Ham or eggs? Teacher commitment to inclusion
It has been said that the difference between involvement and commitment is like a ham and egg breakfast – the chicken was involved but the pig was committed. To better understand teacher commitment to inclusion, this study examined the perspectives and experiences of 8 elementary teachers who had included students with significant disabilities in their general education classrooms. A questionnaire was developed to determine prior and current opinions about inclusion and participants were assigned to one of the following categories: (a) those who were optimistic about inclusion prior to their experience of including a student with a significant disability and who have remained optimistic, (b) those who were optimistic about inclusion prior to their experience but who have become sceptical as a result of their experience, (c) those who were initially sceptical about inclusion prior to their experience of including a student with a significant disability but who have become optimistic as a result of their experience with inclusion, and (d) those who were initially sceptical about inclusion and who remain sceptical. Interviews were conducted to explore the effect their experiences had on their opinions about inclusion and the factors that facilitated or hindered teacher engagement. Qualitative analysis of the data suggested that teachers who are able to include students with significant disabilities are more engaged, are generally satisfied with their experiences and have become more optimistic about inclusion and more committed to it. Implications for teacher education and professional development are discussed.
inclusion, students with significant disabilities, special education, teacher engagement, opinion change