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Investigating The Disability Inclusion Education Essay

While the transition to inclusive education has been continuing in many countries for a few decades, how schools should improve their inclusiveness has been a key question (Ferguson, 2008). Building on this question, the proposed study aims to investigate schools’ response to the inclusion movement in Turkey by focusing on a mainstream primary school’s engagement in inclusion of disabled students.

Inclusive education systems include several elements (Sucuoglu, 2004) which constantly influence the inclusion process because each of them carries out a critical role within the system. Understanding this system, therefore, requires a critical investigation of its elements (Educational Reform Initiative, 2011). The proposed case study assumes a systemic perspective towards inclusion by concentrating on both individual factors and their interconnection.

Recently, the number of studies which aimed at generating knowledge of practices to help schools improve their inclusiveness has increased (Ainscow et al. 2003). Among this stream of research, it is possible to trace studies with a range of purposes; from studies focusing on the social and cultural side of inclusion to those taking action to improve inclusive policy and practice (Farrell and Ainscow 2002). However, committed to the belief that school culture, policy and practice are interrelated elements of an inclusive system (Booth and Ainscow 2002), the proposed research aims at analyzing these elements together, in order to capture a full understanding of the inclusion process.

Research Context

Recently, more decision-makers are committed to developing inclusive policies (Hunt, 2011), there are more positive attitudes favouring education of all in regular classrooms as a human right (Thomas and Hick 2009) and more schools are in the search for better inclusive practices (Lindsey, 2007). In accordance with these developments, the idea behind the proposed research is one which defends the inclusion of all students in mainstream schools and rejects segregation towards diversity. In particular, this study focuses on the inclusion of disabled students in Turkey, which are discussed in the following two subheadings.

Rationale for disabled students

While the transition to inclusive education is being experienced in different ways throughout the world; how countries, governments and schools define inclusion also varies. In many of these definitions, one of the biggest variations is about the target population associated with inclusion. In this aspect, the question of ‘who is inclusion for?’ is being asked and shaping the definitions of inclusion in many countries.

According to Ainscow (2006) there are different levels of conceptualizing inclusion. In the first typology of defining inclusion, governments and schools, especially in developing countries, base their policies and practices on the inclusion of disabled children. Similarly, analysis of policies and practices in Turkey reveals that disabled students are defined as the target for inclusion (Gaad 2010; Turkish Ministry of National Education 2010; Turkish Prime Ministry 2008).

In addition, disabled children are one of the most segregated groups in schools as well as societies. As a result of this segregation, they were either placed in separate educational settings or totally deprived of the right for education (Thomas and Loxley 2001). A belief in the full inclusion of disabled children in mainstream schools is a motivation for the planned study.

Rationale for Turkey

Turkey, as a developing country (Melekoglu et al. 2009), is one of the ninety two governments that endorsed the Salamanca Statement (1994) by declaring commitment and developing policies towards fostering inclusion in schools (Sucuoglu, 2004). As a result, the number of disabled students entering inclusive classrooms doubled in the last ten years (Turkish Ministry of National Education, 2010). Despite this increase in quantity, some problems have still prevailed in schools. This was reflected on research findings which showed problems in service provision (Kuyumcu, 2011), negative attitudes of professionals (Rakap and Kaczmarek 2009) and the gap between policy and its implementation in schools (Educational Reform Initiative, 2011).

The already limited research on inclusive education in Turkey has usually focused on single aspects of inclusion such as attitudes or individualized education plans. Within Turkey’s trial for improving inclusive education, however, understanding the dynamics in the inclusive education system requires comprehensive research from various perspectives including teachers, parents, children and decision-makers. However, a literature scan on the national academic database of Turkey provided by the Higher Education Council (Turkish Higher Education Council, 2012) and several databases (Proquest 2012; PsycINFO 2012) has not come up with a comprehensive study which aims at exploring inclusion in Turkish schools.

Finally, my personal experience and past training has been another motivator for me to plan this research. I received psychological counselling training, had four year experience as a psychological tester and cooperated with mainstream schools in placing disabled students into inclusive schools. During these processes, problems experienced by schools to meet the expectations of regulations and engage in inclusive practices were always serious problem areas I was concerned with.

Research Site and Access

The research is planned in a primary mainstream school in Istanbul, Turkey. There are two main reasons for choosing Istanbul. The first reason is that the number of disabled children in schools in Istanbul is above the national average (Turkish Ministry of National Education, 2012). The second reason is that I have a professional relationship with Ministry Branches and primary schools in four regions of Istanbul. All branches and schools worked with me during the placement of disabled children in mainstream schools. As a psychological tester and inclusion guide for schools, I developed formal relationships with school principals, teachers, local branches and parents. This is expected to facilitate my access to schools.

Research Design

The proposed research is a case study, defined by Stake (1995, p.6) as “the study of the particularity and complexity of a single case, coming to understand its activity within important circumstances.” In this study, the factors which influence the inclusiveness of a primary school are investigated as the school engages in developing inclusive practices.

The research design for the proposed research includes five stages discussed below.

Stage 1. Research Aims and Questions

The main purpose of the proposed research is to investigate disability inclusion in a mainstream primary school in Turkey, as influenced by the inclusion movement started in 90s. In order to operationalize the purpose, inclusion will be analyzed in three domains:

The school’s inclusive culture,

The school’s inclusion policy,

The school’s inclusive practices.

The study has six questions in relation with the three domains. Questions 1, 2 refer to culture, questions 3, 4 refer to policy and questions 5, 6 refer to practices. The questions are:

1) In what ways does/does not the school succeed in establishing a community in which disabled students and their families are welcomed?

2) What is the nature of collaboration among school staff in developing an inclusive school culture?

3) In what ways does/does not the school succeed in developing inclusive policies for disabled students?

4) What is the relationship between the school policy and governmental policy in developing inclusive policies?

5) In what ways are/are not lessons planned and carried out in a way to include disabled students?

6) In what ways does/does not the school succeed in organizing services appropriate for individual needs of each disabled student?

Stage 2. Approach

The proposed case study has been designed in a way to help achieve the purpose of the study (Hitchcock and Hughes 1995). The main purpose is an in-depth exploration (Lincoln and Guba 1985) and understanding of the culture, policy and practice of a primary school as the school is in the process of implementing inclusion for disabled children. Therefore, an exploratory case study approach, which helps understand individuals or groups operating in real life conditions (Yin 2009; Cohen et al. 2000), was chosen in order to answer the research questions which require high commitment and engagement with the case (Cohen et al. 2000).

In addition, a case study approach is usually seen as an ideal approach to explore the experiences and characteristics of members or departments of a school (Cohen et al. 2000). In the proposed research, the case is the primary school selected, as an organized unit, and disability inclusion is the phenomenon which is concentrated on within the context (Robson, 2011).

The case study approach has been found appropriate by researchers to investigate inclusion in schools. For example, Avramidis et al. (2002) employed an in-depth case study approach to investigate inclusion in a secondary school in the south west of England. Employing case study as their main approach, the researchers aimed at investigating institutional as well as personal perspectives towards inclusion. In addition, they analyzed the school’s policy in relation with the authority inclusion regulations. Another case study was conducted by Tarr et al. (2012) to investigate the inclusive practices of a Finnish school. The study aimed to explore the inclusive practices with a holistic perspective and included several stakeholders including parents, administrators and teachers.

Stage 3. Participants and Sampling

The proposed research will employ a purposive sampling strategy (Cohen et al. 2000; Robson 2011) in order to define the case school. There are three school selection criteria for the proposed case study. Firstly, the school should have a sufficient number of disabled students. The number of disabled children in Istanbul, where the research is planned, doubles the national average (Turkish Ministry of National Education, 2012).

In Turkey, mental disability has the highest rate of being included in mainstream schools followed by physical disabilities and speech and language impairments, respectively (Turkish Ministry of National Education, 2006). Therefore, the second criterion is that the school should include disabled students from the three disability types.

The third criterion is the willingness of the school as well as the disabled students and all parents. Both the school staff and parents should be informed about the research and their willingness should be sought for the research.

Five disabled students will be observed through participant observation (Cohen et al. 2000). Ideally, these students and their parents should be chosen according to the average rate of including disabled children on a national level. In accordance with this rate, if possible, three students with mental disability, one student with physical disability and one student with speech and language impairment should be included into the study. Negotiation with school will determine which students and parents would be most appropriate.

Another method of the study is a questionnaire to be given to all available teachers, school counsellors and school administrators in order to capture attitudes across the whole school community towards disability inclusion.

Stage 4. Data Collection

The proposed research employs mixed methods to collect data. In case studies, the use of both quantitative and qualitative methods has been considered as a useful way of exploring the case (Yin, 2009). The methods for data collection which are explained below were designed in a way to help answer the research questions (Appendix 1).

Observation of school environment (RQ 1). This method will be used to check the appropriateness of the school environment (such as physical space, boards, classroom arrangement, staff demeanour, ways of dealing with requests etc.) to welcome disabled students and families. Cohen et al. (2000) claims the use of observation to be useful for describing the environment in which events occur.

Semi structured interview with the school principal (RQ 1). This method will be used to cross-check against observation data (Hopkins, 2008) as well as get additional comments of the principal concerning issues related with school environment. With this in mind, semi-structured interviews, according to Robson (2011), can serve the aim of getting data around already determined topics as well as additional comments of the interviewee around these topics.

Semi structured interviews with parents (RQ 1). This method will be employed to explore parents’ feelings of belongingness to and cooperation with the school as well as their attitudes towards inclusion. Semi-structured interviews with parents have been perceived and used as useful methods while collecting data from parents in order to evaluate the efficiency of inclusive practices in schools (Avramidis et al. 2002; Rouse and Florian 1996). Robson (2011) claims that semi-structured interviews are the most appropriate when the researcher is the interviewer at the same time. Similarly in the proposed case study, all the interviews will be conducted by the researcher.

Observation of disabled students in school (RQ 1). This method will be used to explore students’ engagement with the school community through behaviours such as attendance, participation in activities, friend relations. Also, the staff behaviour and language used with students will be investigated. Observation of students will be conducted in a way that the authenticity is maintained (Wragg, 1999). These observations will be carried out over time to locate possible change or stability in behaviour (Bell, 2005).

Questionnaire with teachers, administrators and counsellors (RQ 1). This method will be used to explore the overall attitudes of school staff towards inclusion of disabled students as a questionnaire is considered a useful method to collect survey data (Cohen et al. 2000). The usage of a questionnaire will help in reaching the whole staff and receiving their opinions.

Staffs review meeting observation (RQ 2). This method will be used to explore the level of participation and collaboration of school staff with each other in relation to special educational service provision. The meetings will be naturally observed without any interference as the event is going on (Robson 2011; Cohen et al. 2000).

Semi-structured interviews with teachers and a counsellor (RQ 2). This method will be used to explore the nature of consultation and cooperation between professionals in issues related with inclusive practice development and implementation. Semi structured interviews will help in questioning predetermined themes that emerge out of the staff meetings and receiving additional comments of the staff interviewed (Robson, 2011). In studies investigating inclusion in schools, this method has been found useful in generating qualitative data (Tarr 2012; Avramidis et al. 2002; Rouse and Florian 1996).

Semi-structured interview with school deputy (RQ 3). In Turkey, one of the school deputies is specifically assigned for carrying out the school’s policy related with inclusion. This method will be used to explore school’s policy in admitting, orienting and supporting disabled students as well as learning about other issues to be specified by the deputy.

Semi-structured interview with Ministry representative (RQ 3). In Turkey, the Ministry of National Education has branches in each city. Regulations by the ministry are centralized and directly influence the school policy and practices. Therefore, this method will be employed to explore ministry’s policy towards inclusion as it is reflected on the case school’s policy and practice. Semi-structured interviews with administrators proved to be useful in past studies which investigated inclusion in schools (for example Rouse and Florian 1999).

Document analysis of school and governmental/ministry inclusion policy (RQ 3 and 4). Robson (2011) emphasizes the importance of having a clear aim before analyzing documents. The current study will use this method with the aim of critically exploring the governmental policy as it is reflected in the case school’s implementation. In addition, how realistic is the policy in wider social context will be investigated.

The nature of the policy documents will be written. The governmental policies in Turkey are published on ‘Formal Newspaper’ which is accessible to everybody. The school policy documents will be obtained after consent is received from the school administrative board.

Lesson observations (RQ 5). This method will be used to explore the inclusion of disabled students within lessons in terms of both lesson content and classroom environment. Observations will be carried out after a substantial time is spent in the school in order to decrease the level of disruptiveness (Delamont, 2002).

Semi-structured interviews with classroom teachers (RQ 5). The aim of this method is to cross check observation data and get opinions of teachers concerning inclusion of disabled students within the lesson content and classroom environment.

Document analysis of individualized education plans (RQ 6). An individualized educational plan, which is prepared for individualization of services, is the map for the classroom teachers and school administrators who plan and provide these services (Christle and Yell 2010). This method will be used to investigate how educational and other support services are individually planned, consulted and updated as well as how objectives are written. IEPs of the five disabled children will be collected and analyzed on predetermined themes (Cohen et al. 2000) such as the functionality of the individual services and the measurability of the objectives.

Semi-structured interviews with school deputies (RQ 6). This method will be used to explore the level of utilization of individual services for disabled students and discuss the preliminary findings emerging from the IEP analysis.

Stage 5. Data Analysis

The proposed research will collect both quantitative and qualitative data. First, in qualitative data analysis, data from observations, interviews and document analyses will take form of field notes, transcriptions and categorized written reports (Appendix 1). These data will be coded and themes identified. This process will be informed by and contribute to the on-going development of the conceptual framework for the study, developed from scholarship and professional experience in the field (Creswell, 2007).

During data collection, questionnaires will be coded (Cohen et al. 2000) according to staff professions. A computer software will then be employed to analyze the survey data and produce descriptives, averages and percentages (Bell, 2005).

Procedure and Reporting the Findings

The procedure for the proposed case study includes three stages (Robson, 2011). The first stage will include the arrangement of access to school through negotiation with the case school. Secondly, the available resources will be explored and negotiated with the school. Lack of resources will be completed before data collection. The final stage will be the specification of the data collection activities both with supervisors and the case school.

After data collection and analysis are completed, the final report will be structured and written (Bell, 2005) in accordance with dissertation guidelines of University of Manchester. The case school will also be provided with a report.

Trustworthiness

An important element for enhancing trustworthiness of the proposed research will be the triangulation of methods and sources for each research question as well as the whole study. This is expected to make the study more credible (Creswell, 2007). In addition, member checks with school staff, auditing in the research process, supervisions, my personal experience in the field, peer negotiations and the substantial time I will spend in the field are expected to enhance the dependability of the study (Guba and Lincoln 1985). The school, participants and results of the current study will be described and reported in a way to enhance transferability by other similar schools. Researcher bias will be minimized and the context will be arranged carefully for the interviews. Naturalistic observation will happen first and then interpretations checked via interviews. Interference of the researcher with the natural occurrence of events will be minimized.

Ethics

The study will consider the ethical guidelines of The University of Manchester and The Turkish Ministry of National Education. Consent will be granted from both authorities before any data collection. Next, the school staff and families will be informed about the research aims and their written consent will be granted. Data collection instruments will not include any items that could harm people and violate confidentiality. Data collected will be anonym and kept safe during the research. After the research, data will be destroyed. The final report will not include any information that could violate confidentiality. In cases when data should be discussed with supervisors, full confidentiality will be ensured.

Timeline

The proposed research is a doctoral study which is expected to be completed in September 2016. The detailed timeline for the research process is provided in Appendix 2.

Word Count: 3292

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