Exploring the Benefits and Challenges of Inclusion through the Perceptions of Teachers and Administrators at the Elementary Level in a Large Florida School District

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Florida Southern College
In the early twentieth century, parents began forming advocacy groups to help bring educational needs of students with disabilities to the public eye. These groups rallied together and by the early 1970’s, a number of students with disabilities were being educated in the public school. Finally, in 1975, the United States Congress enacted the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA) then the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) and ultimately, EHA was absorbed in the IDEA law and provisions. The provisions of IDEA establish a right to public education for all children regardless of disability and requires schools provide individualized or special education for children with qualifying disabilities. IDEA governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education, and related services to more than 6.5 million eligible infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities. Inclusive education means that all students attend and are welcomed by their neighborhood schools in age-appropriate, regular classes and are supported to learn, contribute and participate in all aspects of the life of the school. Inclusive education is about how educators develop and design schools, classrooms, programs and activities so that all students learn and participate together. Inclusion expresses a commitment to educate each student, to the maximum degree appropriate in the regular classroom. This method involves bringing support services to the child instead of moving the child to the services. However, rather than having to keep up academically with the other students, they can receive accommodations based on their disability in the regular education environment. Situated in an elementary education setting, this study explored the perceptions of regular education teachers, ESE teachers, and administrators on the effectiveness of inclusion programs for special education to better understand the benefits and challenges of the learning environment for students with disabilities. The purpose of this case study, further, was to explore methods, practices, and approaches teachers use and support provided by administrators. My research questions that guided this study were: 1. What support is provided by educational leaders to regular education and Exceptional Student Education (ESE) teachers in an elementary inclusion setting? 2. What methods, practices, and approaches are identified by regular education and ESE teachers in an elementary inclusion setting? 3. What are the benefits and challenges identified by teachers and administrators in an elementary inclusion setting? The theoretical framework of this study was social constructionism. This theory stresses the fundamental role of social interaction in the development of cognition, and how the community plays a central role in the process of making meaning. Employing qualitative research methodology, this researcher conducted interviews with eight decisively selected participants. The findings reported from this study and the literature reviewed explored the benefits and challenges of inclusion that the regular education and ESE teachers are faced with on a daily basis. The perceptions of principals, regular education, and ESE teachers were shared based on their personal, overall experiences. Educational experience, training, and administrative support for teaching students with disabilities play an essential role in the successful implementation of inclusion. Teachers’ preparedness plays a significant role in the success of the implementation of inclusion as well as collaboration among the regular education and the ESE teacher. Inclusion is important because it is constructed on the principle that students with disabilities should be valued for their exceptional abilities and included as important members of the regular education classroom just as the regular education students. Inclusion enables these students to be educated with their peers in the least restrictive environment with instructional strategies such as cooperative learning and differentiation being used to deliver instruction.
Dissertation presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Education in the School of Education at Florida Southern College by Kim Kelley.
Elementary education, Special education
Kelley, K. (2017). Exploring the Benefits and Challenges of Inclusion through the Perceptions of Teachers and Administrators at the Elementary Level in a Large Florida School District (Order No. 27544733). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global: The Humanities and Social Sciences Collection. (2311958372). https://www.proquest.com/dissertations-theses/exploring-benefits-challenges-inclusion-through/docview/2311958372/se-2