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As a scholar-practitioner, you know that your work needs to be evidence-based. The literature review provides the empirical justification for the project. Literature reviews involve collecting resources directly related to the selected problem, critically analyzing those resources, and synthesizing them into a coherent narrative. Now that you have identified resources related to your selected problem statement, it is time to write the literature review. The literature review provides a solid foundation for your Capstone Project. To prepare:Review the articles attached on writing an integrative literature review.Review the 4 research resources related to the capstone project topic regarding the effectiveness and importance of special education and inclusive classrooms.Review the Problem Statement.The assignment:In 3-4 pages, respond to the following:Cite the 4 resources you have chosen to synthesize and integrate into a narrative. Synthesize and integrate the 4 resources into a coherent narrative that:Begins with an introductionIncludes an integrated synthesis of the resourcesRelates the narrative to your problem statement
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Meeting the Needs of Special Education Students in Inclusion Classrooms
Cathy LeDoux, M. Ed.
McWhirter Elementary School, PDLS
Shanna L. Graves, Ph.D.
University of Houston- Clear Lake
Winona Burt, Ph.D.
University of Houston-Clear Lake
Abstract
Based on interactions with general education teachers, observations of special education
students in inclusion classrooms, and general education teachers’ input during the
Response to Intervention (RTI) process, a resource teacher found that many teachers
were ill prepared to meet the diverse needs of special education students in the inclusion
classroom. More importantly, the students’ Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) were
not being implemented. As such, an action research project was initiated to explore three
main research questions: (1) What challenges do special education students present for
general education teachers in inclusive classrooms?; (2) What are the perceived needs of
general education teachers in relation to accommodating special education students in
their classrooms?; and (3) In what ways can administration support general education
teachers in accommodating special education students? The findings identify general
education teachers’ need for better communication, professional development concerning
children with disabilities, and a need for more planning time.
Meeting the Needs of Special Education Students in Inclusion Classrooms
A major challenge in schools today is the sheer volume of students being labeled as
special needs under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). It has been well
documented that the rate of student referrals for special education is high, particularly
among minorities and English Language Learners (ELLs) (Guiberson, 2009; Klinger &
Harry, 2006; Skiba et al., 2006; Skiba et al., 2008; Zetlin, Beltran, Salcido, Gonzalez, &
Reyes, 2011). Such findings may indicate that the needs of special education students are
not being correctly identified. However, in cases in which students are correctly
identified, their needs are often not met in general education classrooms. In order to
improve the educational experience of special needs students in the inclusion classroom,
teachers must be knowledgeable about IDEA, curriculum differentiation, and appropriate
instructional practices for learning disabled students. For the purpose of this study,
inclusion is defined as the student receiving services in the general education classroom
for the majority of the time and only being pulled out when appropriate services cannot
be delivered in the regular education classroom environment.
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In 2007-08, about 6.6 million children and youth, representing 13% of national public
school enrollment, received special education services (NCES, 2010). Approximately
94.6% of those children spend a percentage of their day in the general education
classroom (NCES, 2010). These statistics reveal a significant change in placement
practices as an article by McLeskey, Landers, Williamson, and Hoppey (2010) notes that
in1990, only 34% of students with disabilities spent most of the school day in general
education settings.
Implications of Inclusion
As with any major change in the educational system, inclusion comes with implications.
According to Murphy (1996),
The widespread adoption of a fully inclusive approach to educating students with
special needs will necessitate a comprehensive restructuring of both regular and
special education at all levels—from classroom organization and pedagogy, to
curricula, to program administration, to teacher preparation. (p.470)
Although it is necessary for all stakeholders to be involved in this “comprehensive
restructuring,” general education teachers seem to have the greatest challenge. Not only
are general education teachers expected to teach students with special needs, they are
expected to be fully prepared to do so (i.e., be equipped with the necessary knowledge
and skills). The problem, however, is rooted in teachers’ preparation—both preservice
and inservice.
Teacher Preparation
Several studies have explored the notion of teacher preparation in the area of special
education (Chang, Early, & Winton, 2005; Harvey, Yssel, Bauserman, & Merbler, 2010;
Holdheide & Rechly, 2008). The consensus among the literature has been that general
education teachers are inadequately prepared to work with special needs students and,
therefore, not prepared for inclusion. Although this has been a major concern for nearly
two decades, efforts to address this issue have been futile in most cases. While there are
institutions of higher education that report their efforts in providing general education
teacher candidates with coursework that focuses on exceptional children and/or special
education in general (Harvey et al., 2010), teachers are still entering classrooms
unprepared for inclusion each year.
This action research project grew out of one special education resource teacher’s concern
with the daily challenges of general education teachers in inclusive classrooms. Through
her interactions with the general education teachers at her school, the resource teacher
found that these teachers’ voices needed to be heard. To further explore the teachers’
challenges, three research questions were developed: (1) What challenges do special
education students present for general education teachers in inclusive classrooms?; (2)
What are the perceived needs of general education teachers in relation to accommodating
special education students in their classrooms?; and (3) In what ways can administration
support general education teachers in accommodating special education students? It is
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the intent of this project to use the results to help guide administrators in choosing and
implementing appropriate professional development for general education teachers and,
more importantly, in making sure the teachers continuously receive the necessary support
to successfully meet all students’ needs.
Background
This study was conducted at a mid-sized Title I elementary school campus in Texas with
a “Recognized” performance ranking through the State Department of Education. A
partnership with the local University maintains this campus as a Professional
Development Laboratory School (PDLS) where teacher professional development is data
and research driven and paramount in the improvement of student achievement. The
population at the school is primarily African American and Hispanic bilingual with 11%
of the 935 students receiving special education services through Speech, Alternative
Academics, Preschool Programs for Children with Disabilities (PPCD), and Resource.
Participants
All certified professional educators surveyed were highly qualified for their positions
under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). There was an equal mix of bilingual and
English speaking educators with a multitude of experience levels and a wide variance in
their level of education. The staff represented many comparable elementary campuses in
Texas. Of the 70 teachers who were sent the surveys 56 responded for a response rate of
80%. Seven participants were chosen for the focus group by each grade level team who
were asked for a volunteer representative. The seven teachers consisted of certified
general education 1st- 5th grade classroom teachers, a physical education teacher, and one
resource (inclusion) teacher. Additionally, the teachers greatly varied in their years of
teaching experience and in their pre-service teacher education (see Table 1). Only two of
the teachers received significant special education training through either college courses,
district-based professional development, or state-mandated training. The remaining
teachers had minimal training or experience through campus-based trainings, readings of
material relevant to special education, or other experiences outside of the public school
system.
Table 1
Focus Group Participants’ Educational Experience and Background
PARTICIPANT
YEARS OF EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUND
TEACHING
Participant 1
15+
B.S. in Special Education & Bilingual Education
M.Ed. Educational Administration
Participant 2
6
B.S. in Elementary Education
Participant 3
6
B.S. in Elementary Education
M.Ed. Educational Administration
Participant 4
6
B.S. in Elementary Education
Participant 5
2
B.S. in Elementary Education
Participant 6
10+
B.S. in Elementary Education
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Participant 7
3
B.S. in Special Education
Design and Methodology
The research design was mixed methods, utilizing both qualitative and quantitative
methods to collect data. First, an electronic questionnaire was designed to collect
quantitative data pertaining to the needs and challenges of staff members who serve
special education students in inclusion classrooms. Specifically, a Likert scale was used
to determine the difficulty level of the challenges presented by special education students
and the importance level of the perceived needs of the teachers. Qualitative data was
then collected through a multi-grade level focus group where participants were asked to
discuss proposed questions pertaining to the project topic (meeting the needs of special
education students) in an open forum.
Focus Group
Focus group questions (see Appendix B) were designed to determine the challenges
presented by special education students in the inclusion setting and what the teachers’
perceptions were in relation to accommodating the students. It was our goal to have the
discussion drive the direction of the focus group. In contrast to individual interviews,
focus group participants relate their experiences and reactions among presumed peers
with whom they likely share some common frame of reference (Kidd & Parshall, 2000).
In this manner, the focus group was able to delve deeper into the topic of discussion.
Data Analysis
The focus group interview was digitally recorded and transcribed verbatim. The
transcription was then read and analyzed separately by members of the research team.
The researchers looked for patterns, or themes, throughout the text of the transcript and
comments were made within the margins of the transcript. The researchers then met to
compare data analysis and discuss themes, which emerged from the data, to determine a
level of agreement. To analyze teacher responses to the online questionnaire concerning
their greatest perceived challenges and needs, a repeated measures analysis of variance
(ANOVA) was used.
Results
The intent of this study was to determine what general education teachers perceive as
their needs and greatest challenges to successfully meet the needs of special education
students and in what ways administrators can support general education teachers in
accomplishing this goal.
Qualitative Results
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Three major themes were established through analysis of the focus group data: (1)
communication; (2) collaboration vs. disconnect; and (3) lack of professional
development.
Communication
Communication was the most important factor discussed as needing improvement. As in
any relationship, skilled, open communication appears to be the strongest foundation for
success. The only way to have successful collaborative experiences in education is
through successful communication. According to Snyder (1999), “one of the biggest
factors aiding the success of the program is constant communication between regular
education and special education teachers” (p.178). Teachers participating in the forum
cited communication gaps when it came to informing general education teachers prior to
placement of special needs students in their classrooms, informing them of schedule
changes for special needs students, and communicating goals and objectives of
instruction for special needs students. One participant imparted:
I think it is very important with communication between the teacher, resource,
occupational therapist, the special education team lead and the principals.
Sometimes, the decisions are made way over there and I’m the last to know.
Resource teachers and administrators need to understand the impact special needs
students have on general education teachers when placed in their classrooms. There is a
need for additional time for planning instruction, behavioral concerns, scheduling and the
social dynamics of all students in the classroom. At the same time, general education
teachers must communicate their needs to administrators and the special education
department. Administrators, special education teachers, and general education teachers
should be continuously communicating in regard to curriculum concerns, classroom
management, social skills training for students, instructional strategies, and student
progress in order to create a network that efficiently addresses the educational needs of
children with learning disabilities in the inclusion classroom.
Collaboration vs. Disconnect
Problems develop in inclusive settings when children with disabilities are “dumped
wholesale” into classrooms, with budget cuts and no planning and collaboration. Special
educators lament loss of control over the learning environment and fear loss of
specialized services for students with disabilities (Salend & Duhaney, 1999). Many of
the teachers felt there was a disconnect and a general lack of collaboration between the
special education department and the general education teachers. The special education
department on this particular campus included resource teachers, occupational therapists,
speech therapists, alternative education teachers, PPCD teachers, counselors, gifted and
talented teachers, special education team leaders, diagnosticians, paraprofessionals, and
administration. As one participant stated, “There is no connection, it seems, between the
resource setting and the general education setting.” This disconnect extended to
planning, grading and instruction.
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Planning was a leading cause for concern. General education teachers have discerned the
importance of planning instruction and interventions with the special education teachers
but encounter time or schedule restraints when it comes to collaborative planning. The
majority of the teachers participating in the focus group felt that the Individual Education
Plans (IEPs), which are plans for instruction, are confusing and difficult to follow. There
seemed to be a general lack of understanding of the content of IEPs and Behavioral
Intervention plans (BIPs). This lack of understanding extended to the progress monitoring
system as well. One teacher stated:
Here is his IEP. Here is what you have to do. He has to learn this four out of ten
times or six out of ten times, and it’s like another language to me. …So how am I
going to document that he does this eight out of ten times, assess it, and explain it
to the [resource] teachers?
Another example of disconnect as it pertains to instruction is the idea that the resource
teacher, general education teacher, and parents are not all working toward the same goals.
A veteran teacher participant was discouraged by the time and effort she puts into
planning with minimal results. She felt that the disconnectedness resulted in failure for
her as a teacher and for the student, as reflected in her statement:
I find all the resources, I do all this work and the students don’t have a consistent
setting when they go home. Mom does not force them to do homework, the special
ed teacher is going in one direction, I’m going in another direction…..and there is
no way if the special ed teacher, the teacher, the parent and the student do not
have the same goal and the same structure. If they don’t read at home, there is
nothing we can do. We can’t do miracles here.
The disconnection was not limited to communication or collaboration issues between
teachers in both departments, but a disconnection with the special needs students
themselves while in the inclusion classroom. The teachers felt their time with these
students was disjointed due to pull out for resource and other services; many times efforts
were futile. For example, one teacher participant said:
…for me the biggest challenge that I face is when there is disruption toward the
daily routine, especially if we are doing small group instruction and I am
including the student. He has to be pulled to go to the Special Ed teacher. Then,
he has to come back and catch up and for me, I kind of wish it could be a more
predictable pattern where I could adjust the one to one instruction and not hinder
his inclusion in the classroom. That’s one thing that I think would be great; if we
could find a way to not disrupt the structure and routine.
A major concern inclusion teachers have is building positive relationships with special
educational needs students. This becomes challenging when students are pulled out for
services and do not spend continuous blocks of time with the inclusion teacher. One
teacher stated:
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Like the ones in the afternoon that leave, a group of four, they’re hardly ever with
me. And so, I mean I know them as children but I think I’d be lying if I said that I
knew exactly what level they’re on and I know what to do with them; because I
don’t….I feel kind of frustrated sometimes.
Professional Development
The most impactful commission of administrators in supporting general education
teachers in meeting the needs of special needs students was to provide consistent
professional development in the area of disabilities, behavior, and federal laws and
mandates driven by IDEA. According to researchers, professional development in
special education for general education teachers improves the attitudes of these teachers
concerning inclusion (Avramidis, Baylis, & Burden, 2000). A more positive attitude
concerning inclusion is a huge step in improving the educational experience of special
needs students in inclusion classrooms. Studies conducted by Ornelles, Cook, and Jenkins
(2007) concluded that general education teachers felt less confident than special
educators in their ability to facilitate successful inclusion of students with disabilities.
This conclusion calls for more in depth training and professional development to support
general education teachers. Teachers’ confidence to teach is one of the key
characteristics that predict teaching ability; those who believe they can positively impact
student achievement are more likely to be effective in meeting students’ needs (Eggen &
Kauchak, 2006). Teachers knew they were not fully prepared and repeatedly stated that
there was a tremendous need for professional development to help clarify the admissions,
review, and dismissal (ARD) process, assessment process, BIPs and IEPs, legal
responsibilities of teachers and progress monitoring. One participant had this to say about
professional development:
I think the professional development being updated is important. How to address
those needs is very, very important. Having sessions that will give us the tools
that we can take care of those needs would be great.
Teachers’ participation in professional development varied greatly. Those teachers who
had professional development that pertained to special needs students affirmed it was
minimal and “not enough to apply it” in the classroom or they felt they needed refresher
courses because previous professional development was brief and they felt they did not
get much out of it. This attitude was shared by both general education teachers and
special education teachers alike.
Summary of Qualitative Results
There are many challenges in meeting the educational needs of children with disabilities
in the inclusion classroom. Our study concluded that general education teachers are
frustrated with the structure of the system (grading, progress monitoring, scheduling,
placement of students), lack …
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