Enacting understanding of inclusion in complex contexts: classroom practices of South African teachers
While the practice of inclusive education has recently been widely embraced as an ideal model for education, the acceptance of inclusive education practices has not translated into reality in most mainstream classrooms. Despite the fact that education policies in South Africa stipulate that all learners should be provided with the opportunities to participate as far as possible in all classroom activities, the implementation of inclusive education is still hampered by a combination of a lack of resources and the attitudes and actions of the teachers in the classroom. The main purpose of this paper was to develop a deeper understanding of a group of South African teachers’ personal understanding about barriers to learning and how their understanding relates to their consequent actions to implement inclusive education in their classrooms. A qualitative research approach placed within a cultural-historical and bio-ecological theoretical framework was used. The findings, in this paper, indicate that the way in which teachers understand a diversity of learning needs is based on the training that they initially received as teachers, which focused on a deficit, individualised approach to barriers to learning and development, as well as contextual challenges, and that both have direct and substantial effects on teachers’ classroom practices. As a result, they engage in practices in their classrooms that are less inclusive, by creating dual learning opportunities that are not sufficiently made available for everyone, with the result that every learner is not able to participate fully as an accepted member of their peer group in all classroom activities.
Keywords: barriers to learning; deficit approach to learning and development; diverse educational needs; inclusive classrooms; inclusive education; mainstream schools; teacher education for inclusion
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