“Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.” – John Cotton Dana
Focusing on capability is an essential element of successful inclusive education. Teachers and broader personnel should be supported to develop and improve their professional practice in order to effectively respond to student diversity.
Supporting teachers to implement evidence-based, effective teaching and classroom management practices is part of a proactive application to Multi-tier System of Supports (MTSS). More information on MTSS can be found here.
Some examples of how to build teacher capability are explored below:
Instructional Coaching is a differentiated, collaborative process that involves an expert or knowledgeable other working closely with teachers to improve classroom practice, and ultimately student outcomes. It is a process that supports job-embedded learning, and is therefore ongoing, specific to a context, and focused on research based measures.
In implementation, Instructional Coaching relies on building genuine, trusting relationships which are guided by a sense of mutual respect. Teacher learning and professional growth is supported by the coach who acts as a guide or facilitator. The coach draws on a repertoire of instructional practices, knowledge and experience to bridge teacher capacity related to individualised improvement goals.
Instructional Coaching takes form with the coach and teacher collaboratively assessing student needs, co-planning, co-teaching, co-assessing and co-reflecting. This results in the pair examining classroom context and practice to determine areas for growth and improvement. They then identify content and instructional foci, and establish observational and success criteria. Together they teach (modelled, guided and shared), and monitor and gather evidence of student engagement and learning. Finally, they share observations, analyse results and determine next steps.
The entire Instructional Coaching Cycle is underpinned with the characteristics associated with building and developing relationships, supporting collaborative cultures, connecting with school improvement, and leading with evidence-based practice.
Instructional Coaching is a proactive way of supporting and strengthening the inclusive capacity of teachers. It is a self-sustaining approach that invests in the inclusive culture of the school, and that shares and grows expertise. It is solutions-focused and works to reduce the attitudinal and capability barriers that impact on student outcomes.
More information about Instructional Coaching can be found here:
Although this framework specifically references Literacy Coaching by GAINS, the principles and practices are applicable to inclusive schooling.
An Instructional Coaching Model is also provided by the New Brunswick Department of Education and Early Childhood Development here:
Instructional rounds is the practice of educators working together to closely examine what is happening in classrooms. It involves collaboratively and systematically identifying ways to improve the quality of teaching and learning, and student outcomes. It is an ongoing event that is anchored in a challenge of practice that is connected to the instructional core (interdependent relationship between the teacher, the student, the content and the task).
More information on instructional rounds can be accessed via the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) website.
Classroom Observation and Feedback:
Classroom observation and feedback involves a colleague observing classroom practice and recording data relating to the teaching and learning interactions and experiences which take place. The data collected is then used to drive facilitated reflection on the effectiveness of the pedagogical practices which were enacted.
Classroom observation and feedback is a supportive, reflective professional practice that aligns with the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers.
Classroom observation and feedback is best served when it is a voluntary, non-judgemental and confidential process for teachers to reflect on their ability to deliver productive and inclusive learning environments.
A formalised Classroom Profiling process has been developed in relation to the Essential Skills for Classroom Management process. Information regarding this specific profiling process can be found here.
An Inclusive Classroom Feedback Tool has been developed by George Theoharis and Julie Causton (2014) in Leading Inclusive Reform for Students with Disabilities: A School and Systemwide Approach.
Professional Learning Communities:
Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) are an approach to school improvement which focuses on groups of teachers working collaboratively toward a common goal. The community is learning-oriented and geared toward improved student outcomes through the application of evidence-based teaching practice. Effective collaboration within the group encourages ongoing data analysis and feedback where a culture of professional dialogue, experimentation and critique becomes common place. Collective responsibility and collaborative expertise are utilised in identifying and scaling improvement.
Forming a PLC that is focused on the outcomes of students with disability adds an additional opportunity to increase teacher capacity, and provides a platform to conduct regular review and critique of inclusive culture, practice and direction. It is recommended that the work of the PLC is guided by an Inquiry Cycle.
Form more information regarding PLCs, access the information provided by the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) here.
Self-Assessment Tools and Professional Development Plans:
AITSL provides Teacher and School Leader self-assessment tools to enable teachers at all career stages to reflect upon their practice in accordance with the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers.
The results from the self-assessment can by utilised to develop professional development plans that are contextual to individual performance and areas for improvement.
As an extension, National Certification is now voluntarily and portably available for teachers striving toward recognition as a Highly Accomplished and Lead Teacher (HALT). More information on this process can be found here.