Teacher learning and the development of inclusive practices and policies: framing and context

Andrew Howes, T Booth, David Dyson, Joanna Frankham

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    The process of a school becoming more inclusive involves teacher learning. The Economic and Social Research Council Teaching and Learning Research Programme (ESRC TLRP) research and development Network ‘Understanding and Developing Inclusive Practices in Schools’ presented an opportunity both to understand the nature of this learning and to explore more optimal conditions for it to take place. By comparing and contrasting the findings from three linked networks of 25 schools in different cultural and historical settings, it was possible to identify features of teacher learning in schools becoming more inclusive, as a function of context. The design involved two cycles of action research carried out in partnership by practitioners and researchers. The first of these cycles used existing contextualised knowledge, supplemented by further research evidence, as the means of fostering developments in the field. The second cycle scrutinised these developments in order to address the overall agenda of the Network as a basis for pursuing deeper understandings. National agendas for education (particularly the ‘standards’ agenda) were found to influence thinking and practice in schools and LEAs; however, such influence was not necessarily negative. For some teachers, ‘raising standards’ involved confronting problems associated with those pupils who do not easily learn from standard and prescribed school practices, creating interruptions to those teachers' assumptions. A research and development framework that reduced teachers' sense of external prescription and promoted their active influence was a support to teachers' learning in building on such interruptions. The study found particular value in visits by staff of one school to another, structured around the generation of empirical data about pupils' experience and progress, followed by joint interpretation in mixed staff groups. This process of social learning involved changes to the preconceptions of individuals, mediated through the staff group. Outsiders to the social group played a potentially significant role in facilitating reflection at the heart of such learning.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)133-148
    JournalResearch Papers in Education
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2005


    • Action research, Inclusion, Reflection, School improvement, Standards


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