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Teachers need to gain theoretical and practical knowledge for their practice, but also possess the belief that they are responsible for the education of all of their students within diverse classrooms (Jordan, Glenn, & McGhie-Richmond, 2010). Teachers who have adopted inclusive approaches are able to improve academic standards for all students over time (Florian & Black-Hawkins, 2011; Jordan, Schwartz, McGhie-Richmond, 2009). Additionally, teacher self-efficacy (i.e., the belief that one is a capable educator) is a key competency for teachers in inclusive classrooms. Teachers with high self-efficacy work harder and persist longer to assist students who experience learning challenges (Woolfolk, Hoy, Hoy, & Davis, 2009). Developing expertise in teaching is a gradual and multifaceted process, involving the acquisition of content and procedural knowledge, skills and abilities, a student-centered approach to instruction, and professional self-awareness and understanding (Berry, 2009). Effective professional learning leads to improved practice, which, in turn, leads to student achievement (Katz & Dack, 2013). Pre-service programs are key in teachers’ development of exemplary practices for inclusive classrooms (Copfer & Specht, 2014). However, little is known about the nature and duration of experiences required for the development of such practices (King et al., 2010), particularly in the pre-service program and initial years of teaching.
Method and Results
This paper presents a concept mapping (Kane & Trochim, 2007) of questions with participants at the end of their pre-service programs at 15 faculties of education across Canada. These questions were asked to better understand what experiences preservice teachers have had that influence that influence their instructional practice for inclusive education. Increased understanding about the value of these experiences is paramount in ensuring that pre-service teacher programs are graduating teachers who believe that all students belong and can be educated in the inclusive classroom. A hierarchical cluster analysis revealed 6 themes: Practicum Experiences; Mentoring Relationships; Education Program; Professional Development Past Jobs/Positions that Influence Practices Now; Personal Life Experience. The analysis had a stress value of 0.17, meaning the map was a very good representation of the data. To select the number of clusters in the final solution, the investigators examined the conceptual meaning of the cluster themes and the statistical bridging values in different solutions (Kane & Trochim, 2007). Each of the 6 clusters contained 16 to 24 statements with an average bridging value between 0.15 and 0.58, which was a very good representation of the data.
The results of this research have implications for better understanding the acquisition of exemplary inclusive practices and the development of teachers’ self-efficacy for inclusive practices in our classrooms. Of primary importance is the knowledge gained concerning the types and qualities of professional learning that positively influence pre-service teachers’ beliefs, practices, and self-efficacy in inclusive classrooms. Professional learning programs can build on this new understanding to better support the implementation of inclusive practices in Canadian schools.
Jacqueline A. Specht, University of Western Ontario
Grace Louise Howell, The University of Western Ontario
Linda Ismailos, Brock University
Michael Fairbrother, University of Ottawa
McKenzie Vanderloon, The University of Western Ontario
Tiffany L. Gallagher, Brock University
Jessica Whitley, University of Ottawa