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Exploring the impact of a professional learning community on teacher professional learning for inclusive practice

Brennan, Aoife (2017) Exploring the impact of a professional learning community on teacher professional learning for inclusive practice. Doctor of Education thesis, Dublin City University.

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In the Irish context, inclusive education has experienced transformative policy development in recent years, stemming from the international inclusion focus. The commitment to inclusive education is espoused in the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act (EPSEN) (2004) and the plethora of legislation and policy that followed. However, at the coalface, the implementation of inclusive practice continues to be met with myriad challenges. Professional development (PD) is necessary to move inclusive education forward, yet PD has been inconsistent in this area. This inconsistency has resulted in a lack of teacher confidence and competence in enacting inclusive practice. Furthermore, transmissive models of PD are prevalent in the Irish context, despite demonstrating little impact on teacher learning. Transformative models of PD such as professional learning communities (PLCs) hold promise for whole-school reform. However, this form of PD remains under-utilised for developing inclusive practice. This study addresses the research gap relating to PLCs for inclusive practice. It is underpinned by a theoretical framework which combines an inclusive pedagogical approach (Florian, 2014) and key principles of effective PD arising from the literature, which informed the development of a PLC for inclusive practice in a primary school. Furthermore, impact of engagement in the PLC on teachers’ professional practice was explored using an evidence-based evaluation framework. This research adopted a predominantly qualitative case-study design which employed interviews, observation of practice, a researcher reflexive journal and pre-and post-study scales. A multi-layered approach to data analysis revealed key research findings relating to teacher professional learning for inclusive practice. The findings evidence that a PLC, underpinned by an inclusive pedagogical approach, positively impacted teacher attitudes and beliefs, and teacher efficacy, towards inclusive practice. In addition, the PLC had a positive impact on teachers’ individual and collaborative practice. The findings suggest that inclusive practice can be effectively developed through an on-site PLC that is characterised by critical dialogue and public sharing of work. Recommendations proffer design principles to underpin the development of PLCs for inclusive practice. These include systemic factors which were evidenced as key to supporting the PD initiative, namely: leadership for inclusion, cultivation of a safe and supportive space, external/internal support, and teacher agency. Such factors are important considerations at the macro and micro levels of the education system in the conceptualisation of PD to support teacher professional learning for inclusive practice.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctor of Education)
Date of Award:November 2017
Supervisor(s):Travers, Joe and King, Fiona
Uncontrolled Keywords:Inclusive and Special Education
Subjects:Social Sciences > Education
DCU Faculties and Centres:DCU Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Science > School of Education Studies
Use License:This item is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License. View License
ID Code:21956
Deposited On:13 Nov 2017 12:44 by Joe Travers. Last Modified 13 Nov 2017 12:44

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