The literature review is organised under two key themes: Planning and Teaching and Learning. These themes outline two categories for consideration when fostering an inclusive environment and the impact they have on one another in a reciprocal relationship. Both sections contain a series of subheadings which catalyse the overall effectiveness of the theme in practice.
Evidence from the literature suggests that informed and authentic planning is the foundation for inclusive pedagogy. The planning tools of differentiation, expectations and assessment can inevitably construct inclusive classrooms when implemented correctly.
Research has presented an alteration in the systems view of differentiation and instruction (Ferguson, 2008) As opposed to planning content that is achievable for ‘most’ learners, with resources and instruction modified for those who are considered ‘less able’, educators have progressed towards planning and teaching for all children by meeting each of their individual needs in an inclusive whole-class setting. (Florian & Linklater, 2010) This concept of planning for inclusion was rooted in the idea that no child is bounded by a stigmatic label or grouping, but that all children can learn concurrently by responding to individual differences (Norwich, 2013). This corresponds with Lewis’ (1995) ‘equality principle’, in that children with Special Educational needs should be regarded unvaryingly to their peers through systematic differentiation. (Norwich, 2013) Differentiation of content and pedagogy in itself was inclusive; where children shared autonomy over how and what they learned while pitched at their instructional level. (Rix ; Sheehy, 2014; Tomlinson 2014) It would appear that knowing the interests and learning profile of each child is the fundamental solution to plan for an environment that warrants the active participation of all learners, where each of their needs are intrinsically catered for. (Florian ; Linklater, 2010). However, Heward (2003), similarly to Lewis’ (1995) ‘individuality principle’, suggests a conventional, personalised perspective on differentiation, where pedagogical orientations for children with Special Education Needs are explicitly individualised, which ultimately deviates from inclusivity. (Heward 2003, Norwich, 2013)
Although Hart (1998) argued that a child’s ability is fixed and their learning potential subsequently capped, for Sternberg (2005) educational psychology indicated that cognitive nor intellectual abilities are essentially unchangeable. (Norwich, 2013) Children’s differences in abilities refer to the rate, the volume of support and explicit teaching that they require to advance in their learning, rather than their limitations (Tomlinson, 2014; Norwich, 2013). Most articles harmonized with the outlook that high expectations need to be held for all learners, however, the significance this has in fostering inclusion is exclusive to the literature. Empowering and trusting children with responsibility were identified as indicators of high expectation held by teachers (Ferguson, 2008; Florian & Linklater, 2010) This correlates with the practice of transformability where teachers believe that every child has the equivalent potential to learn, which ultimately gives way to inclusion (Florian & Linklater, 2010). It is often that inclusive pedagogy can often fall short with deficiency in expectations (Tomlinson, 2014) Therefore, teachers must hold high expectations for the child, but also for themselves (Rix & Sheehy, 2014) By evading from limiting the child’s abilities, the potential for the inclusion of all learners in itself is limitless. While Heward (2003) observed the destructive consequences of setting low expectations for children with special educational needs, he made no allusion to its influence on inclusion. (Heward, 2003)
A common thread on the purpose of assessment was seamlessly threaded throughout much of the literature. Planning for inclusion becomes an inherent process when the needs of all learners are recognised, accommodated and met. (Norwich, 2013; Tomlinson, 2014) This can be achieved through implementing techniques of assessment for learning and assessment of learning throughout the lesson to evaluate the children’s progression and the implications this has for future planning. (Farrell, 2012) Although this literature is a focused study on the post-primary setting, it holds equal value to that of the primary setting. The literature recognised the importance of employing various assessment strategies to suit the preferred modes of expression of each learner. (Tomlinson, 2014; Farrell, 2012) Children’s needs and strengths are flexible and interchangeable. Assessment identifies the degree to which instruction should be varied based on the children’s current instructional level. Ongoing assessment at regular intervals is essential, but predominantly successful when children are invited to respond through their strengths. (Norwich, 2013; Tomlinson, 2014; Farrell, 2012) Identifying difficulties from assessments and planning accordingly is a challenge merely for the teacher, rather than an attribute of the child that limits their learning.
2. Teaching and Learning
With authentic planning is in place, the scaffold for teaching and learning is ultimately constructed. However, the collaborative approach to inclusion and the inclusive pedagogies and contexts performed are what bring inclusion in the mainstream setting to life.
Research suggests that collaboration between teacher-student, teacher- parent and teacher-teacher impacts the success of inclusive teaching and learning on a whole-school level. The literature presented a demand for teachers to overcome the limitations of deficit thinking so that pupils have to opportunity to be considered as active learners with sufficient competencies (Norwich, 2013) It was agreed that a strong grasp of each student’s learning profile, their backgrounds and interests has proven to be efficacious for inclusion (Tomlinson, 2014; Rix ; Sheehy, 2014; Florian ; Linklater, 2010). (Tomlinson, 2014; Ferguson, 2008) Florian and Linklater’s (2010) research into the practice of transformability for inclusion discovered that sharing responsibility and displaying trust in students, enhances self-esteem and confidence in their own abilities (Florian & Linklater, 2010, Heward, 2003). Similarly, Rix and Sheehy (2014) found that teacher-student collaboration not only established educational benefits in terms of access to learning, but had an impact on behavioural dispositions. Children feel a sense of belonging in an environment where their interests and needs are advocated, unlike a conventional setting which can cause frustration for children, particularly those with complex needs. Although the literature noted challenges in collaboration, they each believe that such are powerful in their influence on inclusion. In contrast, Heward (2003), proposes provision of shared responsibility and choice as being irrelevant to the purpose of the child’s learning. (Heward, 2003) Hence, he disrupts the benefit of collaboration in inclusive education.
Collaboration between teachers is a growing phenomenon for inclusion among schools, where educators are going beyond their status, e.g. classroom teacher or special teachers, and working co-operatively to enhance their expertise for the welfare of all children (Ferguson, 2008). Despite this, research by Florian and Linklater (2010) indicated a gap in knowledge of general teachers in regards to the teaching and learning of children with special educational needs. As encouraged by Ferguson (2008), this article argued the importance of co-operating with educators who are competent in the area of special education to bridge this gap in knowledge. (Florian and Linklater, 2010; Ferguson, 2008) Although Rix and Sheehy (2014) similarly defined team teaching and co-operative teaching as valuable teacher collaborative strategies for inclusion, challenges were also identified. Challenges where collaboration for inclusion was purely supported in theory and abandoned in practice.
2.2 Inclusive pedagogies and contexts
The emerging demand for inclusive practices, encouraged researchers to question an effective model of pedagogy for children with disabilities and special educational needs, while sustaining inclusivity. A study by David and Florian (2004) into the impact of ‘specialised pedagogy’ revealed that SEN could not be differentiated enough from that of all learners for there to be such pedagogy. (Norwich, 2013) Although study is limited in this area, this pedagogy is merely distanced from government’s inclusive policies. Inclusive pedagogic thinking is embedded in extending generalised content to diminish the need to label a child as different. (Norwich, 2013; Ferguson, 2008) Learning is purely specialised in the way teachers address individual needs and preclude ignoring learner’s requirements. These ‘Inclusively responsive classrooms’ ensure that children’s learning modes correspond with their learning profiles (Tomlinson 2014) Similarly, Farrell (2012) noted the importance of implementing different avenues towards the learning goal to authorise equal access for all learning styles. (Farrell, 2012; Tomlinson, 2014) It is not enough to understand that children learn differently, but this must be accommodated for in the teaching and learning process (Heward, 2003; Tomlinson, 2014; Ferguson, 2008; Norwich, 2013)
The context for which instructional pedagogies are performed differed across much of the literature, but the underlying concept of inclusion was present in each. While some literature focused on inclusive classrooms as a whole, Tomlinson (2014) researched small-group instruction of both mixed and ability groupings. Mixed ability groupings were proven effective for sharing strengths and skills to learn from one another. Equally, Farrell (2012) presents this view for enabling children with SEN to work with a trusted peer. (Farrell, 2012) Ability groupings varied from learning styles to current instructional needs (Tomlinson, 2014) Each of the groupings were flexible and everchanging to facilitate inclusion. Groupings were not focused on labelling but rather explicitly meeting an emerging need through the child’s preferred learning style. It was agreed across the literature that non-hierarchical networks rather than linear systems were significant in facilitating co-operative, strategic and inclusive learning. (Tomlinson, 2014; Norwich, 2013; Florian and Linklater, 2010; Rix ; Sheehy, 2014; Ferguson, 2008)
The literature review discloses the purpose of both planning and teaching ; learning in facilitating an inclusive classroom for all learners. Readings by Tomlinson (2014), Farrell (2012), Ferguson (2008), Norwich (2013), Florian and Linklater (2010), and Rix and Sheehy (2014) approve of learning that is equivalently accessible for all children to foster inclusivity. Heward’s (2003) controversial ideas preferred specialised education for children with SEN and dismissed inclusive practices. From this review, the areas for consideration when planning for and implementing inclusive pedagogy are explicitly depicted and although challenges are inevitably presented, the overall benefit of inclusion for the holistic development of every child is irrefutable.