Teachers’ perceptions and understanding of diversity and inclusive education : a case study

Barnes, Bronwyn (2011-03)

Thesis (MEdPsych)--University of Stellenbosch, 2011.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The aim of this study was to investigate the perceptions and understandings of diversity and inclusive education held by teachers at one South African school. Since 1994, the South African education system has undergone many policy changes. An inclusive education system is consistent with the principles underlying the current democratic dispensation in South Africa. In this research, the researcher aimed to identify and describe the perceptions and understandings of the teachers at the school hold regarding diversity and inclusive education. Elements of school culture, such as values, practices and procedures were looked at in detail. The paradigm worked from in this research is the interpretive constructivist paradigm. The strategy was inductive, the outcomes descriptive and the meaning mediated through the researcher as instrument. This paradigm accounts for multiple realities and highlights the importance of context. A qualitative descriptive case study was done with the aim to describe the phenomena accurately. Bronfenbrenner‟s bioecological model provided a theoretical framework for this study. This theoretical standpoint has great relevance for emphasising the interaction between the development of an individual and the systems within an individual's social context. A purposive sampling strategy was adopted and individual, semi-structured interviews were conducted with teachers who participated in the study. Interpretive analysis was done on the transcriptions of the interviews by making use of the constant comparative method of analysis. Coding and inducing of categories and themes helped the researcher engage with and make sense of the data that was generated. The key findings of this study showed that the teachers working at School A have a good understanding and sense of what diversity and inclusive education entails. Their attitudes are generally positive and they embrace diversity and see inclusive education as having many advantages. The teachers feel well-supported in their school environment and display a sense of belonging among the staff. The shared value system of the school is one of acceptance, respect and embracing difference and diversity. There is a culture in the school that encourages the uniqueness of each learner and each child is seen as having potential and subsequently supported in their quest to reach their own unique potential. There are also elements within the school's functioning that require attention, for example, there are two classes of „special education‟ learners that are not entirely included in the regular classes. But, even though there are still elements that need to be addressed and refined within School A – this school is working hard to approach diversity in such a way that creates an environment in which inclusive ideals and practices can continue to grow and develop.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die doel van hierdie studie was om ondersoek in te stel na die wyses waarop onderwysers by een bepaalde Suid-Afrikaanse skool diversiteit benader en dit hanteer. Sedert 1994 het die Suid-Afrikaanse onderwysstelsel etlike beleidsveranderinge ondergaan. 'n Inklusiewe onderwysstelsel is in pas met die onderliggende beginsels van die huidige demokratiese bedeling in Suid- Afrika. In hierdie ondersoek het die navorser daarna gestreef om vas te stel watter persepsies en begrip van diversiteit en inklusiewe onderwys by die onderwysers van 'n betrokke skool bestaan. Elemente van die skoolkultuur, soos waardes, praktyke en prosedures, is in besonderhede bestudeer. Daar is met hierdie navorsing vanuit 'n interpretatiewe paradigma vertrek. Die strategie was induktief, die uitkomste deskriptief, en betekenis is gemedieer deur die navorser as instrument. Hierdie paradigma erken meervoudige werklikhede en belig die belangrikheid van die konteks. 'n Kwalitatiewe beskrywende gevallestudie is onderneem, met die doel om die verskynsels akkuraat te beskryf. Bronfenbrenner se bio-ekologiese model het 'n teoretiese raamwerk vir hierdie studie verskaf. Hierdie teoretiese standpunt is besonder relevant vir die beklemtoning van interaksie tussen die individu se ontwikkeling en die stelsels binne 'n individu se sosiale konteks. Die deelnemers is doelbewus gekies en individuele, semigestruktureerde onderhoude is gevoer met onderwysers wat aan die studie deelgeneem het. Die konstante vergelykende metode van analisie is gebruik on die data te analiseer. Die kodering en indusering van kategorieë en temas het die navorser gehelp om die data wat gegenereer is, te hanteer en sinvol te interpreteer. Die sleutelbevindinge van hierdie studie het getoon dat die onderwysers wat aan Skool A verbonde is 'n goeie begrip en aanvoeling het vir wat diversiteit en inklusiewe onderrig behels. Hulle instelling is oor die algemeen positief; hulle verwelkom diversiteit en beskou inklusiewe onderrig as 'n stelsel wat vele voordele bied. Die onderwysers voel dat hul skoolomgewing hulle goed ondersteun en dit blyk dat die personeel 'n onderlinge samehorigheid ervaar. Die gemeenskaplike waardestelsel van die skool is dié van aanvaarding, respek en die viering van verskille en diversiteit. Daar heers 'n skoolkultuur wat die uniekheid van elke leerder aanmoedig; elke kind word gesien as iemand met potensiaal en elkeen word gevolglik ondersteun in 'n poging om hul eie, unieke potensiaal te verwesenlik. Daar is egter ook elemente binne die skool se funksionering wat aandag verg, byvoorbeeld die twee klasse vir „spesiale-onderrig‟-leerders wat nie ten volle in die gewone klasse opgeneem word nie. Maar, hoewel daar in Skool A steeds aspekte is wat aangespreek en verfyn moet word, werk hierdie skool hard om diversiteit op so 'n wyse te benader dat dit 'n omgewing skep waarin inklusiewe ideale en praktyke voortaan kan groei en ontwikkel.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/6482
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