improvement through Research in the Inclusive Classroom
Research in the
This Comenius project has been funded with support from the European Commission.
This document represents the views of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held
responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.
Research in the
Research in the
Education and Culture
Lifelong learning programme
Research in the
Generalitat de Catalunya
Serveis Territorials a Tarragona
Eugénio de Andrade
Escola E B 2 3 de Paranhos (sede)
Centro de Investigação
em Educação e Psicologia
The IRIS PROJECT 4
INCLUSION AND INCLUSIVE CLASSROOM PRACTICE 6
CONCEPTIONS OF INCLUSIVE EDUCATION IN SOME
EUROPEAN COUNTRIES 8
3.1 Introduction 8
3.2 School for all, inclusive school and educational organisation 10
3.3 Inclusive classroom: practices of teaching, values,
support for teachers, self-efficacy beliefs and difficulties 12
3.4 Inclusive classroom, school and community: Barriers,
benefits and resources 13
3.5 Strategies / Actions for an Inclusive Classroom 15
3.6 Community and inclusion 17
SUPPORT SYSTEMS FOR PUPILS WITH SPECIFIC NEEDS 17
4.1 Introduction 17
4.2 Assessment of disabilities in some European Countries 19
4.3 Inclusive assessment practices in some European countries 21
4.4 Individual educational plans 24
4.5 Curriculum adaptations 26
NEW CONCEPTS ON TEACHER TRAINING – CLASSROOM
CLIMATE, TEAM WORK, INCLUSIVE ASSESSMENT 28
5.1 Introduction, defining the concept of classroom climate 28
5.2 Factors of Influence and Consequences on Climate of Classroom 28
5.3 Climate, and language 31
5.4 Classroom climate – impact on different levels 33
5.5 Creating and Maintaining an Inclusive Climate on Classroom 35
5.6 Some ideas about teacher training 36
5.7 Teamwork in Inclusive Classrooms 37
5.8 New concepts on teacher training: Inclusive Assessment 42
TEACHING INCLUSIVELY 44
6.1 Introduction 44
6.2 Teaching inclusively 44
6.3 The Aide Memoir and the “Fit to learn bookmark” 44
6.4 Evaluation of the tool 45
6.5 Practical use and case studies 46
IRIS (Improvement through Research in the Inclusive School) is a European
Comenius project with a focus on Inclusion and School improvements
embracing all children in a school for all. The IRIS-project started at the end
of 2006 and ends October 1st
, 2009. Austria and Belgium are coordinating
the project activities. The IRIS project team has consisted of seven partners
working in thematic groups, and the group membership has changed as
the systems evolved. The whole project team has met every sixth month
to share information about development as a collaborative whole.
The overall aim of the project is to develop, implement and disseminate
materials for initial and in-service training for teachers and other educational
staff. The materials were continuously piloted in each partner country and
both the process of the project and the materials were evaluated step by
step. The purpose is to develop a multidimensional approach to improve
the teaching and learning of all pupils. However, in order to improve
teaching and learning new attitudes among teachers and other school staff
need to be developed (e.g. headmasters and other professionals such as
psychologists, therapists, nurses, assistants) based on research and with
a focus on an understanding of all pupils’ strengths and weaknesses in
everyday life situations. The tool will also assist the teachers in improving
their capacities for research, evaluation and assessment, i.e. teachers
need tools for their teaching tasks. The diversity of the pupils must in this
context be regarded as a resource, not a problem. This will support effective
planning and intervention, including the use of an Individual Education
Plan (IEP), for all pupils in the inclusive classroom.
In the course of three years the IRIS project has collated and identified
the CONCEPTIONS OF INCLUSIVE EDUCATION AND PRACTICES in
some European countries, and based on this research has developed a
training package, which can be used by teachers throughout Europe and
act as a catalyst for changing practice across the European community.
The teachers’ training package contains modules on CLASSROOM
CLIMATE, TEAM WORK IN INCLUSIVE CLASSROOMS, SUPPORT
SYSTEMS IN INCLUSIVE SETTINGS, INCLUSIVE ASSESSMENT, INDI-
VIDUAL EDUCATIONAL PLANS AND CURRICULAR ADAPTATIONS IN
INCLUSIVE CLASSROOMS, STRATEGIES AND PRACTICE IN INCLUSIVE
CLASSROOMS and the AIDE MEMOIR together with the “FIT TO LEARN
BOOKMARK” as a new tool to support and evaluate inclusive classroom
The cultural variety of the partner countries influenced the design of
the instruments and the final documents are adapted to fit the dif-
ferent systems. For further information see the IRIS homepage:
The target groups for the project will mainly be teachers and other profes-
sionals, who work with children within the school community and also
parents, who as equal partners, play a vital role in the education of their
children. The training modules will vary in their degree of interest for each
This means that the professionals are the end-users of the designed tools
and these tools will successively improve the situation for the pupils in the
inclusive classroom. The instrument will thus affect both the end-users
and the users.
The IRIS project is based on two key concepts: research and inclusion.
Research is the basis for decision-making in practical work, which means
that theory and practical experiences go hand-in-hand.
INCLUSION AND INCLUSIVE
Inclusion is a process: it respects and values difference.
Everyone has a part to play in society.
Each grain of sand can become a diamond given the right environment.
Inclusive education offers a multidimensional approach to the development
of competencies and abilities, reducing barriers to learning and participation
for all pupils. This process makes it possible for each person to achieve
their full potential and live a fulfilled life.
At the core of inclusive education is the human right to education. This
right is pronounced in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.
Equally important is the right of children not to be discriminated (Article 2,
Convention on the Rights of the Child, UN 1989).
Therefore all children have the right to receive the kind of education that
does not discriminate on grounds of disability, ethnicity, religion, language,
gender, capabilities and so on.
Inclusive education involves all young people, with and without specific
needs, learning together in ordinary pre-school provision, schools, colleges
and universities, with appropriate networks of support. Inclusion has to
be seen as a process of addressing and responding to the diversity of
needs of all learners. This is achieved through increasing participation
in learning, cultures and communities and reducing exclusion within and
from education (Booth, 1996; Brodin & Lindstrand, 2007; Ljusberg, 2009).
Inclusion involves changes and modifications in content, approaches,
structures and strategies. The common vision has to cover all children of
an age range and it is the responsibility of the regular school system to
educate all children (UNESCO, 1994). Inclusion means enabling all pupils
to participate in the life and work of mainstream institutions to the best of
their abilities, whatever their needs.
The philosophy of education that encompasses the needs of all pupils can
be said to rest on 3 base lines:
WW A holistic view of each pupil
WW The principle of non-segregating measures www.shapesofmind.ca
WW Specific needs as seen in relation to the demands from the
Inclusive education is of uppermost importance because everyone –
whatever his / her specific learning needs – has a part to play in society.
Education is part of the rest of pupil‘s lives. Those in need of specific
support can, and are, being educated in ordinary schools with appropriate
support. There are many different ways of achieving this.
Resolutions and legislation such as the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights (1948), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), the United
Nations Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons
with Disabilities (1993), the Salamanca declaration (1994), the Dakaar
agreement (2000), the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
(2008) demand development towards inclusive schools. Yet fifteen years
after the Salamanca declaration inclusive education is still a faraway
concept for many schools, teachers and pupils.
Effective inclusion demands a change of focus from the child to the school
and its community.
Inclusive practice requires the teacher to become much broader in outlook
and approach and involves more collaboration and teamwork throughout
CONCEPTIONS OF INCLUSIVE
EDUCATION IN SOME
Pupils attending school have different skills and they also come from
different cultural and social environments, family and language. Thus, the
school must recognise these differences and meet the diverse needs of
their pupils. This requires internal changes of the school and of society
itself so that school becomes to some extent a reflection of society (Grácio
et al, 2009).
In several countries legislation has been drawn up in the sense that schools
should include all, regardless of its competences and limitations, taking
the role of promoter of equal opportunities.
Although the current schools serve a more diverse pupils’ population,
inclusive education is still in the process of development. Firstly, because
this concept is relatively new and still requires definition and assessment.
Secondly, because inclusion is one of the most complex changes for
schools to manage.
In the school context, inclusion is a challenge that needs a change of
attitudes and practices, especially when we want active participation of
all pupils whilst ensuring an effective integration of all children and young
people in school.
Teachers and educational staff in general are guided by their values, beliefs
and attitudes to change itself, so they should not only be convinced that
the change in question is worthwhile, but also understand the reasons
that justify and support it (Burstein, Sears, Wilcoxen, Cabello & Spagna, 2004).
Several researchers believe that more important than implementing a
general educational policy of Inclusion, it is crucial that educators focus
on finding answers and services promoters of inclusion (Fennick & Liddy,
2001; Kavala & Forness, 2000; King-Sears & Cummings, 1996). However, as
in any educational reform, inclusion implies a reform in the organisational
structure of schools and on the roles and responsibilities of teachers.
What teachers do depends on the conceptions that they have about
inclusion. In this regard, we start from the assumption that the practices
of school teachers express their conceptions of inclusion.
Indeed, research about teachers’ thinking has allowed the under-
standing of the relationship between the teacher‘s pedagogical
activity and its representations, interpretations and values (for the
school, the pupils, the content of the programme, to their teach-
ing function and educational events). As Clark and Peterson state:
teachers’ actions are in a large part caused by teachers’
thought processes, which then in turn affect teachers’
actions (1986, p. 259).
If we want to activate changes in inclusive education we must start from
knowledge of reality that allows us to know the thinking, practices, experi-
ences and context in which it occurs, and the real needs of those that
are key elements of their promotion. Accordingly, within the IRIS project
we started by conducting an exploratory research aimed to access the
meanings and practices of inclusion in some European countries (Grácio
et al, 2008; Candeias et al, 2007, 2008). The empirical study was conducted
in a phenomenographic perspective using the descriptions of qualitatively
different forms of understanding or experiencing certain phenomena
(Marton, 1986; Linder, & Marshall, 2003). The phenomenon in focus relates to
the inclusive school and the conceptions of the participants about it. The
participants of different European countries were considered as holders
of good inclusive practices.
We considered a minimum of two / three participants from each country /
partner of IRIS project. All participants interviewed belonged to the world
of school or educational community in a given country (e.g., teachers,
technicians, subjects related to the administration and the educational
community or belonging to associations or local authorities). The first
interviewed was always a teacher flagged as an example of good practice
in inclusion. Each of the interviewees should indicate a range of other
people in possession of good practice listing them in descending order
of evaluation. Thus, the subjects interviewed were successively indicated
by the previous participant interviewed as promoters of good practices
Globally we interviewed 19 participants. As there were two partners in
Portugal (Évora and Porto), 31.5% of interviews are from the Portuguese
participants and 68.5% belong to the other countries (Austria, Belgium,
Sweden, Spain, UK).
In order to explore what inclusion means and how it can be developed, an
interview guide was built, which was structured with five major themes:
conception of inclusive school and educational policy; classroom inclu-
sive conception; barriers, resources and benefits of an inclusive school,
classroom and community; strategies / actions to promote an inclusive
school and classroom, and role and contributions of the community for
the implementation of an inclusive school.
The interviews were conducted individually and audio taped. They were
fully transcribed, translated into English and analysed. The content analysis
led to the development of a thematic analysis and categorical grid. This
content analysis was guided by considering all variations in the speech
of the subjects. A quantitative analysis was also carried out based on the
This study and its results had clear implications for practices which have
been the starting point for the development of various products including
the support systems for pupils with disabilities, teacher training, assessment
tools and aide memoir.
3.2 School for all, inclusive school
Three conceptions of a school for all became strongly evident. This emerged
primarily as a school that accepts and integrates all, a school marked by
equal opportunities for learning and a school that satisfies different needs.
The school for all is perceived as being guided by values, individual action
and acceptance of all pupils, as a promoter of development, construction
of goals and success, area of equal opportunities and answer to varying
needs. It is also marked by certain relational features and resources.
(Grácio et al. 2009a).
In short, the school for all goes beyond the inclusion of pupils with specific
educational needs. It emerges both as a means to ensure equal op-
portunities, which is not only for access to education, but also to promote
the effective development and success of everyone regardless of their
characteristics and conditions of departure, while taking them into account.
Among the concepts of an inclusive school the most focused ideas are
that it accepts and integrates all children regardless of their difficulties, it
has adequate resources and it is equal to a school for all. There are still
more or less residual discourses which express the ideas that the inclusive
school is marked by certain practices of teaching and relational aspects.
It is a potential promoter of individuals and of an inclusive society, based
on certain values responding to different needs and geographically close
to the population that it serves.
The school for all and the inclusive school are not perceived in the same
way, although some participants consider them as synonymous. By
comparison, the inclusive school is sometimes conceptualised in a more
restricted way, in that the focus is, above all, the integration of children
As stated by Ainscow, Booth and Dyson “people may be happy to agree on
values, say those concerned with equity and participation, until they start
to look in detail at their implications for practice” (2006, p.3). We will then
progressively approach closer to the real contexts in which the inclusion
takes place and to the participants’ visions about them.
Regarding the organisation of school education the following aspects were
explored: current educational policy; the advantages / disadvantages of
a flexible and adapted curriculum; school‘s educational project as well as
the existent measures promoting the inclusive school.
The most evident concepts are related to the idea that the educational
policy does not promote an inclusive school and that the reasons for
this are due not only to school, but also to government and legislative
obstacles. Approximately 81% of the responses by the participants about
the relationship between educational policy and promoting inclusive
school are related to aspects that point to weaknesses and obstacles to
the reality of a truly inclusive school. On the other hand, the responses
that expressed the idea that education policy promoted inclusive schooling
have few references relating to the existence of legislation and curricular
adaptations. This shows the perception of a social, political, economic
and educationally less developed context for inclusion in Austria, Belgium,
Catalonia / Spain, Portugal, Sweden and in the UK.
Participants clearly recognise, as beneficial to the pupils, that there are
flexible and adapted curricula. However, they also strongly list the increasing
difficulties that those curricula have to teachers referring to the rising of
insecurity and stress. The conceptions that the flexible and adapted curricula
have advantages for pupils and present disadvantages for teachers are
most stated. This latter aspect directed us both for the construction of
materials to support teachers and to the conceptualisation of an initial and
continuing training programme that provides the conceptual and practical
tools, which reduces the uncertainty and helps to develop inclusive practice.
It appears that the educational project for schools is still seen as an incipient
instrument in promoting an inclusive school. Besides, it highlights the need
to implement concrete measures in schools that allow the existence of an
inclusive school (e.g., space, materials, human and material resources,
cooperation of teachers and other practitioners) as well as more general
measures (such as those relating to teacher training or the overall planning
of the inclusion, in broad and social terms).
Existing measures in schools to promote a more inclusive school are
related to teachers` teamwork, technicians to support the teacher, practices
of teaching / learning and existence of specific equipment. The lack of
practices and measures in school pointed out are related to curriculum,
identification and evaluation and with the cooperation of the school com-
munity (Grácio et al. 2009a).
3.3 Inclusive classroom:
practices of teaching, values, sup-
port for teachers, self-
efficacy beliefs and difficulties
The practice of teaching seen by teachers as promoting inclusion are
reported to two contexts: one relating to the classroom in general and the
other to teaching / learning practices.
In the context of the classroom as a promoter of inclusion the most referred
aspects are the integration of pupils with learning difficulties in the regular
curriculum, the respect for difference and the promotion of integration.
Concerning the practice of teaching / learning offered in an inclusive
classroom there are references to a social learning and adaptation of
lessons to the groups of pupils. All the participants highlighted a strong
respect for difference and tolerance as values that promote inclusion.
Technicians for educational support to pupils with specific needs are
the most available as support for teachers working together inside the
These teachers consider themselves as effective in promoting an inclusive
work environment and as models of inclusion.
The participating teachers believe that the greatest difficulties were con-
nected with the absence or scarcity of skilled human resources, with the
large number of pupils per class and the need for a change of mentality.
The other educational staff, besides teachers, list the institutional barriers,
lack of appropriate educational policies and specialist resources and
difficulties of managing the classroom.
3.4 Inclusive classroom,
school and community: Barriers,
benefits and resources
Material resources are seen as the biggest barrier or obstacle to the
promotion of an inclusive classroom followed by difficulties related to values,
social attitudes and practices of teaching. However, a meta analysis of
the various categories identified can find four main groups of meanings
listed in descending order as follows: education (e.g., practices of teaching,
teacher‘s behaviour, organisational aspects of classroom, no personalised
space), lack of resources, values and social attitudes, pupils’ background
and relational aspects. These findings summarise the central role of the
teacher and its action in making a classroom truly inclusive (Grácio et al.,
The main barriers for an inclusive school are mostly related to resources,
the school itself, the attitudes and beliefs and educational practices.
Regarding an inclusive community, the major obstacles are the social
values and attitudes, acceptance, undeveloped partnerships with the
community and too little cooperation family / school.
Although the participants were only asked about what are the main re-
sources for the promotion of a inclusive classroom, school or community
were, their replies are organised around two axes of meaning: one on
the resources that exist in each context, and the other on the resources
they consider necessary to the existence or the promotion of inclusion in
In the inclusive classroom context the existence of various resources
are mentioned: materials, space, accessibility, different professionals,
laws, attitudes, collaboration between teachers, teaching practices and
the existence of good practices. However, the existence of specialised or
support teachers that may assist the class teacher is the most mentioned
existing resource. The second most mentioned resource is internal, referring
to attitudes linked to willingness to include. The collaboration between
teachers is the third resource pointed out as a promoter of inclusion in
the context of the classroom.
The resources considered necessary for the existence of inclusive class-
rooms are: reducing the teacher / pupil ratio, teacher training, diverse
resources and adequate classroom environment. From all these, the
resources in general and the teacher training are the most mentioned.
The existing resources in the inclusive school are also related to spaces,
teaching practices, motivation and teachers’ willingness for inclusion,
teamwork, specialised and support teachers and legislation. The most listed
resources for the promotion of an inclusive school related to the existence
of: (a) resources in general and specialised teachers, (b) teaching practice,
motivation and willingness of teachers, (c) team work of teachers. Again
the subjects interviewed, in a completely spontaneous way, indicate the
needs for a truly inclusive school: (a) resources, (b) change of mentality
and desire for inclusion, (c) teacher training; (d) parents training and
In an inclusive community the resources indicated are: community par-
ticipation and social workers, law and the existence of various resources.
Necessary resources are values, behaviours and attitudes, resources in
general, increase of information on inclusion and the need for institutional
support / education policies, effective planning as well as will and motivation.
Briefly, for the European participants there are already some resources
that contribute to an inclusive classroom, school and community. However,
from the data analysis is clear that the needs are plenty and the resources
scarce and incomplete.
The benefits of an inclusive classroom are listed in descending order
of popularity, the development of pupils’ values, individualised learning,
participation, pupils’ own experience of inclusion, reduction of differences
and working interdisciplinary.
In what are the benefits of an inclusive school, the most prominent are
the development of values, attitudes and behaviour. The reference that
school can become an integral part of society and the educational success
that these promote, are additional benefits. Other benefits, such as, the
prevention of risks, the development of cooperation and solidarity among
teachers and the increase of their motivation are also seen.
The benefits of an inclusive community are understood, especially, as gains
in the development of values, attitudes and behaviour. In this context an
inclusive community is regarded as contributing to the creation of a new
model of society. The reduction of violence and marginalisation, and a
more equitable school are also referred to as advantages of an inclusive
In summary, the participants highlighted as the most important benefit of
the inclusive classroom, school and community the development of values,
attitudes and behaviour by giving them a crucial role.
3.5 Strategies / Actions for
an Inclusive Classroom
The strategies / actions for an inclusive classroom were explored according
to four main aspects: tools, social strategies for inclusion, role / contribution
of the team work and role / contribution of teacher training.
Evaluation of pupils with disabilities should involve a multidisciplinary
team – teachers, specialists and community agents – that uses methods
/ instruments that should be holistic with a technical language adapted for
everybody, but objective and rigorous to improve diagnosis, evaluation and
intervention. Likewise intervention should be based on tools that should
be simple and functional with a common language, easy accessibility and
ability to be rigorous in the evaluation, diagnosis and intervention, by a
multidisciplinary team, in order to plan and organise individualised plans
and programs of intervention.
The most frequent social strategies of inclusion indicated were: (a) Promote
objectives from inclusion (equality, respect for potential and educating for
difference); (b) Improve values to encourage inclusion (acceptance, and
the respect for the developmental stage of the pupil through the project of
learning for each pupil independently of the differences);(c) Knowledge of
the ability concept and potential about pupils with disabilities;(d) Cooperation
between school-family-community; (d) Educative practice (Teaching /
Learning) as cooperative learning, integration and reflexive practice; (e)
Socio-economics conditions to support families and to improve material
Team work should have specific characteristics to improve inclusive
practices as with regular interdisciplinary work, in order to improve com-
munication, functioning and cooperation and tolerance. The functions of
team work should involve curricular adaptations that support the teachers’
practices and the cooperation with the families and community.
Training of families about the characteristics of the pupils is seen as
important to understand the differences between pupils, namely to give them
information about their difficulties and their potential, thereby encouraging
inclusion within the school and the community.
The teacher training is considered important at several stages: initial training,
specific training and continued professional development. The domains
of that formation are knowledge, personal and interpersonal abilities and
practical competences (Pomar, et al, 2009).
3.6 Community and inclusion
Regarding the community the analysed information was organised into two
themes: role / contribution of the community to inclusion and facilitating
attitudes among the community (Chaleta et al, 2009).
It is considered that the community can contribute to the promotion of an
inclusive school essentially by providing resources, adopting favourable
educational and social supporting measures, by changing values and
providing appropriate training for educational staff.
Positive attitudes and values towards inclusion and changing mainstream
attitudes were regarded as important to facilitating a change in community
attitudes; to a lesser degree, socio-professional integration. For these
participants the community can contribute and take an important role for
a more inclusive education providing the necessary resources to support
inclusion and adopting specific measures at socio-political and educational
levels. In order to make this happen, it is necessary for the existence of
favourable attitudes, changing those that are obstacles and developing
positive values regarding inclusion.
Generally we can conclude that participants recognise that the community
has an important role in building the inclusive school by providing resources,
attitudes and values. However, the need to establish partnerships and
develop more widespread dialogues with the various community agencies
was not highlighted. This latter aspect is shown in several studies as
crucial to the deepening of the process of inclusion (Information Exchange,
1995, Turner, 1996).
According to the United Nation’s (UN) Convention on Human Rights (1948)
the right to education is stressed for children, adolescents and adults.
Education in today’s society implies the need to keep up with the rapid
technological development and demanding new challenges. From official
documents like the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC, 1989), the
United Nation’s Standard Rules on Equalisation of Opportunities for Persons
with Disabilities (1993), the Salamanca declaration (1994), the Convention
on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2008) and various national
documents in different countries, education is highlighted as a human
right for all. The most essential documents in relation to the IRIS project
is the CRC (1989), the Salamanca declaration (1994) and the Convention
on the Rights for persons with Disabilities (2008).
The official standpoint in these documents is to avoid excluding solutions
and promote an inclusive school for all children in a society for all. Also
national documents in the different countries such as curricula and school
acts influence the official attitudes to inclusion in a society. However, it
is evident that the view on inclusion still differs in various countries and
The concepts integration and normalisation were discussed already in
the fifties and sixties and the main reason was the normalisation principle
brought up by Nirje (2003). The main idea was that persons with disabilities
should be able to live in the same living conditions as other children,
adolescents and adults. A consequence of this principle was that institutions
and special hospitals in many countries were abolished and that children
and adolescents who had lived at institutions moved back home to their
parents and attended regular schools.
Research on inclusion is still a hot area and there is in many countries
a backlash with regard to inclusion of children with disabilities in regular
schools and the light is at present often on the teacher. What is a good
teacher? Are there any criteria to describe what makes a good teacher? Will
the need for special teachers in the regular school increase in the regular
school because teachers in the regular school today have poor knowledge
about disabilities? Nilholm (2003) suggests that special educators in their
professionalism may label pupils as deviants in order to justify their own
existence. This idea is also supported by other researchers (e.g. Skrtic,
1991; Wilson, 2002). One critical point is thus in-service training of teachers
(Douglas, 2001; Hegarty, 2004), another to increase the use of Information
SUPPORT SYSTEMS FOR
PUPILS WITH SPECIFIC NEEDS
and Communication Technologies (ICT) in school. There are still many
variations concerning inclusion in Europe and these issues need to be
discussed and highlighted both in research and in practical work.
Support in school
In all countries a special professional team consisting of specialists such
as psychologists, pedagogues, social workers, special education teachers
and regular teachers are involved in the decision-making of extra support.
In some cases parents and pupils are involved.
Special education is in all partner countries mainly individualised, face-
to-face education (pupil and teacher) and is commonly used. Sometimes
special education is also offered to pupils without disabilities (with exception
of Austria and Belgium) for longer or shorter periods of time. Research
in Sweden has shown that about 50 per cent of all pupils sometimes get
special educational support during the first nine school years (Ljusberg,
2005). The reason for this extra support might be reading and writing
difficulties, unhealthy conditions, illness, speech therapy etc.
All technical aids (assistive devices) that a pupil needs to facilitate learning in
school are free of charge in most countries, but the Belgium representative
points out something that is essential viz. technical aids are free of charge
in theory. This means that even if the devices should be obtained free
of charge if there is a need, they are not always free. Most schools help
the pupil to get an adapted immediate environment with adapted chairs,
tables, benches and special lights, hearing aids, computers and software.
The use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is necessary
in school and for children with disabilities, it is important to have access
to ICT. That ICT is promoted by the authorities does thus not mean that
they support it with additional funding. All these types of support given
as statements by authorities are extremely frustrating for those working
in practice as teachers. Without extra money – no real support is given.
4.2 Assessment of disabilities in
some European Countries
In this work we assumed the definition of assessment proposed by the
European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education (Watkins,
2007, 14): Assessment refers to the ways teachers and other people involved
in a pupil’s education systematically collect and then use information about
that pupil’s level of achievement and / or development in different areas of
their educational experience (academic, behaviour and social).
Such definition covers all possible forms of initial and on-going assessment
methods and procedures. It also highlights the fact that there are different
people involved in assessment. Teachers, other school staff, external
support staff, but parents and also pupils themselves can potentially
be involved in assessment procedures. All people can use assessment
information in different ways, and that assessment information is not only
concerned with the pupil, but also the learning environment (and sometimes
the home environment).
These presuppose a new theoretical approach to assessment and con-
siderable changes in teacher education and training. Given that, it is a
challenge to us to think, rethink and renew the practice of identifying and
assessing pupils with disabilities based on the new assumptions about
In pursuing this goal we present a description of the evaluation procedures
applied in several European countries.
Since the Declaration of Salamanca a significant group of countries in
Europe (Lloyd, 2006; Shevlin & Rose, 2007; Watkins, 2007) and America (Elliot,
Braden & White, 2001; Luke et al., 2004; Paula & Enumo, 2007) seem to have
similar education policies that can be considered as having a potential
impact upon assessment in inclusive education. For instance there are
national level educational goals with standards that pupils are expected
to reach and assessment evidence regarding pupil performance is used
as a measure of school performance. But, and this is, in our opinion
the most important factor, there are no separate assessment systems
for pupils with specific educational needs apart from measures related
to initial assessment and individual needs identification (Watkins, 2007).
This means that pupils with disabilities are entitled to access national
assessments in a way that is appropriate for them i.e. assessments that
must be appropriately modified.
Synchronisation between assessment policy and assessment practices
implies a continuum that must include: instruction in classes and schools,
and home instructions. Setting decisions must be made by an IEP team that
includes parents, teachers, psychologists, and other persons knowledgeable
about the pupil (Candeias et al., 2008; Salvia & Ysseldyke & Bolt, 2007). So,
as these authors propose, inclusive assessment information should be
used “to make decisions about the extent to which educational programs
in school systems are working for all students, including students with
disabilities” (2007, p. 17).
To improve inclusive assessment as practice in schools it will be necessary
to change assessment practices as well as the role of parents and teachers
within assessment, as we explain in the next points.
Assessment of pupils in inclusive settings is often concerned with diag-
nosis, as well as associated with informing learning programmes. As, the
European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education – EADSNE
– (Watkins, 2007), proposes, national authorities should improves high
stake assessments that are used for pupil, class or school evaluation, as
Madaus proposes in 1988: High stake assessments consists of tests and
procedures that provides information perceived by pupils, parents, teachers,
policy makers, or the general public as being used to make important
decisions that immediately and directly impact upon pupils’ educational
experiences and futures (apud Watkins, 2007, 26). EADSNE proposes that
initial assessment of pupils who are thought to have disabilities can have
two possible purposes:
1. Identification linked to an official decision to ‘recognise’ a pupil
as having educational needs that require additional resources to
support their learning;
2. Informing learning programmes, where assessment is focused upon
highlighting strengths and weaknesses the pupil may have in differ-
ent areas of their educational experience. Such information is often
used in a formative way – perhaps as the starting point for Individual
Education Plans (IEPs) or other target-setting approaches – rather
than as a one off, baseline assessment.
Nowadays assessment evidence is very much placed within the public
domain for purposes of comparisons and this, linked to the national level
pressures for greater accountability in education, leads to an increasing
emphasis on pupil performance as a factor in directing educational policy
making. Educators are calling for new assessment practices to be used
to support pupil learning, guide educational improvement and enhance
equity for all pupils, a social inclusion as Lloyd proposes (2006).
4.3 Inclusive assessment practices
in some European countries
Based in the work group of the IRIS project we collected narrative descrip-
tions about school and classroom implementation of assessment in different
regions from different countries of Europe (Portugal: Alentejo; Spain:
Cataloñia; Belgium: Bussels; Austria: Graz; United Kingdom: Tiverton)
(see Candeias et al., 2009). The implementation of school and classroom
assessment in this group of countries could be described under three
main topics, namely:
I. Concept and Process of Inclusive Assessment
All the countries point out the access to assessment services (provided
by teachers from special education, psychologists and other staff). The
procedures to improve the assessment process have specific character-
istics’, in accordance with the legislation and the administrative rules of
the countries but also the intention to make inclusive assessment based
on a team work approach is apparent in the narratives, as well as the
conception of the process of inclusive assessment.
II. Approach to assessment
In all the narratives we could identify that when a pupil presents specific
needs teachers, family or other professionals could alert the assessment
team, from the preschool level. We could conclude that in the countries
involved in this work that there is a global network between schools, within
the community and families to identify and raise their concerns about
children’s’ specific needs. Once again, the type of procedures could have
specific characteristics’, in accordance with legislation, the administrative
rules and the cultural values of the countries, but the main idea of global
network to alert and identify suggest an inclusive approach to assessment
in such countries.
III. Process, stages and strategies
We identify a variety of stages, methods and strategies which are used for
identifying the child as eligible for specific services, planning instruction, and
measuring progress. That presupposes that the initial assessment refers to
procedures designed to locate those young children and technical resources
to a given assessment. Diagnosis and characterisation of functionality
is based on information obtained through observation, interviews, case
history, and informal and standardised tools. The examiner strives to
determine the nature of the child’s difficulties, the severity of the problem,
and becomes the basis for determining eligibility for special education
services. The diagnosis assists in planning intervention too. The diagnosis
is conducted by members of a multidisciplinary team in all the countries
involved in the study. If the previous stage of assessment indicates there
is a need for intervention, the next stage involves assessment for the
planning of programs and interventions (IEP). IEP interventions consider
the areas of difficulties and potential in accordance with the educational and
developmental objectives for the pupils’ level of education and learning. In
all the countries involved program monitoring (multiple checks include multi
methods and different kind of tools), and program evaluation with specific
criteria (in accordance with national policies of evaluation). The information
collected in Portugal, Spain, Austria, Belgium and United Kingdom is in
accordance with the recent proposals from the European Agency for
Development in Special Needs Education – EADSNE – (Watkins, 2007).
Inclusive Assessment, with all the national diversity in terms of resources,
administration rules, legislation and cultural values is an intention and a
practice. As EADSNE proposes assessment of pupils, who are thought
to have disabilities, can have two possible purposes:
1. Identification linked to an official decision to ‘recognise’ a pupil
as having educational needs that require additional resources to
support their learning;
2. Informing learning programmes, where assessment is focused upon
highlighting strengths and weaknesses the pupil may have, in differ-
ent areas of their educational experience. Such information is often
used in a formative way – perhaps as the starting point for Individual
Education Plans (IEP’s) or other target-setting approaches – rather
than as a one off, baseline assessment.
Nowadays educators are calling for new assessment practices to be used
to support pupil learning, guide educational improvement and enhance
equity for all pupils, a social inclusion as Lloyd proposes in 2006, and could
argue that educators work on the improvement of such new practices in
2009. However, because inclusive assessment implies collaborative work,
multidimensional assessment and an ecological approach to education
based on family-school-community, we need to continue to work in key
areas for further development in the use of inclusive assessment:
WW improved teacher training in conducting assessments;
WW linking alternative assessment to curricula and teaching
WW linking assessment to Individual Education Plans,
WW improved teacher competences in team work.
This work about inclusive assessment in European countries (Austria,
Belgium, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom) could be completed
with the tables of description of Technical Analysis of Tools used in such
countries. We present these tables with Technical Analysis of Tools used
by Teachers (Validated / not validated) and Technical Analysis of Tools
used by Others Professionals (Validated / not validated), in the CD-Rom
and in the IRIS Project Website.
4.4 Individual educational plans
An IEP is a written plan developed for a pupil who has been identified
as having a problem (physical, sensory, intellectual, emotional, social, or
any combination of these problems) which affects the learning and which
leads to the need for a special or modified curriculum or specially adapted
learning. This working document is the main tool for collaborative planning
between the school team, the parents and the pupil.
In order to know, if a pupil needs an IEP, a multidisciplinary team of
professionals evaluates him based on their observations, the pupil’s
performances on standardised tests and daily work.
Afterwards, when the pupil has been identified as having special needs,
another team should be formed. The members of this team should be chosen
on their ability to provide information or support the pupil’s programme.
The participants usually include: a regular teacher, a specialised teacher,
other professionals (a psychologist, different therapists), parents and
sometimes, the pupil.
Parents should be encouraged to be actively involved in decisions regarding
educational services for their children. They provide a unique perspective
about the pupil’s personality, development and learning. Open communica-
tion and cooperation between home and school increases the opportunities
for pupils with special needs to experience success.
When the IEP team is formed, a member of the team should be assigned
as the coordinator, in order to lead its development and implementation.
This important document should contain:
WW essential information about the pupil, including relevant medical,
social and educational background information;
WW degree of participation in the regular programme;
WW the areas in which the pupil needs programme adaptations and / or
WW required classroom accommodations;
WW adjustments in the evaluation processes;
WW individual plan considering transition into active life;
WW IEP evaluation (criteria, tools, timetable and review).
Usually the services and goals outlined in an IEP can be provided in a
standard school environment. They can be done in the regular classroom
or in a special resource room in the regular school. The resource room can
serve a group of pupils with similar needs who are brought together for help.
In four of the six partner countries all pupils have the right to get an
individual education plan (IEP). The exception is Austria and Belgium,
where only pupils with disabilities or educational difficulties can claim the
right to get an IEP. This means that all pupils (with and without disabilities
or difficulties) have the same right in four of the countries.
4.5 Curriculum adaptations
Roldão (1999) considers the curriculum as a process of construction, man-
agement and reflective training focused on school. The right of everyone,
without exception, to a quality education makes it necessary to reinvent
the school so that it can offer and build a differentiated and meaningful
curriculum that allows the realisation of such an “Inclusive School, School
According to Bertram, Fotheringham and Harley (2000), a curriculum could
be understood in the following two ways:
WW first, … as a plan (which may be written as a document). This plan
reflects the knowledge, skills and attitudes that any society chooses
to pass on their children.
WW second, … as the learning and teaching experiences that happen in
any site of education.
Therefore, a curriculum is a carefully planned and well written document
which explicitly reflects the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes of
societies that are intended to be passed to or mediated to the future
generation, comprising both the old and the young.
As we believe that everybody has the right to attend school and develop
different skills, we have to pay the same attention to everybody. So, we
need to adapt curricula according to the special needs of all the pupils.
Curriculum adaptations are modifications related specifically to instruction
or content of a curriculum. They are not intended to lower the education
standards. The curriculum is thus adapted to make education accessible
The scale and extent of curriculum adaptations and modifications will only
be determined after a thorough assessment of an individual pupil.
An individualised learning programme and work schedule with its related
lesson plans should be devised on the basis of the needs of visually impaired
pupils. Adaptation at lesson plan level will be required for all pupils in a
class who need specific additional support because of their disabilities.
Those involved in this process must include the teachers, parents, school
team and relevant professionals.
There are different types of curriculum adaptations:
WW Quantity: adapt the number of items or the number of activities;
WW Time: individualise a timeline for completing a task;
WW Level of support: increase the amount of personal assistance;
WW Input: adapt the way instruction is delivered to the pupil;
WW Difficulty: adapt the skill level, problem type or rules;
WW Output: adapt the way the pupil can respond to instruction;
WW Participation: adapt the extent to which a pupil is actively involved in
WW Alternative goals: adapt the goals or outcome expectations while
using the same materials;
WW Functional curriculum: provide different instruction and materials to
reach a pupil’s individual goals; this is only for pupils with moderate
to severe disabilities.
Certainly curriculum adaptations are not intended to affect the education
standards. Curriculum is adapted to make education more accessible
and to ensure that pupils with special needs do not face prejudices or are
treated unfairly. Learning problems, working schedules and lesson plans
can be modified and adapted to respond to the individual needs of pupils.
The scale and scope of curriculum adaptations and modifications will only
be determined after an assessment of one individual pupil. An individualised
learning programme and work schedule with its related lesson plans
should be devised on the basis of the needs of the visually impaired pupil.
Adaptation at lesson level plan will be required for all pupils in a class
who need specific additional support because of their disabilities. Those
involved in this process must include teachers, parents, school-based and
district-based support teams (when they exist). Other relevant professionals
from the community can be consulted too.
5.1 Introduction, defining the
concept of classroom climate
Classroom climate concerns the affective-relational area; it observes,
for example, feeling of meaning, respect, participation, well being, self-
confidence, perceptions formed in the interaction between pupils and school.
The concept of classroom climate with impact on learning processes in
social interactions has been defined as;
the group of psychological and social characteristics of a classroom,
determined by structural, personal and functional factors (…) The classroom
climate has to do with characteristics and behaviour of the teachers, of
the pupils, the interaction among these and, in consequence, the class
dynamic is unique and particular to these elements (Rodriguez,. 2004:1).
The climate of the classroom is also described as a system comprising of
four sets of variables: the physical involvement, the organisational objectives,
characteristics of teachers and pupils (Schmidt & Ĉagran, 2006). It is seen as
a strong mediator of values, beliefs and standards (ibid, 2006) also called
the discourse. With discourse is meant a normative context, coherent
systems of meaning in which meaning is created, enclosed, and excluded.
5.2 Factors of Influence
and Consequences on Climate
Research shows that pupils need to feel that school is for them; most pupils
are dependent on teachers who can offer them this opportunity (Hugo,
2009; Ljusberg, 2009). The real possibility of access to participation in the
classroom is one of the most important indicators of classroom climate.
Pupils achieve much better in classrooms with an academic environment
where they feel happy (Westling Allodi, 2002). The voluntary participation
in the classroom is much related to the climate of it (Okolo, 2007). Most
important in the climate in school are affective-relational factors with impact
on learning processes in social interactions.
This social dimension is also most evident in the context of the classroom
where pupils / situations / teachers in need of extra support are particularly
vulnerable and in need of an environment which is respectful of the dif-
ferences. The work on expectations, attitudes and beliefs is particularly
important for the impact each has, not only for academic learning, but
across the socio-emotional dynamics in the classroom. Teachers’ attitudes
NEW CONCEPTS ON TEACHER
TRAINING – CLASSROOM CLIMATE,
TEAM WORK, INCLUSIVE ASSESSMENT
are an important factor in determining the success of pupils (Grosin, 2004;
Groth, 2007; Hugo, 2007; Lundgren, 2007), and it is similar when it comes to
inclusion (Ainscow, 1993; Baker & Gottlieb, 1980; Monsen & Frederickson, 2004;
Scruggs & Mastropieri, 1996; Ward, Center & Bochner, 1994). Interpersonal
relationships are modified by the interactions between pupils and between
teacher and pupils in a context, the school / classroom, and in a national
and local discourse. These interactions are crucial, not only by their number,
but essentially their quality, that is also closely related to the multiple
dimensional development of each person. The individual development
(pupil or teacher), which impacts on these interactions are in turn influenced
by many factors, including their self-satisfaction, self-image, process of
learning and social competence, among others (Chang, 2003; Wentzel, 2002).
Several studies show that although peer groups are important influences,
the teacher has a vital role in changing attitudes. Even if language and
attitudes are important research shows that infra-verbal signals underlying
the dynamic in emotional climate is ever important. The discourse; beliefs,
expectations and attitudes of teachers and other adults in school, particularly
in view of the difference, have profound effects in various socio-emotional
dimensions, including level of self-concept, the process of acceptance
and rejection among peers and the social adjustment among the pupils
(Chang, 2003; Wentzel, 2002). In the classes where the teachers have a
positive attitude to inclusion the pupils also expressed a higher degree of
satisfaction, and a distinctively lower level of disagreement or quarrelling
(Monsen & Frederickson, 2004).
Many pupils in need of special support have significant social problems,
such as establishing friendships and feelings of isolation or loneliness.
Research shows that problems with establishing friendship can be found
in the context (Ljusberg, 2009). Since the relationship between peers in
childhood has a key role in structuring and subsequent social adjustment
throughout life, it is for an inclusive school teacher to create environments
that support and lead the promotion of acceptance and social competence.
Some authors are even considering this as fundamental in establishing an
inclusive setting (Meadan, 2008; Patton, & Gall, 2006). Similarly the relationship
between peers, in that it promotes self-knowledge and understanding of
each other in a horizontal relationship with significant others, is also a
reflection of the skills brought into play by each individual, in the inclusive
classroom. Self -esteem and social rejection by peers are also well known
not only as a consequence but as determinants of relationships, social
adjustment and the academic success (Santos, 2007).
Inclusion is not always seen positively in the classroom climate. Some
studies (Katz & Mirenda, 2002; Trump & Hang, 1996) indicate that inclusion
has positive effects but also negative and insignificant effects for the
climate of the classroom. To contribute to the positive effects the teacher
must prepare well for inclusion have clear expectations, accept the special
education teacher as an equal partner, acknowledge the heterogeneity of
classes, be tolerant and use more diverse strategies. The negative effects
arise in cases of overloaded classes or when pupils in need of special
support are not accepted.
Studies show that it is easier to change the classroom climate if people other
than teachers are involved (Schmidt & Ĉagran, 2006). Villa, Thousand, Myers,
& Nevin (1996) claim that head-teachers’ support and staff collaboration are
apparent as important factors in the formation of positive attitudes although
teachers perceive head-teachers as being detached and ambivalent towards
inclusion. Van Reusen, Shoho & Barker (2001) expand the involvement
to concern all staff around the pupils. Other researchers go further and
mean that the whole education system, as a single body, contributes to
the learning process and if a sector does not work or is weakened, the
whole process may be affected (Sakarneh, 2004). Van Reusen et. al (2001)
hypothesise that “the attitudes and beliefs that teachers, administrators
and other school personnel hold towards inclusion and the learning ability
of pupils with disabilities may influence school learning environments and
the availability of equal educational opportunities for all pupils” (ibid, p.
8). To change from a mainstream school to an inclusive school is about
changing discourse; values, norms and attitudes (Carrington & Robinson, 2004;
Fullan, 1999; Hunt & Goetz, 1997; Riehl’s, 2000; West-Burnham, 1997). Inclusion
requires a deep acceptance of all individuals with variety in their ethnicity,
religion, language, gender, class, in their diversity of needs, opportunities
and difficulties. In this perspective it is indispensable to add the pupil’s
own experience of participation, as well during classroom time and during
breaks – being able to take part in and have access to the information that
flows in and outside of the classroom (Ljusberg, 2009).
5.3 Climate, and language
The way we act, including the language we use, means we are never free
from values; in fact the discourse is steering what we recognise and how we
respond. For example; when it comes to difficulties in the classroom, in the
encounter between the pupil and the school, different perspectives for ex-
ample a compensatory perspective, or a critical, or a socio-cultural one give
different meaning to the situation, which adequately gives different solutions.
From a compensatory perspective the difficulties are attached to the pupil,
from a critical perspective in the organisation and from a socio-cultural per-
spective the difficulties are seen as social constructs in a classroom situation.
Nilholm (2006) states that the compensatory perspective regards special
… as an individual quality; such needs are demarcated
and categorised. … Special, rather than inclusive
support is advocated; what is seen as special education
expertise is supplied immediately, related to the diag-
nosed problems in the pupil. The reason for the special
education support is seen to depend on impairments
that are either congenital or in some other way attached
to the individual (Nilholm, 2006, p. 17, our translation).
In this perspective, the behaviour, including the language of teachers, has
a strong role, modelling the relationships within the group. It concerns the
teachers’ self-reflection upon their norms and different perspectives on
normality, diversity, identity and responsibility. Dror (2006) points to the
involvement of 6 factors in the general climate of school (not specifically
in the classroom), including: supportive leadership; teachers’ autonomy;
prestige of the teaching profession; renovations, teachers collaboration
and workload. Teachers who perceive their schools as having a supportive
leadership encourage the innovation / updates and collaboration between
partners, leading to more positive attitudes towards inclusion. This is
important though human beings (re)construct meaning in interplay with
other persons in different social practices (Vygotsky, 1999). There is evidence
to suggest (e.g. Sebba & Ainscow, 1996) that an inclusive school is a school
that has been subject to change and improvement. There are strong facts
showing that the school culture has to change. An issue that should be
considered regarding culture and inclusive culture is the fact that mainstream
and special education teachers often fail to collaborate (Henderson, 1994).
This problem is regarded by Bush (1995) as a co-existence of divergent
cultures in organisations. Riel’s (2000) view of the change in the mind-set
is that ‘the development of inclusive structures and practices must be
accompanied by new understandings and values or they will not result in
lasting change’. Fullan (1999) has identified organisational culture as a key
factor in leading change because of the need to develop new values, norms
and attitudes when change is implemented. When teachers educate they
use a special theoretical framework often hidden, not reflected upon, but
still there – working – here called an interpretive background (Hundeide,
2006). When educating, words are used, words which are created in the
encounter between their interpretive backgrounds and a special discourse
in the classroom. Words are action, the language is a powerful steering tool
and works in at least to ways; it is created and it creates. To understand
something is creative. Hjörne (2004) identified this phenomenon in relation
to the diagnosis AD / HD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) stating
that in a study she conducted on a pupil welfare team once the AD / HD
diagnosis has been introduced and adopted as relevant, it seemed to be
included in the staff pre-understanding and became active in the creation
of meaning. How teachers give meaning to – understand – a situation in
school is dependent on their interpretive background and on the discursive
practice. How we look upon the world, situations and actions / interactions
are then coloured or shaped. Learning can be seen as participation in
different discourses through communication / interaction and the interaction
is seen as a part of teaching and developing (Vygotsky 1999; Säljö 1999, 2000;
Hundeide 2006). A key point is that discourses are built into artefacts and even
the language is seen as an artefact. ‘We are learning … to notice, describe
and act in reality in the way the surroundings permit and encourage’ (Säljö
2000, 66, our translation). In the literature there are various indications of the
influence exerted by teachers’ interpretive backgrounds and expectations.
In a classroom study Davis, Watson and Cunningham-Burley (2000) studied
the interaction between pupils with intellectual disabilities and between
pupils and teachers. The staff associated with the studied group of pupils
gave various conditions of development to the pupils, depending on what
meaning they saw in the pupils’ behaviour. The staff’s perspective could
also be linked to the staff‘s own cultural background.
How teachers look upon the pupil are active ingredients in pupils’ availability
to be a particular kind of pupil. In the case of teachers’ interpretive back-
grounds, they are crucial to their approach, which makes up the framework
within which the pupils have freedom to act. Hellström (2004), for example,
uses the term ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’, while Jenner (2004) talks about the
‘Pygmalion effect’. The creation and maintenance of this environmental
and socio-emotional climate in which all pupils can feel that they and their
classmates are psychologically safe, valued and accepted, ensure active
involvement and sense of belonging is therefore a sine qua non condition
for the successful development of any inclusive practice.
5.4 Classroom climate – impact on
In an overview of 19 research investigations of inclusive programs, practices
and outcomes, Hunt & Goetz (1997) describe the characteristics of these
programs such as a “morally driven commitment to children” and “a
consensus on a set of values” that can be understood as components of
school culture. According to Ballard (1996) the main shift in the mind-set
towards inclusive culture is the ‘recognition of the value of diversity in
schools and communities’ (ibid. p. 42). Zollers, Ramanathan, & Moonset
(1999) conducted research that explored the relationship between culture
and inclusion. The research was a single-case study and it identified three
elements of culture that contribute to inclusive culture:
1. a democratic and empowering culture with collaborative
2. a broad vision of school community with parental involvement,
3. and shared language and values (Zollers et al. 1999).
A survey from various studies, found that classroom climate is often referred
to as having an impact, positive or negative, on several levels, including;
WW The regulation of movement and construction of knowledge i.e.
an inclusive environment facilitate the explanation from various
perspectives that enrich the discussion.
WW The impact of meta-curriculum e.g. one class allows inclusive and
productive learning between different groups of pupils, facilitating
their development of expertise, while a non inclusive learning
context facilitates the perpetuation of stereotypes.
WW The emotional impact on learning i.e. a class where the learning
experience is characterised by positive emotions – excitement of
discovery, joy, etc. – has increased productivity by motivating pupils
for future learning; contrary emotions such as fear, boredom and
other negative emotions are highly unmotivated consequences for
pupil and his academic success.
WW The dynamics of power in the classroom i.e. in productive classes
teachers use their authority to encourage all pupils in their own
way of learning, and sometimes the refusal to learn can be an
ultimate form of resistance from those who feel helpless in a hostile
WW The persistence of the pupil – pupils remain engaged when they feel
included and not made to feel less capable than others.
The self-esteem of both pupil and teacher has a direct impact on the
classroom climate.. For a teacher, self-esteem is one of the must important
variables in their perception of self-efficacy. This is evident where there
is a focus on collaborative work between teachers and special education
teachers. Studies by Lovey (2002) reported that special education teach-
ers often feel superfluous and even some sense of suspicion for their
presence in the classroom where there is a need for extra support. The
way this presence is received by the teacher, as well as the collaborative
work that is developed or not developed, has been reported in several
cross-cultural studies as a determinant factor in climate (Bartolo, Janik,,
Janikova, & Hofsass, 2007).
5.5 Creating and Maintaining an In-
clusive Climate on Classroom
Research shows that Inclusive Education is achieved in a classroom
with particular strategies and practices differing from those traditionally
used (Westwood, 2004). According to a report by the European Agency
for Development in Special Needs Education (2003) practice of inclusive
education should be based, essentially, on a quality education that promotes
a truly inclusive educational differentiation, achieved through the use of
cooperative work, action in partnership, promotion of working groups
gathered in the classroom and the promotion of work with peers.
Several studies show an educational potential for interactions between
peers, on the development of social-cognitive skills at the level of the
affective-emotional development for both partners (Bond & Castagna, 2006;
Terpstra & Tamura, 2008).
When developing strategies, interventions are more focused on a relational
context than on the individual to enable the emergence of a sense of
belonging, facilitating collaboration and friendship.
The development of a classroom climate which feels really secure, gener-
ates self-confidence and acceptance is crucial for the growth of children
and adolescents and the success of any educational practice that is
targeted. So it seems essential to organise some guidance to contribute
to the development of strategies for creating and maintaining an inclusive
The recognition of this important relational dimension in many studies has
stressed the need for a conscious development of strategies that ensure
respect for difference, leaving not only the development of appropriate
physical environments, but in order to create a genuine and successful
development of skills in all children. This goal, which involves long and
consistent work is based on a reflective process for the improvement
on the part of teachers regarding their attitudes towards the profound
These positive attitudes and beliefs of teachers and pupils to inclusion are
some of the most important factors on the creation of classroom climate
(Monsen & Frederickson, 2004).
Among the pedagogical strategies that may contribute to the development
of a inclusive classroom climate when it comes to teacher-pupil interaction,
are: the use of an inclusive language with the frequent use of male, female
and first names; the avoidance of generalisations; the avoidance of value
judgements and prejudices with teachers using self-reflection about their
intervention; giving feedback focusing on controllable causes such as
effort; the avoidance of embarrassing exposure of pupils to others; being
alert to body language of the pupils; being as objective as possible in
conversations; serving as a role model interacting with everyone and
respecting all opinions.
5.6 Some ideas about
The practice of these guidelines requires a deep involvement by the teacher,
reflecting not only on their professional skills but – as a professional who
deals with the person – also reflecting on their own personal and social
skills. This means that training teachers for an inclusive school probably
cannot restrict us to a traditional academic education but must propose a
training model that involves new processes.
The teacher training (initial and continuing) is a key resource for the
construction and affirmation of the inclusive school, promoting the develop-
ment of attitudes, knowledge and personal skills and teaching to serve
the interests and the aims of Inclusive education.
Based on these considerations, we believe that the most important dimen-
sions (assuming a cross dimensions character) in the development of any
program of teacher education for Inclusive Schools are the knowledge,
analysis and reflection about the importance of creating and maintaining
an inclusive climate in the classroom and their conditioning factors and
strategies considered most effective for its implementation. It seems
essential for the strategies to be put into practice as part of an experiential
process, reflected upon, and then for the teacher to respond to how he /
she experiences difference and what impact it has on him / her.
Reviewing the research on classroom climate and classroom climate in
inclusive settings offers the following suggestions about how to create
and maintain a positive climate. Classroom climate is seen as a strong
mediator of values, norms beliefs and standards and these are reflected
in both how the classroom and teaching is physically and psychologically
organised and how the pupils are approached. Basically it is about widening
the thinking about normality not just focusing on similarities but respecting
and appreciating difference as a variation of pupils´ ethnicity, religion,
language, gender, class, needs, opportunities and difficulties. These
positive attitudes and beliefs of teachers and pupils to inclusion are some
of the most determinant factors on creation of a positive classroom climate.
We can develop a school that can meet the diversity of pupils as a reality.
Pupils have different backgrounds in terms of class, ethnicity, gender, and
disability, and thus different ways of interacting and giving meaning. It is
important to develop a school that is based on diversity and that focuses
on a situated learning. To support this change we have constructed this
material and the Aide Memoir. Most of the different headings in the Aide
Memoir play a vital role in establishing a positive classroom climate. If we
have to select a few we choose these: Welcome; Communication; Level of
work and Motivation; Value and Respect; Positive experience; Friendships;
Ambience; Rules and routines and Safety / security.
5.7 Teamwork in
Teamwork is essential for the development of interaction in an inclusive
classroom. The results have been positive when the work in the classroom is
based on teamwork. Developing fundamental communication competences,
developing cognitive capacities, developing emotional well-being and
promoting a constructive interaction are some of the elements which can
favour teamwork. Studies have shown that progress has been made at
the levels of sociability and communication as a result of the dynamics
A team is a group of people who work together to accomplish a common
goal. The concept of teamwork is defined as
“the work done by a group of pupils which has a
shared awareness of identity and rules, the same
aims and commitment to help the others” (Arnaiz, 1988)
Teamwork is a challenge both for pupils and for teachers who work with
the same class-group or work in the same inclusive school.
There are some advantages of teamwork in inclusive classrooms, it:
WW Provides a valuable opportunity to achieve high quality learning
WW Stimulates collaboration and develops pupils’ confidence and active
participation in learning;
WW Brings together pupils with different experiences and perspectives,
so it leads to creative and innovative solutions;
WW Encourages pupils to challenge assumptions;
WW Gives pupils a chance to perform a number of different roles;
WW Develops different skills such as: project management, problem
solving, conflict resolution and negotiation;
WW Prepares pupils for the workplace.
Sometimes some problems might be found:
WW Some pupils prefer to work and be assessed independently,
WW Not all the pupils learn everything about the topic,
WW Some pupils tend to dominate others in the team.
The most important thing is to be aware and attentive to all pupils and
give them equal opportunities for success. Teachers can convert possible
problems into challenges for inclusion.
Therefore the qualities of a team must include the following items in order
to contribute to an inclusive environment, that:
WW Team members share their goals
WW Team members understand their roles and scopes for contribution
WW Team members work together and independently to complete tasks
WW Team members give each other emotional support
Teachers must learn some basic competences to develop teamwork in
WW Planning for each stage of group work. Thinking about how they will
introduce and organise pupils in teamwork.
WW Explaining to their classes how the groups will operate and how
pupils will be graded. Explaining the objectives of the group task
and defining any relevant concepts and tasks.
WW Giving pupils the skills they need to succeed in groups. (skills like
active and tolerant listening, helping one another in mastering
content, giving and receiving constructive criticism, managing
disagreements and so on).
WW Evaluating the effectiveness of teamwork. Evaluating goals and
objectives, trust and conflict, expression of differences, leadership,
control and procedures, utilisation of resources, interpersonal
communication, problem solving / decision making)
The construction of these competences implies that the teachers must be
well-grounded in some aspects like:
WW Decide how the groups will be formed
―― Some teachers prefer randomly assigning pupils to groups to maximise
their heterogeneity: a mix of males and females, verbal and quiet
pupils, the pessimistic and the optimistic.
―― Some teachers let pupils choose with whom they want to work,
although this runs the risk that groups will socialise too much and that
pupils will self-segregate.
―― Still other teachers prefer to form the groups themselves, taking into
account pupils‘ prior achievement, levels of preparation, work habits,
ethnicity, and gender. They try to sprinkle the more able pupils evenly
among the groups
―― A middle ground, is to ask pupils to express a preference.
Learning teams work best when they are balanced in terms of their abilities
and have members with varied characteristics. Ideally, group members have:
―― various levels of prior achievement
―― various levels of prior experience
―― a gender mix
―― an ethnic and linguistic mix
―― various learning styles
WW Be conscious of group size. In general, teams of four or five pupils
work best. Larger groups decrease each member‘s opportunity to
WW Keep teams together. When a team is not working well, avoid
breaking it up, even if the group requests it. It’s important to learn
solving problems together.
WW Help groups plan how to proceed. Ask each group to devise a plan
of action: who will be doing what and when. Review the groups‘
written plans or meet with each group to discuss its plan.
WW Regularly check in with the teams. Teachers can establish check-
points with the team.
WW Provide mechanisms for groups to deal with problems (uncoopera-
tive members, conflicts among members etc.)
There are many types of teams composed through complexity criteria that
teachers and educators should differentiate in order to promote inclusion
in their classroom:
WW Formal learning teams are teams established to complete a specific
task, such as perform an experiment, write a report, carry out a
project and so on. These groups may complete their work in a
single class session or over several sessions. Typically, pupils work
together until the task is finished, and their project is graded.
WW Informal learning teams are ad hoc temporary groups of pupils
within a single class session. Informal learning groups can be
initiated, for example, by asking pupils to turn to a neighbour and
spend two minutes discussing a question you have posed.
You can also form groups of three to five to solve a problem or other
WW Long-term teams (usually existing over a long period of the course)
with stable membership whose primary responsibility is to provide
members with support, encouragement, and assistance in complet-
ing course requirements and assignments.
In most European countries the aim of compulsory education is that of
providing pupils with quality education that enables them to acquire basic
cultural skills as well as fostering their own personal development (social
skills, study and work habits, creativity and affectivity…) Some examples
of teamwork in inclusive schools are the following:
Some schools use group dynamics to increase good relationships among
pupils and the best contribution of every pupil to the work group. Group
dynamic activities develop some skills referring to communication, confi-
dence among group members, decision-making, problem solving, conflict
resolution and cohesiveness. Also group dynamic activities encourage
collaboration and creativity.
Effective group dynamics require respect for one another, clearly articulated
shared goals, frequent interaction, equitably divided tasks, and shared
responsibility for mistakes and successes and free expression of opinions
Collaborative learning is an educational approach to teaching and learning
that involves groups of pupils working together to solve a problem, complete
a task, or create a product. In the school, groups provide support, an
academic framework to learn, a conduit for encouragement, and in many
ways, a buffer that can prevent academic failure. In a group setting, the
pupil has the opportunity to rehearse his understanding with others and
to be exposed to other conceptual constructs.
Peer mentors are trained to work with other pupils in school to develop
positive relationships and help special needs pupils or immigrant pupils
with their worries, problems and difficulties.
A pair of pupils helps others to solve a conflict. Peer mediation is a service
that the pupils, themselves, can use to manage conflicts that they are having
with other pupils. It gives the pupils an opportunity to be more independent
and solve conflicts in a mature responsible manner.
Teamwork among professionals is another challenge for inclusive schools.
Educators are being asked to collaborate with each other, with administra-
tors and district officials, with pupils, with parents, and with community
members. Teamwork is a form of collective work where educators and
school professionals come together to share ideas, strategies, even
possible solutions. Each member has their own individual task, but these
separate tasks can benefit from hearing what colleagues are doing or
have done with similar tasks.
Some special skills are required for teamwork like skills for planning work,
communication, responsibility, supportive diversity and feedback and
evaluation. Therefore working in a team is a question of skills but it also
presupposes the conviction that cooperation is a positive professional value.
These two aspects (skills and the conviction of the value of teamwork)
are more closely related than is thought: what people haven’t mastered
is normally undervalued.
Training needs, detected in the area of development of teamwork, tend to
be related to similar aspects of teamwork among pupils, its organisation,
or basic skills necessary for carrying it out.
5.8 New concepts on teacher
training: Inclusive Assessment
Assessment of pupils in inclusive settings should be, progressively, a
responsibility shared jointly by practitioners of different research com-
munities and useful collaborative work could be undertaken to develop
diagnostic assessment tools for use in formative assessment. But, some
times, as Goodrum, Hackling and Rennie (2001) found, diagnostic evidence
is rarely employed for informing teachers how to plan learning.
That assumption presupposes the synchronisation between assessment
policy and assessment practices with a continuum that includes: instruction
in class, school, and home. Setting decisions must be made by an IEP
team that includes parents, teachers, psychologists, and other persons
knowledgeable about the pupil (Candeias et al., 2008; Salvia, Ysseldyke &
Bolt, 2007). So, as these authors propose inclusive assessment information
should be used “to make decisions about the extent to which educational
programs in school systems are working for all pupils, including pupils
with disabilities” (2007, p. 17).
In this context, improving inclusive assessment as practice in schools it
will be necessary to change assessment practices as well as the role of
parents and teachers within assessment, as we explain in the next points.
Kleinert et al. (2002) suggests a set of key questions that remains in relation
to inclusive assessment:
WW How do teachers meet the responsibilities of assessing pupils with
specific needs in programmes aligned with ‚standards‘ and the
assessment requirements of official legislation?
WW How do teachers ensure that all pupils with disabilities achieve in
the general education curriculum to the best extent possible?
WW How do teachers decide which pupils need alternative
WW How do teachers design effective alternative assessments?
Earl and LeMahieu (1997) had already called for more emphasis upon the
concept of assessment for learning if the desired educational reforms and
improvements are to be realised. Assessment as (or for) learning allows
teachers to use their judgment about a pupil’s understanding to inform the
teaching process and to determine what to do for individual pupils. These
aims and purposes of assessment are exactly what can be identified as
being best practice assessment within primary inclusive settings. Stanford
and Reeves (2005) also state that a fundamental truth in effective teaching
is that assessment strategies must help the teacher determine the most
appropriate instruction, in addition to assessing progress.
Pugach and Warger (2001) suggest attention should be focused on the
performance and progress of all learners and that assessment linked to
programmes of instruction can enhance teaching as, this way, teachers
are better informed about the learning progress and difficulties of their
pupils and, therefore, they can make better decisions about what a pupil
needs to learn next and how to teach that material in a manner that will
maximise pupils’ learning.
Nowadays teachers and other educational professionals are calling for new
assessment practices to be used to support pupil learning, guide educational
improvement and enhance equity for all pupils, a social inclusion as Lloyd
proposes in 2006. As we stated before (Candeias et al., 2009), inclusive
assessment implies collaborative work, multidimensional assessment and
an ecological approach to education based on family-school-community.
For this we need to improve teacher training in conducting assessments,
linking alternative assessment to curricula and teaching programmes and
linking assessment to Individual Education Plans.
The Aide Memoir: a new proposal to support and
assess teachers’ inclusive classroom practice.
The drive towards inclusive teaching has been underpinned by legislation
and policies in many of the European partner’s countries. The research,
carried out in recognised inclusive schools by the teams in the project,
showed that the countries were at different stages of developing this
concept. Through interviews with teachers it became apparent that teach-
ers and assistants would welcome a tool to support their practice in the
classroom. For some it would be a new way of working, for others a
reminder of useful ideas and strategies – an Aide Memoir.
6.2 Teaching inclusively
is about creating an ethos and environment where pupils can enjoy learning,
reflect, improve and grow in confidence. This is fundamental to all learning,
yet it is not without its challenges. Each child is unique: teaching requires
a holistic approach and is not just about addressing the academic needs
in school (Brodin and Lindstrand 2007). Knowledge of child development is
essential, as is an understanding of what makes the child an individual.
It is a very complex brief. Effective inclusive practice requires the teacher
to have good relationships with pupils and adults, a breadth of knowledge
and understanding to actively support and extend the pupil’s learning, an
appropriate learning environment and high quality teaching, including the
ability to meet all pupils needs, learning styles and interests (DFES 2005,
6.3 The Aide Memoir and
the “Fit to learn bookmark”
are intended to help teachers:
WW To evaluate the level of their inclusive practice regarding suitable
conditions for learning, the learning community, the learning envi-
ronment and positive instruction
WW To increase the level of their inclusive practice in those areas
WW To raise awareness that good practice can meet the needs of ALL
pupils, despite their individual needs
WW To identify their individual needs for in – service training.
WW To use as a checklist for assessing the quality of inclusion or
The Aide Memoir is organised into five main sections, namely:
1. Am I including? – looking at inclusion from a wide perspective,
including everyone in the classroom.
2. The Environment – Is my classroom inclusive? – using re-
sources, including technology and the ambience of the classroom.
3. A Collaborative approach – Have I involved? – building relation-
ships with and between pupils, staff, parents, other professionals
and the community.
4. How can I adjust my teaching? – meeting all the needs of each
individual using a variety of strategies.
5. Fit to Learn? – using positive assessment to facilitate learning
The tool is in two parts – a bookmark and a booklet which can be downloaded
from the website www.irisproject.eu. Both the bookmark and the booklet
have the same sections. In each section there is a number of headings
relating to the same theme. The bookmark is a practical tool designed
to be readily accessible, possibly in the diary, and used as a prompt in
the classroom. The booklet goes into greater depth. In this, under each
heading there is a series of questions designed to be stimulating to help
in reflection or in the resolution of an event that has occurred.
6.4 Evaluation of the tool
The Aide memoir was successfully trialled in a variety of schools in
the partner countries. While the main comment received was that the
document was too long, the teachers could not conclude which aspects
could be omitted. It needed to be a large document in order to be fully
comprehensive. With more regular use they became more familiar with
the Aide Memoir which made it easier to use. Their initial understanding,
and a weakness in the introduction to the tools, was that the document
had to be used in its entirety, answering all the questions, which was too
much to expect of busy practitioners. The questions were designed to be
thought provoking rather than as a yes / no exercise. However, using the
stand alone sections as and when required meant teachers could reflect
on their daily practice, revising their teaching methods accordingly.
A critical appraisal of the document said that the wording of certain sections
needed greater clarity which has been addressed. Similarly a comments box
has been added for teachers to make their own suggestions for future work.
The overall aim of the document is to aid teacher reflection, stimulate
thinking, help to focus on aspects of practice, and importantly to promote
inclusive practice. Thinking in this way can then help with the whole school
approach to inclusion, through its appraisal system, understanding teachers’
needs for training and support and improving the current response to
inclusion within the school.
6.5 Practical use and case studies
Ideally the Aide Memoir should be read through to become familiarised
with the contents before its use. The sections are designed to be used as
stand alone units that can be used singly or together with others. It can
also be used as a complete document. Therefore there will be repetitions
in ideas, though not always identical statements, in different sections.
The questions are to prompt thoughtful reflections for individual personal
development, with a space for comments if required.
WW Essentially it is a tool to be used as a reminder while teaching or
working with the whole class or with an individual pupil.
WW For an individual, the IRIS Aide Memoir bookmark can be used as a
prompt when situations arise.
A pupil, unexpectedly, completes a different piece of work from the rest
of the class.
Use the bookmark to think positively how the situation could have been
Any of the following sections could be a starting point.
In Am I Including?
Barriers to Learning and
Or How Can I adjust my Teaching?
Clarity of Approach,
Barriers to Learning
By using these headings from the bookmark sufficient ideas may be
generated to resolve the problem. As a follow up, the questions in each
of the sections, of the Aide Memoir, may stimulate further thinking and
create alternative solutions.
WW The IRIS Aide Memoir can be used as ideas for peer mentoring
/ staff discussions. For example the main headings of inclusion,
collaboration, environment and teaching strategies, may be used for
a general discussion or individual titles such as communication to
be more focussed.
WW The full Aide Memoir document, or specific sections, can be used as
a personal checklist for appraisal.
WW By collating the results of appraisals, using the Aide Memoir, it can
be a window on the whole school approach to inclusion, identifying
the positive and negative aspects of practice and seeing where
training would be valuable for a whole school or at an individual
Section five of the Aide Memoir addresses the individual needs of the pupil
by looking at assessment. The teacher can choose whether to look at a
specific area of learning for the pupil or to have a more global assessment,
beginning in the classroom or requesting support from outside professionals,
for example, an educational psychologist, speech therapist, hearing / sight
advisor. It is important to work from known information from parents and
from direct observation, hence the sections on ‘what needs are known?’
and ‘observations’. All assessments focus on the understanding of the pupil
to facilitate his / her learning. In the booklet there is a series of questions
to support the teacher to address the pupil’s needs.
There follows two case studies to show how the Aide Memoir could be
used in these situations.
Case Study 1 – Olivia, Year 2
WW In the classroom Olivia was sullen and often passively
WW On occasions she would lie under the table.
WW In the playground she would often lash out with her fists and feet.
Teacher thoughts / response
Very little I do makes any difference. I’m at my wits end. She never seems
to join in or enjoy being in school. I worry about the other children getting
Intervention using the headings of the Aide Memoir
WW Olivia’s Mum was encouraged to talk to her daughter at a level
which she could understand, and provide some reassurance that
she was not going to leave too.
Level of Work and Motivation (especially emotional well being)
WW Many efforts were made in school to give positive messages to
Olivia about herself.
WW She actually became more tearful for a while, but her very angry
behaviour diminished considerably.
Further investigation and ‘Fit to Learn’ assessment fol-
lowing Parental Involvement
Sensitive discussions with Olivia’s mother uncovered the fact that her
father had left the family a year earlier and, although Olivia had been
quite close to him, no one had talked to her about what was happening
for fear of upsetting her. In an interview with the educational psychologist
Olivia admitted that she cried every night but didn’t want her Mum to hear
because her Mum had been crying too. I must be a very bad person, very
bad for my Daddy not to want me any more.
Case Study 2 – Benjamin, Year 1
WW During physical education, Benjamin would run from group to group
at apparatus time apparently ignoring instructions from the class
teacher. He would make little attempt to dress himself afterwards.
WW During class instruction and carpet times he would begin to ramble
on about irrelevant issues. Chatting about familiar topics was no
WW He often became distressed.
Teacher’s thoughts / response
He’s attention seeking and manipulative.
Intervention using the headings of the Aide Memoir
WW Teacher gave simple instructions and Benjamin was expected to
complete only one thing at a time. He managed this successfully.
WW The teacher modified the content and duration of carpet time
sessions. This was also of benefit to other pupils.
Participation and Sharing
WW One or two other pupils in the class were encouraged to befriend
Benjamin and help him with dressing after Physical Education.
WW Following discussion with his mother, Benjamin was provided with
clothes which were easier to get on and off.
WW Benjamin’s confidence grew as a result of greater understanding by
Further investigation using ‘Fit to Learn’ assessment
following parental involvement
Benjamin was found to have a receptive language difficulty and a delay
in the acquisition of fine motor skills.
In summary the Aide memoir headings on the bookmark can be used as
prompts for ideas. The questions in the booklet can stimulate thinking
particularly when reflecting on the day’s work, if the day has gone well, if
the results are not as expected in a classroom situation or when a problem
arises. Individual sections can be used for personal development and as
a whole school approach to inclusion, through appraisal, mentoring and
The IRIS Aide Memoir helps to support inclusive practice in a variety of ways
for the individual or as a whole school approach. It is a tool to encourage
good practice and to give helpful and practical advice.