The Rhetoric and Reality of Leading the Inclusive School: Socio-Cultural Reflections on Lived Experiences
Inclusion is… a process of addressing and responding to the diversity of needs of all children, youth and adults through increasing participation in learning, cultures and communities, and reducing and eliminating exclusion within and from education. It involves changes and modifications in content, approaches, structures and strategies with a common vision that covers all children of the appropriate age range and a conviction that it is the responsibility of the regular system to educate all children .
2. Materials and Methods
What socio-cultural understandings of leadership enactment, focused on establishing and maintaining an inclusive school culture, are gained from exploring the lived experiences of those working in a basic education context in each of the following countries - Australia, Canada and Colombia?
- In what ways are shared lived experiences reflected in specific or conceptual language?
- What cultural and societal similarities and differences emerge in relation to what inclusion ‘looks like’, ‘feels like’, and ‘sounds like’ in a basic education context?
3.1. Australian Context
3.1.1. The Australian Case Study School
The [Forrester Hill] community has a strong sense of identity and culture. We wrap our Forrester Hill Family … in support so each individual is empowered to reach their full potential. Our Vision—Growing Together Learning Forever - and Schoolwide Pedagogical Framework … [are] encapsulated in our metaphor of the Jacaranda Tree ... The roots represent community core values and respect for individual needs; the trunk represents the building of strong relationships; and, the flowers, leaves, seeds and pods are the outcomes and achievements that others can see.
3.1.2. Insights into Lived Experience
“Inclusion is what we are about. It’s a moral commitment” I have to my community and students. It’s also my commitment to staff—that they feel competent and capable to address student needs. My role is to be “out and about” in my school, talking, observing, acting—“not sitting behind a desk doing paperwork”. Of course, I do that too, but not at the detriment of my students and staff. We rely largely on quantitative data and observation to justify what we do. I told [District Director] that we had done our research and found existing research to support our plans and “he just agreed to my plan and associated spend. We explore, we get data, we plan, we receive feedback”—“we discuss what we’re setting in place long term and how to collect ongoing feedback” so we can continue “to improve our students’ experiences and outcomes”.
3.1.3. Australian Themes
Theme 1: Strong Inclusive Vision and Direction
Theme 2: Distributed Leadership Practice
Theme 3: A Schoolwide Pedagogy Guides Teacher Practice
Theme 4: An Adaptable Student Centered Community
3.2. Canadian Context
3.2.1. The Canadian Case Study School
3.2.2. Insights into Lived Experience
“I need to ensure that the work of creating an inclusive school is ongoing” so that we provide a caring, inclusive, safe and accepting environment that “supports the needs of ALL students. My role is to engage staff in inclusive education”. Inclusive education “requires shared commitment and leadership” to tackle very complex issues found within the school community. At our school “we have a strong emphasis on additional class support, however, we are still not fully inclusive”, as we still have “special education withdrawal and ELL withdrawal, which is becoming less and less”. The district is moving away from withdrawal “and into total in-class support”. It is a mindset of some staff that “withdrawal is still better”, so creating an inclusive school has taken time, and it is “still on-going. Some staff need to ‘shift’ their thinking and ideals”.
3.2.3. Canadian Themes
Theme 1: Student Centered Practice and Decision Making
Theme 3: On-going Commitment to Inclusive Education
Theme 4: School-wide Approach to Universal Design for Learning
3.3. Colombian Context
3.3.1. The Colombian Case Study School
3.3.2. Insights into Lived Experience
I “believe that the Principal must be convinced of inclusion. Believe that all children should have possibilities to learn”. We, as Principals, must be “convinced, trust, and believe” in this project. We work diligently, making “curricular adaptations”, helping with “flexibility” and the creation of strategies. For inclusion to work, I must be a “pedagogical leader and obviously an administrative and organizational leader”. I must be there, available for all. For inclusion to work, I must be “willing to guide all personnel” because we must understand that “to meet the needs of our children we must work hard”.
3.3.3. Colombian Themes—(Please note that the original transcripts for this section were in Spanish and the wording has therefore been translated into English for the purpose of this paper)
Theme 1: Reinforcing the Belief that Inclusion is Possible
Theme 2: A Strong Leader who Builds Capacity in Others
Theme 3: Curricular Flexibility and Collective Effort
Theme 4: Natural and Voluntary Student-centered School Community Environment
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|Support Teacher—supporting needs including extension||(ST)|
|Behavior Coach—special education background trained in Positive Behavior approach||(BC)|
|Head of Special Education||(HOSE)|
|Teacher of Year 6||(T1)|
|Teacher of Year 4||(T2)|
|Principal (15 years in school)||(P)|
|Deputy (Vice) Principal (12 years in school)||(DP)|
|Teacher of Year 3||(T1)|
|Special Education Teacher supporting learning needs of students and teachers||(T2)|
|ELL supporting learning needs of students whose first language is not English||(T3)|
|Principal (5 years as school Principal and 22 experience as a Principal)||(P)|
|Vice-Principal (3 years in school)||(VP)|
|Coordinator of the Pedagogical Support Group (Grupo de Apoyo Pedagógico-GAP)||(CCo)|
|Psychologist 3 years in school.||(SGA1)|
|Assistant in the program. 1 year in school||(SGA2)|
|ICT teacher—supporting teachers in the use of ICT||(TCo1)|
|Math and language teacher||(TCo2)|
|Chemistry teacher—working with primary students as well||(TCo3)|
|Principal—15 years in school||(PCo)|
|Strong inclusive vision and direction||On-going commitment to inclusive education||Reinforcing the belief that inclusion is possible|
|Distributed leadership practice||Distributive/shared leadership||Strong leader who builds capacity in others|
|Schoolwide pedagogy guides teacher practice||School-wide approach to Universal Design for Learning||Curricular flexibility and collective effort|
|An adaptable student centered community||Student centered practice and decision making||Natural and voluntary student-centered school community environment|
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Abawi, L.-A.; Bauman-Buffone, C.; Pineda-Báez, C.; Carter, S. The Rhetoric and Reality of Leading the Inclusive School: Socio-Cultural Reflections on Lived Experiences. Educ. Sci. 2018, 8, 55. https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci8020055
Abawi L-A, Bauman-Buffone C, Pineda-Báez C, Carter S. The Rhetoric and Reality of Leading the Inclusive School: Socio-Cultural Reflections on Lived Experiences. Education Sciences. 2018; 8(2):55. https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci8020055Chicago/Turabian Style
Abawi, Lindy-Anne, Cheryl Bauman-Buffone, Clelia Pineda-Báez, and Susan Carter. 2018. "The Rhetoric and Reality of Leading the Inclusive School: Socio-Cultural Reflections on Lived Experiences" Education Sciences 8, no. 2: 55. https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci8020055