Research needed to advance inclusion in schools

January 13, 2015

Part three of a seven-part series

On Sept. 10, the ATA the Report of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Inclusive Education in Alberta Schools.

The report is the product of an arm’s-length panel formed in May 2013 due to a myriad of concerns from teachers and administrators. Panel members represented a broad range of roles and perspectives within the education system. After face-to-face meetings and in-depth research, the panel concluded that a previously released framework to make schools more inclusive (Alberta Education’s Setting the Direction Framework, published in 2009) had not been effectively implemented.

The panel’s 38 recommendations are arranged around seven themes:

  1. shared vision,
  2. leadership,
  3. research and evidence,
  4. resources,
  5. teacher professional growth,
  6. time and
  7. community engagement.

In this, the third of a seven-part series, the ATA News outlines the recommendations that fall within the third of these seven themes.

Research and evidence

Current research, evidence and lessons learned inform implementation decisions.

Recommendation 17 — to the government of Alberta and post-secondary institutions

With immediate, targeted, substantial and sustained government funding, establish partnerships with institutions with preservice teacher education programs to conduct regular research in Alberta classrooms, determine the effectiveness of inclusion and advance this field of study.

Ongoing research on inclusive education is of critical importance. Funding for research in this area must also allow for the diffusion of research and knowledge into readily accessible language and formats for use in schools and classrooms.

It’s also important to develop reciprocal relationships between schools and post-secondary institutions. Active and valued participation by teachers and administrators can guide researchers to ask the questions that are most relevant with regard to the challenges confronting schools. Ongoing research must take place so that there is a clear picture of inclusion and promising practices. This research should also be used to make inclusive education funding decisions and should include a dissemination plan.

As part of the immediate, targeted, substantial and sustained funding to support implementation outlined in recommendation 8, establish an inclusive schools network, including an annual face-to-face conference, to share action research and promising practices.

Part of the success of the Alberta Initiative for School Improvement (AISI) program was the opportunity to find schools or school jurisdictions with similar areas of concern and to share research and promising practices. This was done through online networking, as well as an annual face-to-face conference, where challenges and successes could be brought to light.
Creating such a network would assist in professional development, co-ordination and networking, which are essential to achieving systemwide change. ❚

Read the full report
Read the companion document
Read part four of the ATA News seven-part series