may support the “concept” of inclusion, most of them did not feel that they could successfully integrate these students into their own classrooms. There were reports that general education teachers do not share with special education teachers the belief that students with special needs have a basic right to receive their education in general education classrooms (Martin, et al. 2003)

Such negative perceptions need to be addressed. Continuous examination of teacher’s perceptions about inclusion and designing appropriate in-service programs will hopefully address those negative beliefs, as such resistance may be caused by a lack of training and confidence to handle inclusive programs (Short & Martin, 2005).

Another concern that has become prevalent is the general education teachers’ involvement in the IEP process. Carolyn Myrick’s 1980 dissertation study results indicate limited involvement of regular classroom teachers in the IEP process. Numbers show that “nearly one third in her sample has never seen an IEP; over half of the classroom teachers had no training in developing IEPs; over half of the classroom teachers had no training in developing IEPs; elementary schools had more positive perceptions of the IEP process than secondary schools; classroom teachers had the most negative attitudes about the IEP process; all groups perceived the special educator as the person who should have primary responsibility for developing IEPs” (Stewart, 1982, p. 66)

This apparent dearth of understanding of the inclusive process definitely affects general education teachers’ perceptions, attitudes and motivations, not to mention confidence in having learning disabled students in their classes.

Training Needs

Not all beginning teachers have had extensive training in special education, much less preparation for their roles in inclusion settings (NJCLD, 1993). Thus, there is a need for an extensive teacher preparation program focusing on the provision of appropriate education for teaching a variety of students with a diverse range of abilities as well as learning disabilities (Ellis et al, 1993). General and Special education programs need to be modified to prepare teachers with a full range of competencies both from general education and special education programs..

Complying with the IEP

The preparation and implementation of IEPs is an essential competency that should be a requirement for prospective teachers. Stewart (1982) state that some of the most important planning for handicapped students occurs before the IEP team meeting and results from the classroom teacher’s input. The student’s regular teacher is instrumental in providing valuable classroom performance data that is curriculum-based that provides meaningful information upon which to base current levels of performance.

Regular classroom teachers are also more familiar with their curriculum and with objectives that are essential and appropriate for handicapped learners. Hence, if teachers who have the major responsibility for educating handicapped students are not allowed to feel some degree of responsibility or “ownership” in the IEP planning and placement of students, they will probably be reluctant to implement the plans (Stewart, 1982).

In interviews with teachers, a number of teachers expressed concern that the goals of the special and regular education programs lacked coordination and that special education goals were rarely related to goals in the regular classroom. While the goal of the regular classroom teacher may be to improve a child’s group interaction skills, the special education teacher may be primarily interested in academic progress.

Different programs were sometimes used in special and regular classrooms stressing entirely different approaches to instruction without coordination or explanation to the students. Regular classroom teachers were sometimes asked to work on specific skills deemed important only by the resource teacher. Also, teachers felt they had little input into decisions regarding the amount of time students spend with the resource teacher.

A major concern cited by 52% of the respondents was the lack of time to make initial plans, develop IEP’s with coordinated goals for special and regular education and monitor instructional progress, little formal time appeared to be set aside for planning.

Low levels of involvement regarding sharing in setting goals and objectives and specifying requisite support services suggest that decisions made with respect to placement and direction of instruction as documented in the IEP do not generally reflect the input of regular classroom teachers. Since goals and objectives are rarely written for student time in the regular classroom, typically the IEP does not reflect the total instructional program, but only that portion of instruction administered directly by special education teachers. It is unlikely that this approach promotes shared decision making or encourages consistent curricular modification across instructional settings.

A second conclusion relates to the importance of regular classroom teacher attendance at IEP meetings for mildly handicapped students. It is unlikely that coordinated instructional planning will be achieved without the presence of the classroom teacher at the IEP meeting.

Conclusion

It is obvious that there are conflicting evidences against and for inclusion. Examining them separately would give us the impression that they are all correct and applied logical reason coupled with evidences from research. But the controversy should not end in both parties being correct on their own point of view. Past researches must be again me ticulously examined, and look at them as a group of facts. There should be a general statement from all the researches that have been made.

It is also important at present to examine the readiness of teachers who will handle Inclusion program. How are they being readied for the complexity of inclusion in their class? It is recommended to conduct a timely research that will consider all factors that are affecting the inclusion programs, particularly the proper preparation and training of teachers, and also a focus on how the specific educational needs of children in an inclusion program be met. Morally, inclusion is a good program for the children with special educational needs. This thinking should be made into reality with thorough research and preparation of the inclusion program for all children.

Focusing on regular teacher involvement in the entire process may increase teacher commitment to providing appropriate instruction to mildly handicapped students as well as students with similar problems who are not identified

Methodology

Design of Study

The use of questionnaires as a means of collecting data from general education teachers with an aim in obtaining their perceptions toward the daily planning process for LD Students in the Inclusive Classroom views is appropriate for this study. Campbell et al (2004) described questionnaires as, “a very versatile data-gathering method; they are cheap, easy to administer, whether it be to three people or 300, and can be used to gather great variety of data of both quantitative and qualitative nature” (p. 146).

Cohen et al (2000) also praised the use of questionnaires for their efficiency. They allow an efficient use of the researcher’s time, as they can collect a significant amount of information in one attempt, rather than conducting interviews over a period of weeks. Gillham (2000) also highlighted that questionnaires make efficient use of the respondent’s time, as they can complete the questionnaire at a time that is suitable to them and does not require the researcher and respondent to match a free periods of time to conduct the research.

Cohen et al (2000) and Gillham (2000) emphasized the usefulness of questionnaires for ensuring the participants anonymity, which in this study, may be requested due to its very sensitive and controversial nature. If the respondents cannot be identified, they may be more willing to write about issues and opinions more openly than they would in a face-to-face situation. It could be argued then that questionnaires are therefore most likely to generate more truthful answers as there is no personal contact with the interviewer.

However, a disadvantage of using questionnaires is that the only data collected is a variety of tick boxes and brief responses, which means the data tends to have more ‘breadth’ than ‘depth’. This results from the lack of an interviewer to prompt for further information or more detail in their answers and they cannot interpret questions for the participant who is unclear about what is being asked. This may result in each participant having to decipher what they are being asked independently and may resort to their own subjective understanding of the questions. For this research, questions are open-ended, and whatever respondents answer will be respected. If it is possible to probe their answers verbally, then it shall be done.

With face to face interviews, misinterpretations of the questions may be avoided and clarified immediately. Questions for the interviews shall be structured as open-ended as well. (questions yet to be constructed) (From Short & Martin, 2005)

The interview protocol consisted of five open-ended questions that asked: “What benefits do you receive by being put in an inclusionary classroom?”; “Do you feel inclusion is always beneficial? Why or why not?”; “Do you think you should be part of the decision-making process regarding inclusionary classrooms?”; “What can teachers do to make their classrooms more comfortable for all students?”; and “What can cause your attitude to change (positive or negative) in a classroom?” Leatherman, 2007

  1. Tell me about working with the children in your classroom,
  2. Tell me how you have made the classroom successful for all children, and
  3. Whom do you turn to for support? (What resources exist to help you?).

These open-ended statements and questions allowed the participants to talk about the issues and areas that were most important to them.

Selection of Participants

Participants for the study are selected in accordance to their qualification and position in an inclusive school setting. Four middle school teachers teaching in a suburban Illinois middle school, 40 miles outside of Chicago are the participants in this study. The only participants in this study are general education teachers who have special education students in their classrooms.

Teacher Self-Assessment Test

Participants shall take a self-assessment test taken from Stewart (1992) to determine how much they know about inclusion programs and IEP (See Appendix 1).

Role of Researcher

The researcher shall conduct the interview sessions with the participants, categorize the responses and puts them in a grid. From there an analysis of the results shall flow.

Development of interview schedule (Nicole, please fill in).

Data Collection and Analysis

Data shall be reported accordingly. Careful analysis of the data shall be done by the researcher in an unbiased manner. A grid of information shall be designed and data plotted into it. If certain themes prevail, then they shall likewise be analyzed too. No doubt, the investigative research will yield conflicting data. Such views will be presented and analyzed in accordance to the context in which the data were gathered and the conceptual framework it was based on in the specific studies involved. Conclusions derived from the data shall be thoroughly discussed.

Ethical Considerations

Permission will be sought from prospective participants and they have to sign a waiver. Any participant who refuses to cooperate is free to leave. (needs more meat.. yet to be filled).

Establishing Trustworthiness (yet to be filled).

Summary (yet to be filled).

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Baker, E.T., Wang, M.C., and Walberg, H.J. (1994-1995)”The Effects of Inclusion on Learning.” Educational Leadership: 33-35.

Becker, Heather, Shelley Dumas, and Greg Roberts. (2001). The inclusion inventory: a tool to assess perceptions of the implementations of inclusive educational practices. Special Services in Schools. 16, 1&2, 57-72.

Block, M., 1999. Problems with Inclusion in Physical Education. Palaestra, Vol.15, no. 3.

Bogdan, R., and Taylor, S.J, (1989)”Relationships with Severely Disabled People: The Social Construction of Humanness.” Social Problems: 36,2:135-148.

Booth, T. and Ainscow. M. (2000). Index on Inclusion. Bristol: Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education.

Bosworth, D. L., 2001. Benefits to Students with Down Syndrome in the Inclusion Classroom: K-3. Towson University.

Bothma, M.P. (1998). The attitudes of primary school teachers towards inclusive education. Unpublished masters dissertation, Rand Afrikaans University.

Carlberg, C., and Kavale, K. (1980) “The Efficacy of Special Versus Regular Class Placement for Exceptional Children: A Meta-Analysis.” The Journal of Special Education: 295-305.

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Cook, B. G., Semmel, M. I., & Gerber, M. M. (1999). Attitudes of principals and special education teachers toward the inclusion of students with mild disabilities. Remedial and Special Education, 20(4), 199-256.

Dover, W, E. (2002). Instructional Management of Para-educator’s in inclusive classrooms: The perspectives of teachers. Annual National Conference Proceedings of the American Council on Rural Special education. (22nd), Reno, NV. U.S. South Carolina.

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Gudium, D.M. (2002). A qualitative study of the perceptions of six pre-service teachers: Implementing oral and written retelling strategies in teaching reading to students with learning disabilities. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Eastern Educational Research Association. (Sarasota), FL.

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Appendix

Self assessment.

Self assessment.

Self assessment.

Individualized education program.

Self assessment key.

Individualized education program.

Individualized education program.

Individualized education program.

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