A knowledge network model for teachers supporting learners with disabilities in an inclusive education system
Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2016
ENGLISH ABSTRACT : It is widely acknowledged by researchers that teachers play the most important role in the implementation of inclusive education. However, it is also acknowledged by researchers and teachers alike that teachers are not adequately prepared for this task through the current approaches to initial teacher education and continuous professional development initiatives. Inclusive education aims to provide quality and equal education to all children. This implies that in an inclusive classroom there will be a diverse population of children with regard to their abilities, impairments and educational, medical, and therapeutic needs. It stands to reason that this requires teachers to be informed practitioners. However, it will be impossible for teachers to have all the knowledge they may need in a given situation to do justice to the needs of all the children in their classes. Inclusive education should therefore be seen as a shared responsibility. The concept shared responsibility implies that there is a pool of knowledge available to teachers. It is within the context of the above that I decided to conduct a study focussing on what should be entailed in the personal continuous knowledge development of teachers in inclusive education. The findings would be used to develop a personal continuous knowledge development (PCKD) model suggested in this study which is aimed at empowering teachers to be self-directed in their search for knowledge. To direct the study, the following research questions were developed: How will the strategies identified in the literature on knowledge management (KM) and inclusive education (IE) aid the development of a model for personal continuous knowledge development of teachers? The sub-questions that support the central question were: What is the level of knowledge management usage in the inclusive education system? What is the view of subject experts with regard to the personal continuous knowledge development (PCKD) model for the continuous knowledge development of teachers? To find answers to these questions, teachers and educators which I considered to be subject experts in the field of inclusive education due to their experience and the positions they hold were identified as study participants. A four-phase sequential mixed-methods design was used in the study. The first phase of the study was a literature study of the relevant literature on knowledge management and inclusive education. The main aim of this phase was to collect narrative data on strategies that will enhance the knowledge of teachers in inclusive education. The second phase was quantitative in nature and data was collected using a questionnaire distributed to 21 subject experts. The main aim of this phase was to obtain descriptive data of the use of knowledge management in the field of inclusive education. Of the total distribution, 17 questionnaires were returned and analysed using a scoring grid and the scores were then transferred to a histogram to present a comparison between the different categories of subject experts’ evaluation of the use of knowledge management in inclusive education. In phase three of the study, a questionnaire was used which collected quantitative and qualitative data with the aim of obtaining subject experts’ evaluation of the proposed personal continuous knowledge development (PCKD) model, which is based on the strategies identified in the literature study in phase one. In addition, a focus group discussion was held with 10 subject experts. The quantitative data was analysed using basic calculations and transferring scores to percentages. Qualitative data was analysed for occurring themes. The fourth phase combined all the data to consolidate the proposed personal continuous knowledge development (PCKD) model. The building blocks of the model include knowledge management strategies (e.g. collaboration, networking, communities of practice and the learning organisation), personal agency of teachers and the support of school management. In combination, these building blocks encourages the creation, sharing and retrieval of knowledge. With this approach, teachers not only become knowledgeable and informed practitioners, but the knowledge they obtain optimises the teaching and learning of children with disabilities in their inclusive classrooms. This study contributes to the debate on designing appropriate continuous professional development strategies that could improve teachers’ knowledge in the field of inclusive education.
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