ISEC 2005

Inclusive and Supportive Education Congress
International Special Education Conference
Inclusion: Celebrating Diversity?

1st - 4th August 2005. Glasgow, Scotland

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A Model Of Differentiated Classroom Management –
The Classroom And The School As An Inclusive Community

Prof. José Morgado
Educational Psychology Department of Instituto Superior de Psicologia Aplicada Lisbon, Portugal
jmorgado@ispa.pt

 

Abstract

This work is concerned with school quality and inclusive education and is centred on pedagogical differentiation as a main mean to promote inclusion and quality on educational processes in order to answer at pupils’ diversity and heterogeneity, central feature in our day’s schools.

In a first stage we proceed to a literature review involving conceptual and methodological evolution on special education field, school quality and pedagogical differentiation, regular and special education teachers’ role on inclusive education and quality.

In the second stage we try to identify the importance level attached by primary school teachers (234) to a set of pedagogical practices accepted by literature as good means to promote quality and inclusion and, simultaneously, identify the difficulty level attached by the same teachers considering the regular utilization of those pedagogical practices in the classroom.

In a third stage, after identify the set of pedagogical practices with higher difficulty level attached by teachers, we try to understand the qualitative nature of the difficulties perceived by teachers when they use this pedagogical procedures. For this purpose we carry out a depth interview to 60 teachers

Considering the final data analysis we define a Model of Differentiation in Classroom Management that can promote quality and inclusion and help the teachers to deal with the differences between pupils inside classrooms.

 The Model is designed in six dimensions. In each of one, teachers should be considering different forms of carry out their work.

A – Organization of pupils work – this dimension is related to the different ways and goals that teachers can use to organize the functioning of pupils.

B – Evaluation – in this dimension we consider all the processes related to the evaluation and regulation of learning and teaching process including procedures and devices.

C – Planning – here we include the educational planning process namely curricular management.

D – Materials/Resources – in this dimension we analyse the importance attached to the use of different materials and resources to support learning and teaching process and the criteria to choose them.

E – Learning activities/Tasks – here we underline the importance attached to use of different learning activities and tasks considering the diversity of learning styles of pupils.

F – Social Climate – this dimension is essentially directed for social interactions between pupils and between teacher and pupils.

 

The level of development present in our day’s societies increase the pressure over the educational systems in order that the individuals can accede to a training and qualification processes progressively more effective and exigent.   This situation leads to the central question of quality in education. On the other hand, also related to the actual models of development and as a consequence of the success of the educational politics of compulsory and universal schooling, we can verify that heterogeneity and diversity is the most relevant feature of the generality of groups of pupils in our schools.

This context, allows establishing as important challenges to the educational systems, the QUALITY of the educational processes and the indispensable goal that quality can be for all the pupils, which means, that the educational processes should assume INCLUSION as a central guiding principle and, perhaps, the most effective way to prevent school exclusion, likely the first step for social exclusion (Lipsky & Gartner, 1997).

From our point of view, considering the thematic of this presentation and after some years of research and dialogue with, namely, teachers and parents, we believe that the development of schools as inclusive communities is based in four central axes that we present in a brief form following the next picture.


The question of autonomy assumes a central importance in order to build schools based in quality and inclusion. In this presentation we consider three dimensions of autonomy: school, teacher and pupil.

As we refer before, the educational communities in our days presents an enormous level of diversity and heterogeneity and are inscribed in different surroundings, which becomes indispensable that schools can organize in appropriate way in order to face effectively the singularities of different environments. From this point a view, each and every school must have a strong and consistent School Educational Project which, even based on core National Principles of educational system, can carry on and support differentiated work in different communities.

Considering still the problematic of autonomy is also important to think in the teacher work. Indeed, it became strongly necessary that each teacher, exercising its own autonomy, can use the best practices and means to improve the work’s quality. This autonomy should be promoted and supported through training and professional support programs. It is also very important that this training and support programs can be designed according a differentiated model (Dean, 2000; Mccaffrey, 2000; Tomlinson 2000a).

The third dimension of autonomy is pupil’s autonomy. The importance of this matter is related with the evidence from the research on cognition, meta-cognition and the role of these processes on learning. The acquired knowledge has been progressively introduced on teacher’s work with significant benefits to the efficacy of study methodology and learning strategies used by pupils who underline the importance of the promotion of autonomy through the educational intervention.

The second axe of quality and inclusion development in schools is COOPERATION. Analysing this question we consider cooperation between pupils (cooperative learning) and between teachers (changing of experiences, cooperative teaching, etc.).

Concerning the cooperation between pupils we only point the increasing research on cooperative learning and the positive consequences for pupils and teachers that assume these models. It seems important underline that this benefits involves both academic and social development namely at the values level (Putman, 1998; Johnson & Johnson, 1998).

Looking for cooperation between teachers, research on professional development stress that shared reflection, change of experiences and cooperative teaching are some of the most powerful tools for professional growth and effective work in teaching. From this point a view, we suggest that teacher training programs and teacher support policies and devices should consider cooperation as a crucial content (Hargreaves, 1998; Walther-Thomas, Korinek, McLaughlin & Williams, 2000; Kugelmass, 2001).

The third axe of educational quality and inclusive education development is related with VALUES and CONCEPTS. It’s our belief, that the later models of social, economical, political, scientific and cultural changes, which promote models of societies strongly competitive, and liberal and neo-liberal forms of social and economic organization, sometimes with a very aggressive nature, claim for a continuous analyse concerning the role of education and educators.

Professionals of educational field know that school exclusion likely will be the first step of social exclusion, namely in most developed countries. Therefore, the quality and success of educational policies for all individuals require a deep and continuous reflection concerning different systems of values, cultures and competences existent in every school contexts. This attitude will be likely the way to minimize exclusion risk, who may hit essentially social, economic and cultural minorities, as well, individuals whose skills or capacities are different from others.

On other hand, we think that is important within educational communities to reflect on concepts, existent or emergent, used by professionals. This reflection seems important in order to stabilize its contents, strengthen practices related to the concepts and increase a global culture that protect and support the development of each professional. Thus, we believe that, after a time of stressing methodology and techniques, it is necessary to become again to values and concepts, thinking together about what we do, how we do and for what we do.

Finally, the fourth axe of educational quality and inclusive education development is related with pedagogical differentiation, the main content of this paper. It is our strong conviction that quality and inclusion are in a very deep way closely related with the teacher’s capability to operate with differentiation processes in classroom management.

It seems important to stress that differentiation is not a teaching strategy; it is mainly a conception of learning and teaching and we have again the values and concepts issue (Tomlinson, 2000b).

We assume, as Visser that differentiation is a process used by teacher in order to promote curricular student progress, in a group situation, through an appropriate choice of teaching methods and learning strategies, that is, organizing the work in a differentiated way, teacher intend to evaluate pupil’s level of learning and increase their evolution within a heterogeneous classroom.

To analyze pedagogical differentiation, involve looking and thinking on a very large ensemble of classroom practices (Pettig, 2000). The multiple and complex set of factors and variables related to teacher’s practices, requires a model that allows and support a global analysis of classroom functioning.

This analysing model, to be an effective tool for increasing quality, have to perform two important characteristics. First, must be comprehensive, that is, embrace, as far as possible, all the processes existing in classroom management. Second and more difficult characteristic, this model should be as simple as possible, in order to allow its daily using by teachers as a tool of analyse and reflection on their own work.

Considering this questions, in last years, we try do develop a model that reach the characteristics that we have referred.   We followed two main directions for this goal. In a first stage of our work we have developed a significant literature review on quality in classroom, effective teaching, pedagogical differentiation, etc. This work has contributed to identify a large set of what we can call “good teaching practices” concerning quality an inclusion.

After that, we work with 234 primary teachers, special and regular teachers, with different professional experience and belonging to different schools. The main goal of this stage is to understand the level of importance and difficulty attached by teachers in using “the good practices” in their daily work with pupils. After identify the set of pedagogical practices with higher difficulty level and also with a high level of importance attached by teachers, we try to understand the qualitative nature of the difficulties perceived by teachers when they attempt to use this pedagogical procedures. For this purpose we carry out a depth interview to 60 teachers

Thus, with literature review evidence and supported on the work developed with teachers we design a MODEL OF DIFFERENTIATED CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT with six dimensions that can be useful in order to increase quality and inclusion and promote an effective educational response to diversity in schools. These dimensions are:

A - ORGANIZATION OF PUPIL’S WORK

B - EVALUATION

C - PLANNING

D - MATERIALS AND RESOURCES

E - LEARNING ACTIVITIES/TASKS

F - CLASSROOM SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT

We will present now in a very brief form some of the main issues that we consider important in each dimension. According the importance attached by teachers of these issues, we expect that classroom practices which teachers develop, can translate this importance.

A – ORGANIZATION OF PUPIL’S WORK

The organization of pupil’s work should assume as central content the promotion of autonomy and self-regulation. This methodological option will allows that teacher can be available to support different pupils with different needs.

Models of cooperative learning should be strongly increased, although, individual work should be balanced with cooperative work. Research evidence shows the increasing of academic and social pupil’s progress in classrooms where teachers don’t use exclusively individual work (Putman, 1998; Johnson & Johnson, 1998).  

The organization of groups of pupils should be done taking into consideration different criteria according different educational goals (Dean, 2000).

B – EVALUATION

Considering the essential role of evaluation in the learning and teaching process, we want to stress (Dean, 2000; Morgado, 2004):

- The goals of evaluation process should be well defined and clear in order to choose the appropriated devices and procedures;

- The aspects and fields that can be evaluated should be diversified in order to obtain a more holistic and useful understanding of pupil functioning;

- It is important that teachers can increase the utilization of evaluation devices and process with a more formative and regulative nature directed for process, instead of, almost exclusively, stressing the measure of products;

- Research evidence shows how relevant seem to implicate pupils in the management and organization of evaluation process.

Evaluation and records don’t be looked as an educational goal in itself; they are the best tool that teachers and pupils have to regulate the teaching and learning process and increase the quality of their own work.

C – PLANNING

Teachers planning process should involve (Solner & Thousand, 1997; Dean, 2000; Morgado, 2004):

- Clarity on educational goals definition, considering pupils and parents;

- Schedule of time required for achieving the established goals considering different individual paces in the classroom;

- Activities and resources that will be needed;

- Evaluation devices and procedures that will be used to guide the learning and teaching process;

-  Individual support devices and procedures for pupils with some kind of special needs.

It seems also important, that the definition process of educational goals don’t forget the pupil’s cultural environment and the level of functionality and significance that skills achievement can assume from the pupil’s point of view.

D – MATERIALS AND RESOURCES

Considering the development of our communities, we think that teacher’s choices about materials and resources to support the learning and teaching process, plays an important role in classroom management. In a short reference, we think that teacher’s options can take into consideration (Dean, 2000; Morgado, 2004):

-   Technical and scientific evolution of societies;

- The level of stimulation, motivation and significance that materials and resources can assume respecting the cultural environment of pupils;

- The materials and resources can be chosen in a close connection with educational goals;

- Materials and resources should allow and promote as much as possible interaction with pupils as well between pupils.

At last, we underline the importance of an effective utilization of time, one of the resources that is more difficult to deal with, and also the utilization of space that can be a problem in some schools and for some activities or needs.

E - LEARNING ACTIVITIES/TASKS

On this subject, and thinking in diversity of pupils, we believe that the teacher’s ability to run different activities at the same time in classroom is one the most important questions. Thus, it seems indispensable that teacher training programs emphasize the need to help teachers to become more effective performing this ability. This kind of organization demands that, how we refer before, pupils can be able to work with autonomy, alone or in groups.

To choose learning activities or tasks to support the learning process, it isn’t very easy because we have an inexhaustible set of options. Therefore, we think that is more useful try to define some points that teachers can use as guidelines to define the learning tasks. From this point a view, activities and tasks must have one (or more than one) of the following characteristics (Morgado, 2004):

. Active – involving pupils in experimentation, research, thinking about concepts and materials;  

. Significant – tasks and activities can take advantage from scholar and non scholar experience of pupils, as well from their interests and motivation;

. Integrated – this means that tasks and activities can involve different concepts, knowledge and skills;

. Diverse – this means that for reach the same goal, teacher can use different tasks/activities demanding for example different strategies of achievement or different materials, in order that pupils can use different learning strategies.

. Cooperative - as we already underline, interaction between students is one the more powerful tools to increase pupils progress and quality in educational programs.

F – CLASSROOM SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT

As we know, affection, positive relationship, motivation, etc. play a central role in the educational processes. Therefore, the existence of a social environment based on confidence, relationship and cooperation is a basic condition for quality.

Regarding this importance, we try to identify some features that can be promoted in order to have a positive social environment in classroom (Marchesi & Martín, 1998; Morgado, 2004). Among these characteristics, we underline:

. Teacher should have a positive attitude towards the problems or difficulties in learning process (Silva & Morgado, 2004). The error is a natural step in learning, so, to protect the self-esteem of pupils seems to be important for them in order to stay confidents in their learning ability.

. It is essential to have a high pattern of communication between pupils and between teachers and pupils.

. The level of social interaction should be increased. This question is obviously related with the organization of pupil’s work.

. It seems to be more positive and powerful the utilization of praise and positive reinforcement instead of criticism and punishment.

Research evidence shows that classrooms with these features have pupils with more academic and social achievement.  

To finish, we think that the utilization by teachers of a structured model to organize classroom work is an important contribution for quality and inclusion in schools. We present a proposal that can be a contribution and that we have been tested and reflected within teacher training programs with positive acceptation from professionals.

However, we have the strong believe, that a very qualified and motivated teacher seems to be the individual factor with higher contribution for quality in education (C.E.C. 2000).

 

References

 Dean, J. (2000). Improvement Children’s Learning: Effective teaching in the primary school. London: Routledge

Johnson, D. & Johnson, R. (1998). Cultural Diversity and Cooperative Learning. In J.W. Putnam (Ed.), Cooperative Learning and Strategies for Inclusion (pp 67-85). Baltimore: Paul .H. Brookes Publishing Co.

Lipsky, D.K., & Gartner, A. (1997). Inclusion and School Reform: Transforming America’s Classrooms. Baltimore: Paul Brookes Publishing Co.

Marchesi, A. & Martin, E. (1998). Calidad de la Ensenãnza en Tiempos de Cambio. Madrid: Alianza Editorial.

Mccaffrey, M. (2000). My First Year of Learning. Teaching Exceptional Children. V 33, nº 1, Sep/Oct 2000. 4-8.

Morgado, J. (2004). Qualidade na Educação: Um Desafio para os Professores. Lisboa: Editorial Presença.

Putnam, J. (1998) .The Process of Cooperative Learning. In J.W. Putnam (Ed.), Cooperative L earning and Strategies for Inclusion. Celebrating diversity in the classroom (pp. 17-47). Baltimore: Paul.H. Brookes Publishing Co.

Silva, J. C. & Morgado, J. (2004). Support teachers’ beliefs about the academic achievement of students with special educational needs. British Journal of Special Education , V. 31, n 4, (pp. 212-219

Solner, A. & Thousand, J. (1997). Effective Organisational Instructional and Curricular Practises. In C. Clark, A .Dyson & A . Millward (Eds.), Towards Inclusive Schools? (pp. 147-163). London: David Fulton.

Tomlinson, C. (2000a). Differentiated Instruction: Can it Work? The Education Digest. V 65, nº 5, Jan 2000. 25-31.

Tomlinson, C. (2000b). Reconcilable Differences? Standards-based Teaching and differentiation. Educational Leadership. V 58, nº 1, Sept. 2000. pp. 6-11.

 


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