Middle school teachers perspectives on inclusion: A qualitative study

James Martin Cooney, Florida International University


Historically, research has placed considerable emphasis on developing a systematic body of knowledge about education in which little voice has been given to teachers themselves. The critical role that teachers play in this generative process such as reflecting, acting and theorizing upon practices that shape life in the classroom has largely been ignored in favor of technical innovation and organizational procedure. As schools struggle to reform and restructure, an understanding of how teachers interpret their practices in context and how the culture of schools influence, constrain, or encourage these practices become critical aspects of school success or failure. This study examined the perspectives on inclusion of seven middle school teachers as they attempted to include exceptional students in regular classes. The study utilized three forms of data collection: observations were made of participant interactions as they led their everyday school lives; document analysis was used as a means to gain an understanding of programs affecting exceptional students, and interviews were used to give voice to teacher's perceptions regarding inclusion, allowing description in their own words rather than those imposed by an outside inquirer. Data collection and analysis sought to identify emerging themes, categories and patterns, allowing for the creation of substantive theory grounded in empirical data. The key issues that emerged in the study were considered in terms of three general categories. The first, teaching and learning, revealed stark contrasts in opinions regarding the type of human support thought necessary for successful inclusion. Regular educators clung to the traditional notion of solitary teachers directing all class activity, while exceptional educators preferred a more team-oriented approach. The second, school structure, revealed that highly collaborative structures were only partially successful in creating additional conversation between regular and exceptional educators. Collegiality was affected by lack of staff experience with the process as well as its implementation in a top-down fashion. The third, school culture and climate, revealed that regular educators believed the school was prepared for a limited amount of inclusion. Although exceptional educators acknowledged school readiness, they did not believe that inclusion was an important item on the school's reform agenda.

Subject Area

Special education|Curricula|Teaching|Secondary education

Recommended Citation

Cooney, James Martin, "Middle school teachers perspectives on inclusion: A qualitative study" (1999). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI9936875.