My experience at Gems Metropole School as a student trainee teaching twenty-five children in FS2 class gave me an opportunity to have an encounter with in field experience in my profession. This is a reflective essay that focuses on the three High-leverage practices I came into contact with as well as the learning philosophies that I was able to develop and adapt during my time at Gems Metropole School. I chose to use three high leverage practices that were more relevant in my teaching and that could help me develop a good relationship with my students. Among the three high leverage practices that I used in my teaching are;
Chose to learn about the culture of my students, their religious beliefs, family set up, intellectual capabilities as well as their personal experiences and resources that they used in instruction.
My classroom was composed of students from diverse cultural settings. I chose to learn about the various cultures from which my students came from. This way, the children built confidence in me as they viewed me as one of their own, able to accept and appreciate their cultural orientations. Among the cultural orientations among my class members were family set-up as well as religion. For instance, within my class, I had children from various religious backgrounds such as Muslims, Christians as well as Hindus. I freely accepted the religions of the students, allowed them to put on clothes in a manner accepted by their religions. For example, within my classroom, there are children from the Muslim faith who put on Hijab.
In planning the class sitting arrangement, I also considered the religious beliefs among my students. For instance, I realized and appreciated the fact that within the children from Islamic faith, girls should be separated from boys in the sitting arrangement. I also through interaction with an E11 girl, a Greek, appreciated and national allowed the use of native language. This girl, I noticed initially she would just keep quiet but after interacting with her, I realized that the reason for her not communicating in the classroom is because she could not pronounce words correctly and as a result she was scared. To appreciate culture and language diversity, I allowed the girl the freedom to use the language of her choice to communicate and as a result she became free and confident to communicate for the first time freely. Furthermore, I also studied the children to understand their intellectual capabilities. This enabled me to choose teaching styles that were best suited to students based on their intellectual capabilities. I realized that my class was made up of both the disabled and the non-disabled students. In order to help the students of both abilities appropriately, I had to study the operations, experiences as well as the resources that I could use especially in teaching the disabled students.
Teaching and interacting with both the normal as well as disabled students game me the opportunity to select the best mode of teaching such students; should they be mixed and taught from the same point or should the disabled students be taught separately from the normal students (Bennett, et al. 1997). I also had the rare chance through my interaction with the good teachers of Gems Metropole School to know the advantages and disadvantages of mixing the students both the normal and the disabled in a common classroom against separating them. For instance, I had the chance to speak to Tracey, the head of inclusion in Gems Metropole School. Through this interaction I was able to learn quite a lot concerning learning among children with varied abilities. My close interaction with the SEN department gave me the opportunity of spending time and interacting with SEN students (Booth & Ainscow, 2002).
During this interaction I learned a lot from these amazing students. For instance, my interaction with Tallal Amary, a student in grade 2 working on a program called phoneme awareness enabled me to learn a lot on how this activity works and how the activity helps pupils with challenges to read and write with a lot of ease. Tallal used his LSA support to read and then match the sentences that he read correctly through the use of his phonic knowledge. The time I spend at the SEN department made me learn a lot about learning among children with varied challenges. For instance, I came to learn that Tallal was a student who previously threw tantrums and could get upset easily. As a result, he clashed with various students on from time and again. Furthermore, Tallal had a difficulty sharing and playing with other pupils and spend most of his time playing with his tab.
I realized that as a professional teacher, these are some of the challenges to encounter among pupils from various backgrounds (Fox & Ysseldyke, 1997). For instance, I realized that with students such as Tallal, they can be helped to adapt to normal life through the use of behaviour chart as well as using reward charts. I had the opportunity to visit Miss Elissa’s class where Tallal had been moved to find help and ensure that he resorted to normal behaviour. I learned that while in this class, Tallal could not learn and work independently as a result there was need to find help that could solve his problem.
From this experience I learned that dealing with pupils who exhibit various abnormal behaviours requires professionals. Hence I discovered that as a teacher there is great need for me to undertake studies on how to deal with pupils who exhibit autistic traits (Salvia, et al, 2007). I also learned that when dealing with pupils with such behaviours it is essential to get the opinion of their parents concerning the pupil’s case as well as concerning the appropriate mechanism put in place to solve the pupil’s case. For instance Tallal’s parents were called into his case and they agreed for LSA. To ensure that Tallal got professional help, Miss Mercy was given training on how to implement positive behaviour with the intention of restoring Tallal’s situation.
I also learned that one of the challenges faced when dealing with cases of Tallal’s calibre is having the parents of the victim consent to the measures the school want to put in place to address the condition (Salvia, et al. 2012). For instance, in Tallal’s case, his parents refused to allow a diagnosis of the condition since they simply did not want it even though he clearly exhibited autistic conditions. I realised that through hard work, it is possible to change the abnormal behaviour of autistic pupils and make them act in a responsible manner. For instance, Tallal’s LSA through hard work was able to change the condition of Tallal. Through my interaction with Tallal, his parents, teachers as well as the entire SEN department, I learned that inclusive education is an issue that needs special attention not only from the government but by the society as whole (Mitler, 2012).
Together with literature reviews that I have managed to do on the issues facing children with special needs, inclusive education is a topic that needs special attention to help teachers have an easier time when dealing with children with special cases while at the same time ensure that the children with special needs are able to freely bond with the ordinary members of society easily. From my researches on various sources such as Google Scholar and Scopus, I learned that inclusive education has today become a hot topic of discussion and study. Many people are increasingly getting to appreciate the need for inclusive education to help not only children with special needs find it easier to co-exist in the mainstream society but also helps the normal children learn how to appreciate and interact with the children with special needs within the society (Mastropieri & Scruggs, 2012).
Studies in this topic will also help teachers acquire the necessary skills that will help them know how to handle children with special needs and how best to make them better members of the mainstream society. Literature review made me realize that children have different learning abilities and therefore to handle them properly and ensure that they are able to use their abilities to the maximum, it is of essence that I learn about inclusive education extensively. I learned that most special needs children have low self-esteem, are ashamed of who they are as well as face the risk of being bullied and molested by the normal children. As a result, being a teacher requires me to come up with good measures that will ensure that such children are able to appreciate themselves for who they are as well as they are able to be appreciated and accepted by the other members of the mainstream society (Lindsay, 2007).
The inclusive program pays attention to the right of the child to participate while at the same time recognising the duty of the school to accept the child (Ferguson, 2008). I learned that inclusion is not only constrained to the cognitive and physical disabilities of the child. It also includes recognition of children from diverse backgrounds. Hence inclusive education pays special attention to children who exhibit diversities in the language of communication, cultural diversity, age, gender among other human diversities that would otherwise make one secluded from the mainstream society.
Through inclusive education programs, children are equipped not only with classroom skills but also with skills they are to use within the classroom as well as in the outside world to make a living and to earn a normal life that will enable them compete favourably with non-disability members of the society. Through the inclusive education, the special needs children are able to have their social, civil as well as educational rights recognized and respected in equal measure (Slee, 2011). Due to the prominence of inclusive education, I discovered that there are scholars such as John O’Brien and Connie Lyle O’Brien regard inclusive education as a force that has brought full transformation to the education sector across the world.
A review of the various academic literatures on the inclusive education programs made me realize how important education is to the society. I realized that as a teacher, I should promote a learning environment to all pupils in my classroom to ensure that they are able to learn and acquire basic life skills that will see them live better lives (Florian, 2008). I discovered through various academic literature reviews that in the inclusive education program, the students are usually grouped according to their ages whereby they are placed in the groups according to their chronological ages.
I learned that the purpose of imparting these values in the students is to ensure that any possible cases of elitism are reduced as the children progress into the senior education levels as well as ensure that the level of cooperation among the students is enhanced. My interaction with the SEN department made me realize that there are team-teaching models which are commonly used to in the inclusionary practice (Ainscow & Sandill, 2010).
Some of the inclusionary practices that are commonly used in team-teaching models include;
One teach, one support
I realized that in this team-teaching model, the teacher in the inclusionary classroom uses a lesson plan which ensures that the individual needs of the students are met while at the same time the management at the classroom is enforced appropriately (Mitchell, 2014). For instance, I learned that both Miss Mercy and Miss spread their efforts in a manner that ensured that the needs of Tallal were met. Whereas Miss Ellisa was tasked with the responsibility of teaching Tallal, Miss Mercy provided the necessary support that Tallal needed to adapt to normal behaviour.
One teach, one observe model
Through my interaction with Tallal’s case, I realized that this model ensured that two teachers were required to handle Tallal’s case. One of the teachers had to be more experienced and possessed the necessary skills to handle Tallal’s case. The duty of the other teacher was simply to observe what took place for the sake of the Functional Behaviour Analysis of the student (Forlin & Chambers, 2011). For instance, in the Tallal’s case, I realized that Miss Mercy was more experienced and was even taken for training on handling Tallal. On the other hand, Miss Ellisa’s role was simply to observe was transpired for the sake of conducting a Functional Behaviour Analysis of Tallal.
From my observation of how the teachers handled the case of Tallal, I realized that both the teachers at one point were involved in teaching, planning as well as in supporting Tallal equally. They for instance, together sought information on Tallal’s case from his parents with the intention of coming out with a lasting solution that would ensure that Tallal embraced behaviour change and adapted to normal life (Parasuram, 2006).
Building respectful relationships with my students
While at Gems Metropole School, I discovered that the teachers at this school have development very good relationships with the students as well as with the parents. Due to the good mutual relationship, the teaching-learning environment is very conducive and as a result the students of this school perform highly in their examinations. The level of discipline among the students in this school is also very high. Students are involved in setting some of the rules, routines while at the same time they are involved in the activities meant at boosting the values such as care, responsibility as well as respect. This I learned is a very effective method of running a school. As a teacher, I intent to engage in similar management tactics that will see the students in my classroom as well as at my school in large develop good morals and values that will see them become responsible members of the society (Florian & Linklater, 2010).
The good mutual relationship between the school and the parents is also very essential as it ensures that the school runs very smoothly without unnecessarily getting into conflicts with the parents. The good relationship extents to a respect for diverse cultures as well as the respect for the environment and respect for various diversities among the students. Both the disabled as well as the non-disabled students are respected and appreciated in equal measure.
For there to be smooth learning, I should create learning conditions within my classroom that ensures that all the tasks assigned to my students are able to be handled smoothly and with ease. I discovered that classroom rules are very important as they give children a clear direction to follow and ensure that children are able to operate in a desirable manner that will reduce chances of friction between myself and my students. For this reason, I learned that as a teacher I should set clear rules to be followed by the students in my classroom. It should not just end with setting the rules but I should go an extra mile to teach the rules to the students, explaining to them the importance of such rules to ensure all of them are aware of each and every rule in my classroom (Allan, 2007). This way, the children will be highly interested in the classroom activities that I set and assign to them while at the same time there will be a mutual relationship between the students and myself as their teacher. Through my interaction with the students and the other teachers at Gems Metropole School, I was able to discover that teaching entails learning the various ways that one can use to pass on knowledge to students in a given subject or topic.
The interaction with students has inspired my zeal and passion in teaching further. Today my desire to learn and study inspired by the interaction I had at Gems Metropole School with teachers, students as well as through the various academic literature reviews has increased my desire further and wants to deep myself deeper into the pool of knowledge (Allan & Slee, 2008). Today, more than any other time in my life I love my profession more and have the desire to continue doing research in my teaching profession in order for me to become the best teacher there has ever been. Teaching to me just like the analogy of Eliel Saarinen, a 20th Century architect is like having a chair in a room, a room in a house and a house in environment. It entails impacting knowledge to students that is able to transform their lives from one level to another and give them quality lives in the future. Moreover, knowledge acquisition is unending; children keep learning and acquiring new knowledge each and every day as they progress in their lives (Savolainen, et al. 2012). My interactions at Gems Metropole School have made me adapt teaching strategies that I intend to apply in my teaching career to make me an effective teacher.
Providing feedback to students
In order to avoid discrepancies among my students between their performance and the desired goals, I paid great attention on giving feedback. As one of my teaching styles, I engaged the students in giving feedback among their peers whereby one student could give a comment to his/her peer. Similarly, I encouraged the use of self-feedback whereby I encouraged my students to reflect on what they had learned by drawing and colouring smiley faces. Among the types of feedback I used in my classroom include;
In this type, I gave feedback to my students by answering various questions asked by them as well as by giving instructions to be followed by my students.
During the various tasks in the classroom, I could make comments on the tasks various meant to give instructions to the students on how to carry out the task. I ensured that my comments were always positive and encouraging the students to work hard.
To ensure that the feedback in my classroom was effective, I engaged the students in activities that could boost their morale to perform better. For instance, I showed a film to my students of a man who set good goals and achieved them. I then assigned tasks to them to complete just as the goals accomplished in the film. Moreover, to create curiosity and make my students more active, I let them know what will be done next after they accomplish the goals that I had set out for them.
My philosophy of teaching
To ensure that my teaching was effective I employed the use of various teaching philosophies. These philosophies made my work easier, enjoyable while at the same time enable me build a good relationship with my students. Among the teaching philosophies that I employed include; lesson planning, active learning, cooperative learning, assessment and reflection.
To make my teaching easier and effective, I ensured that I planned my lessons in an orderly manner. Planning my lessons helped me as a teacher in the identification of the cognitive levels among the students I taught as well as to adapt to the instructions outlined in the teaching curriculum accordingly. The use of a teaching plan, ensured that I do not put the learning of my students at the risk of failure. The students from the first day of the session were able to know the units they were going to cover, the time each unit would take, prepare for the exams and assessments in the course of the session as well as to read ahead of schedule (Connor, et al. 2008). Lesson planning also ensured that I did not leave out any part in the teaching of the course that is relevant to the students while at the same time ensuring that I only took the time set out in the plan without necessarily extending my lessons which could have landed me into trouble with my students.
A teaching plan also ensured that as the teacher I was able to adhere to the learning theories provided for in the teaching curriculum. I also learnt that among the essential elements of a lesson plan are the learning styles as well as a recognition and appreciation of the cultural diversities among my students. Using a lesson plan ensured that I adhered to the styles of learning that ensured that my students were able to understand the lesson while at the same, the learning styles ensurd that I employed teaching tactics that were able to appreciate and recognize diversities in the cultural composition of my learners (Forlin, et al. 2007). This ensured that I did not get into conflicts with learners as a result of using learning styles that looks down upon individual cultures. Furthermore, adherence to the lesson plan enabled me to identify objectives of the lesson clearly, the success criteria among my students as well as the effectiveness of the strategies that I would use to assess the reaction of the students to my teaching styles. This way, the students were not only able to register high classroom performance but also to develop skills necessary for their survival out of the classroom and to develop good behaviour and mutual understanding between myself and my students.
During my period at Gems Metropole School I used teaching styles which ensured that the students gained knowledge through direct participation. As a teacher, I was mostly involved with the students as a motivator as I let them participate in during much of the tasks. This way, students are given control over the learning process and allowed to own the knowledge (Lancaster & Bain, 2007). In most cases I set questions for the students and required them to read and research out of the box. The students would then make presentations on what they had gathered in the next classes. This mode of learning boosted the morale among my students and made them very courageous. Similarly, the students had a chance to read and gain more knowledge than what I should have given.
At the end of the day, the children were very knowledgeable and inquisitive at the same time (Peters, 2007). Allowing the students to take control of the knowledge encourages critical thinking among the students as they are able to encounter situations head on and tackle them in an attempt to come up with solutions to such problems. Moreover, through active learning, I realized cultural diversity was able to be identified and appreciated. For instance during studies on global cultures, children from diverse cultural backgrounds were allowed to present a manner that recognized and appreciates the various cultures. I gave the children a chance to make presentations in their local languages as well as to narrate to the entire classroom their cultural experiences (Florian, et al. 2010). This way, the class was able to learn and appreciate the diverse cultures of the various members of the class. Those from Indigenous cultures who previously felt despised grew confident of their cultures, were able to talk of their cultures freely as well as share their cultural experiences with the rest of the class freely without fearing.
Active participation also boosted the confidence of the students in my classroom and took away the monotony of having to listen to the teacher talk throughout the lesson. Having seen my students at Gems Metropole School develop, I believe in active learning as a teaching strategy worth employing in my future teaching career.
During my time at Gems Metropole School, I noticed that the student-student relationships as well as student-teacher relation was mutual. Each and every student seamed friendly to one another as well as friendly to the teachers. The students were so free with the teachers that they freely shared secrets, experiences as well as problems. This I realized served to reduce stress among the students as well as among the teachers. One’s problem was treated as a problem for all and as a result everybody wanted to help out their colleagues whenever they realized that they had a problem (Artiles, et al. 2011).
The school administration encouraged cooperative learning among the students as the best way to get to learn and understand much about the students and ensure that the students viewed the school environment as a home away from home. For instance, in my classroom, I grouped the students in groups and assigned them various tasks (Armstrong, 2006). Within the groups, the students could develop mutual relationships as well as gain confidence enabling them to freely communicate within the group. Judging by the top professionals serving in the various social positions as witnessed in our society, cooperative learning must be the reason behind the production of great personalities; with oratory prowess from Gems Metropole School.
Cooperative learning also promoted sharing of various cultural experiences hence promoting cultural diversity among the students. Similarly, cooperative learning promoted a good mutual relationship among the students as well as among the students and their teachers (Downing & Peckham-Hardin, 2007). Having been part and parcel of the great relationship enjoyed at Gems Metropole School as a result of cooperative learning, I would chose cooperative learning as a learning strategy for use in my teaching career.
While on placement at the Gem Metropole School, I used various strategies to assess how much the students had understood in the course of the learning. Conducting an assessment enabled me determine the effectiveness of my teaching techniques. Through assessment, I was able to determine the areas in my teaching plan that needed to be improvement as well as the areas that have performed (Hodkinson, 2010). As a result, I was able to adjust my teaching techniques to meet the demands of the students and to ensure that all the members of my classroom were able to benefit fully from my teaching methods (Armstrong, et al. 2016).
To assess the understanding level of my students, I employed the use of various formative assessment criteria such as the use of anecdotes, pictures, asking questions as well as use of role play among the students. This way, I was able to discover that in my classroom, there were varied types of students based on the level of their understanding ability. Some were fast learners while others slow learners (Armstrong, et al. 2009). Having learnt this, I realized that I had to adjust my teaching styles to ensure that both the fast learners as well as the slow learners benefitted fully from my teaching styles.
Whenever I took up a task as a teacher, I tried to reflect on the styles I used in the teaching as well as an assessment on how effective my lesson was. By so doing, I was able to reflect on what transpired during the lesson, how the students reacted to my teaching as well as to consider other possible teaching styles that would work better. By reflecting on my teaching plan, I was able to determine what I was to plan next and as a result, my classes went on smoothly without unnecessarily having to stop to think and develop new teaching plans along the way (Stubbs, 2008).
Through reflection, I was able also to engage in teaching styles that ensured that I remained relevant to my students throughout the session. I recorded the reflections of my lessons through photos taken using my mobile phone as well as by recording the reflections in my diary. This way, I could review my teaching styles at the end of the day while seated in my living room and devised better approaches to teaching the students who did not understand the topic of the day to ensure that they all understood (Loreman, et al. 2007). Furthermore, while in the classroom teaching the students, I used various questions posed at the students with the intention of helping me gage the understanding level of the students, determine the areas that needed some improvement and a repeat as well as to be able to reflect on my teaching styles and methods.
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