Teachers' negotiations of inclusive practice in Nigerian classrooms
Taiwo, Mary Moyosore
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This research investigates the practices of teachers in Nigerian classrooms where children with disabilities are being educated alongside their peers. The research objective was to develop an understanding of how teachers in Nigerian classrooms are developing their practice. Since the commitment the Nigerian government to the provision of universal basic and inclusive education for all children, research and reports on what the implementation of inclusive practice entails have been carried out. These have been largely quantitative, focusing on the percentage of children with disabilities who now have access to basic education and the percentage of these children in regular schools or classrooms. The research in Nigeria has used surveys to determine the attitudes and readiness of teachers and school administrators to implement inclusive practice. The problems of implementing inclusive practice have also received attention. It is against this background that this qualitative inquiry seeks to understand what is happening in classrooms with regard to the teaching and learning of all children. To address the main research question, how are teachers with experience of inclusive education developing practice in Nigerian classrooms? qualitative data was generated over eight weeks through the use of semi-structured (non-participant) classroom observations, which were followed-up by semi-structured interviews with 12 teachers from three different schools. To further enhance the understanding of the teachers’ developing practices, the schools’ administrators (either the principal or vice principal) and the resource persons were also interviewed. The overall design of the study was an instrumental-collective case study in which teachers were purposively sampled on the basis of their experience of inclusive education. This design was based on the understanding that inclusive practice is developed through an interaction of what teachers do, what they believe and what they know. Thus, a single factor of readiness and a positive attitude does not fully account for the development of practice (Rouse, 2008). The framework for participation, developed by Black-Hawkins (2010; 2014), guided the process of data generation and the analysis. This research is based on an understanding of inclusive practice as a process of addressing and responding to diverse learning needs that emphasizes how this response is provided. This understanding provided the premise within which the data was deductively (i.e. theoretically driven) analysed. An inductive approach to the analysis was also added to the deductive process of analysing the data generated in order to develop an understanding of the case teachers’ classroom practices. Three main findings emerged from this study. Firstly, teachers’ actions are influenced by their understanding of what teaching and learning are, as well as their knowledge and beliefs about the process through which children with disabilities are expected to learn. Case teachers’ knowledge was found to have significantly influenced their practices. Secondly, there was an absence of collaborative efforts between teachers and/or between teachers and resource persons available within the school context. This absence of collaboration is often associated with a lack of understanding or clarity with regard to the role of resource persons. Thirdly, this study identified barriers and opportunities that were embedded in teachers’ developing practice. The barriers include an absence of a sense of shared values in the classroom between all members of the classroom community, while the opportunities include the use of information from students with disabilities as a source of support to enhance classroom practice. This research contributes to the literature on inclusive classroom practice, especially the strand of literature that in recent years has called for investigations into what inclusive classroom practice comprises and when such practice can be identified on the basis of clearly stated underpinning principles (Florian, 2014b). In using clearly identified principles, it was possible to identify that both inclusive and exclusive practices can be present in the same classroom context and why this is so. Through the use of the framework for participation and theoretical ideas developed and used in researching inclusive education in a different context, this thesis has demonstrated the extent to which these ideas can be applicable in other contexts. In so doing some findings have been reasserted and new insight situated in a particular context has been developed. It is therefore argued that understanding the processes of developing inclusive practice requires a need to situate practice in the broader cultural assumptions, expectations and values of teaching and learning. The findings are discussed and recommendations such as the need for a more deliberate and collaborative efforts in working with resource persons to enhance classroom teachers’ ability to address learning difficulties while developing their inclusive classroom practice are made. The conclusion drawn is that teachers with experience of inclusive education in Nigeria are developing practice that meets some of the theoretical standards of inclusive classroom practice. Regardless of this, there are certain cultural assumptions, understandings and ideas that need to be reflected on and reviewed in order for practice to be further developed and improved upon in Nigeria.