Teaching Theories

The purpose of this report is to research theories, frameworks and the different aspects relating to the effects of inclusive learning and teaching of disabled learners We continually face challenges in supporting the learning of our students in our changing world. The curriculum that frames our learning and teaching practices are developed from research and learning theories. Expectations emphasise knowing how to learn and how to understand, access and use information gained. In the first half of the 20th century two theories dominated the way we learnt, Pavlov and Skinner were influential figures with their extensive research largely based on laboratory studies of animals. Skinners operant conditioning theories (Baldwin and Baldwin 1986) uses a mixture of positive and negative reinforcement to control learner’s behaviours. Operant conditioning is such a fundamental aspect of learning and is also effective in behaviour management.

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This is achieved entirely through verbal feedback, for both positive and negative reinforcement, on a negative this theory focused on observable behaviour and less on what learners gained in knowledge. In the middle of the 20th century research began to look closely into acquisition of knowledge, although the teacher still played the most active role. In the1970’s research moved away from laboratories and into more natural learning situations, this showed learners playing an active and strategic role in their own learning. Piaget’s theory had a huge impact on teaching methods a this time and remains one of the most important cognitive development theories in education to date, although further evidence suggests Piaget underestimated the ability of infants and children as well as not accounting for individual differences. Constructivist theory works well with disabled learners, due to the fact that the learners do not seem so overwhelmed and frustrated and it aids in motivating the students.

Teachers should prioritize and teach the most important facts relating to key ideas, the main aim and purpose of implementing this theory is intended to not cause undue stress or reason for the learners to feel overwhelmed with having to take on board and memorize too much information at any given time. The teacher should utilise techniques such as brainstorming in order to access and asses the skills and abilities gained by the students on an on-going basis, Students can track their own progress and errors and gain feelings of confidence and success. Although the behaviourist theories are positive in that they suggest breaking down tasks into small manageable segments, the best teaching practices tend to integrate ideas from all of the theory principles and integrate them to produce a more successful outcome.

Research enables us to understand how learning occurs, thus enabling the teachers to select and design the curriculum and look at the learning environments and the strategies for teaching and assessing those which support disabled learning. Knowing how to support the learning process for our students and implementing and identifying the theories and principles concerned, allows us to create and enjoy rich learning and life experiences for all those involved. Learning is central to economic success … Those who are disadvantaged educationally are also disadvantaged economically and socially; equity and viability dictate that all should have the opportunity to succeed. (Kennedy 1997:15)

People with disabilities experience stigma being attached to them which can on occasions be more detrimental and painful than the disability itself. Many children are kept at home or are institutionalised in one form or another; this tends to occur due to the lack of support for families and the feeling of worthlessness. The stigma attached to disabled people such as being frowned upon and seen as being a hindrance and a drain on society can form such opinions as for example ”there’s no point in educating disabled people as they are incapable of working or contributing to society” Attitudes are made of individual personal experiences as well as feelings, reactions and beliefs of the past. This consequently forms a cluster of set ideas which are called stereotypes. Bohner and Wanke (2002, p.5) defined it “attitude is a summary evaluation of an object of thought.”

As attitudes influence perception, thinking, other attitudes and behaviour, they contribute significantly to a person’s psychological make-up. The negatives of stereotyping are they can lead people to assume all members of a set group possess similar features and/or act in the same way. As these are handed down from generation to generation stereotyping needs to be challenged in all manners so that we can educate others and aid disabled learners in reaching their full potential and having the confidence to do so. Disabled people developed the social model of disability because the traditional medical model didn’t explain their personal experience of disability or help develop more inclusive ways of living. The social model dictates that disability is a reflection of the way society is organised, whereas the medical model looks at what is “wrong” with the person instead of the ”needs of the person”.

An example of the above would be a learner with visual impairment having to read something for the benefit of their studies, unfortunately under the medical model solutions are far and few between, an example of a social model solution would be giving access to a full- text audio recording. Inclusive education is the practice of teaching disabled students alongside their non-disabled peers within regular classroom settings, instead of segregating them into special classrooms. The principle of inclusion is based on the idea that every person has a right to belong and be included in the education community. This has benefits for both disabled and non-disabled learners as both can learn different skills from each other.

Inclusive learning promotes autonomy and personal growth, quality of life depending on their ability to exercise choice and self-determination, self-worth and esteem, the building of meaningful relationships and peer role models for academic, social and behavioural skills. Adaptations facilitate access to the general education curriculum (Fisher & Frey, 2001); for inclusion to be successful, it’s essential to implement adaptations that meet individual student needs (Cross, Traub, Hutter-Pishgahi, & Shelton, 2004). For the non-disabled learners it aids in developing other skills such as empathy, acceptance, skill acquisition and problem solving. It also encourages respect and acceptance for individual differences and preparation of a learner’s future in an inclusive society. Communication and Collaboration are at the heart of learning and change, between all those involved.

Practitioners have obligations under legislation including Part 4 of the Education Act 1996 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. They also have obligations including a requirement to have regard to the SEN Code of Practice.

Bernes (1973) Transactional analysis theory is a method of analysing communication using three personality states; the child, the parent and the adult. This helps us to reflect on our communications with others and be mindful in our approaches when doing so.

Communication itself has a huge impact on the learners and inclusive learning; there is a lot to consider when looking at modifications required. Teachers need to be aware of the environment provided, such as seating arrangements and background noise and ensure that the communication is accurate, jargon free, and work is prioritised with sub headings and explanations are brief and clear.

Any expectations regarding learners are stated firmly. Visuals aids and trips beyond the setting are required to extend the learners experiences and imaginations coupled with the need for any worksheets to be proofread before handing to the students.

The information must be accessible in all different formats and text should cover equality, differentiation and inclusiveness. Above all there must be an importance with respect to the development of inclusive learning as active listening to learner’s voices aids them to gain a feeling of belonging and provides them with the willingness to participate.

Inclusive learning comes with a wide range of challenges. National exams fail to always accommodate the student’s diverse backgrounds and needs, and so does the curriculum which tends to be content heavy and lack flexibility. Budgets for education services to supply resources required to support learners is problematic and so is access to some environment/ settings. Lack of involvement and support from our learner’s family can also cause barriers that need to be overcome. Lack of training for staff is a huge issue as lack of communication skills to communicate with learners with a disability can cause underachievement and low expectations, also lesson planning that covers learners diverse needs and cultural backgrounds takes more consideration and time as designing such teaching materials to suit all is a challenge.

In conclusion theories are required to continue to develop through further research to enable our learners to further their skills and reach their full potential. Inclusive learning techniques and practices are required to ensure the progression of disabled learners within society and provide the opportunity to change the misconception of disabilities and their impact. The education process and all those involved needs to implement, review, adjust and strive to overcome and manage barriers faced by the learners on a day to day basis. The question is no longer which approach is best but how we can apply what has been learned from each model in a way that can produce positive outcomes such as attainment and achievement.

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