Decisions about including students with learning difficulties are frequently oriented towards fitting the student into the existing general education classroom activities and focus primarily on social integration (Scruggs and Mastropieri, 1996). This social integration focus though negates the opportunity for the ‘included’ student to receive instruction in content areas. Ainscow (1995) suggests that integration is about making a limited number of changes and adaptions for pupils with Special Education Needs (SEN) in schools which change little overall. Contary to this inclusion implies the establishment of more fundamental changes and a restructuring to include and support all children (Fredrickson and Cline, 2003).
Or as Corbett and Slee (2000) detail, a fundamental reorganisation of schools so that they are intrinsically competent in educating all students in the community. In these circumstances it has been the insufficiency of the educational surroundings which create difficulties rather than the characteristics of students. Therefore the appropriate response to such difficulties, according to Dyson and Millward (2000), is the review and development of the environment rather than individual interventions with students themselves. Ainscow (1994) points out that this would demand a particular approach from teachers: ‘…involves teachers becoming more skilled in interpreting events and circumstances, and using the resources of other people around them as a source of support’.
Some schools are finding new and innovative ways to create learning environments that are responsive to the needs of students with mild/moderate difficulties. One of these approaches is that of ‘Collaborative Inclusion’. This essay willl explore the implications of Collaborative Inclusion for pupils with learning difficulties and comment on its usefulness as a method of improving the learning environment for these pupils.
Collaborative Inclusion is achieved when those skilled in special education serve as specialists to general teachers, collaborating with them in planning and implimenting instructional accomodations and adaptions in the general education environment (Hallanham, Kauffman and Lloyd, 1999). Accommodations are defined as modifications of instructional delivery that assist in meeting the individual needs of students with disabilities without altering the content (King-Sears, 1997). Adaptations are defined as modifications to methods of instructional delivery that assist in the meeting of the individual needs of students with disabilities by altering the content (King-Sears, 1997).
Collaborative and cooperative learning models are, according to Frederickson and Cline (2003), among the best documented methodologies for supporting successful inclusion in classrooms where there is considerable diversity in the student group. In their work of 1997, Cross and Walker-Knight, reviewed the inclusive provision for students who had SEN and they went on to describe Davidson’s (1994) five characteristics which he recognised as general to all collaborative learning methodologies. 1. Common task or learning activities suitable for group work – all members of the class or group are aware of the task and complete the work together. 2. Small-group learning – diverse and varied groups organised by the teacher. 3. Cooperative behaviour – teacher instruct pupils in the skills to work together.
4. Positive independence – tasks are prepared so that the only way of achieving a positive outcome is by working together. 5. Individual responsibility and accountability – Pupils are all responsible for the learning that takes place. In his work of 1994, Ainscow described schools which were flexible in their response to all children in their community as ‘Moving Schools’. Ainscow (1994) saw these schools as establishments that were responding to and sustaining a curriculum which is built on and emphasises co-operation, planning and engagement in the co-operative task of learning.
‘…a school based upon a co-operative structure is likely to make good use of the expertise of all its personnel, provide sources of stimulation and enrichment that will foster their professional development and encourage positive attitudes to the introduction of new ways of working. In short it provides the culture necessary for helping teachers take responsibility for the learning of all their pupils’. Ainscow (1994)
In his later work of 1999 which followed on from Rosenholtz’ 1991 work, and in some particulars the work of Cross and Walker-Knight (1997) Ainscow emphasises that the solution to raising the achievement and improving the significance of learning for all pupils is to create a ‘moving school’ that is constantly in search of refinements and developments in response to the challenges it meets. Ainscow highlighted 6 conditions as features of ‘moving schools’.