Inclusive education in Australia is ever changing. It encompasses not only students from non-English speaking backgrounds but also students with mental and physical disabilities (Elkins, van Kraayenoord & Jobling, 2003). An inclusive classroom is one where the teacher makes adjustments to the curriculum and the classroom layout to strengthen and accommodate the needs of all their students. The purpose of this essay is to highlight some of the issues teachers encounter within the inclusive classroom and to provide information on intervention strategies that can be implemented.
Issues and Strategies
To provide a quality inclusive classroom, teachers are faced with numerous challenges. In the author’s view, one of the main challenges is that of time constraints. According to Queensland’s Department of Education and Training website (2011), teachers (in Queensland) are entitled to two hours of non-contact time each week. This time is available to teachers due to their students being at LOTE, music or PE lessons. In these two hours teachers are required to plan and gather resources, follow up behaviour incidences, send emails, complete administrative paperwork and adjust learning activities to encompass children with learning difficulties, and ensure Individual Education Plan (IEP) goals are being met. This leaves little time to confer with specialist teachers regarding students with disabilities (Pearce, Campbell-Evans & Gray, 2010).
Funding is another challenge that inclusive classroom teachers can face (Rodriguez & Caplan, 1998). Teachers require funding for materials to support student learning and to allocate teacher aide time to work with students with disabilities within the classroom. This is one of the reasons that early identification and assessment of students is essential (Marsh, 2008). The identification and assessment process is a lengthy one. Teachers need to collect data, submit forms and await validation before funding can be allocated. Once the allocation has been made, resources and equipment can be purchased and dedicated personnel assigned. If there is a lack of adaptive equipment, communication and language tools, it makes it difficult for the classroom to function as a whole (Ramos, 2009).
Teachers may feel overwhelmed by the many responsibilities required of them in an inclusive classroom (Rodriguez & Caplan, 1998). The teachers’ knowledge of a student’s disability and the exact needs of the student may be limited, and therefore the progress made by students with a disability within the inclusive classroom could be stunted. Therefore, accurate assessments of students with disabilities and assistance with developing a programming of learning for them should be made in consultation with a special education team.
When students are diagnosed with a disability, they usually have an education support team allocated to them. This support team may consist of advisory visiting teachers, speech language pathologists, guidance officers, occupational therapists and other such specialists. This team of people can provide the classroom teacher with invaluable insight into each student and assist with strategies to help students achieve their education goals (Rodriguez & Caplan, 2008).
In this ever changing world, teachers are constantly being challenged to develop new skills and knowledge (Education Queensland, 2011). Professional development is an essential tenant in achieving this and can come in a variety of forms, for example, bulletins, interaction with peers/specialists and seminars. When teaching students with disabilities, it may be necessary for teachers to attend some workshops and seminars that will assist them to better understand the student’s disability. Having said that, teachers may find that due to the time or location of these workshops, they are not able to attend. For example if the workshop is on a normal school day or starts earlier than a...