Characteristics of Effective Teaching Practices in Inclusive Classrooms

inclusive education

Dr. Donna McGhie-Richmond's research intersects three current debates in education:

  1. the efficacy of inclusive education;
  2. the role of teacher quality in determining student achievement; and
  3. the challenge of addressing the needs of low-achieving, at-risk students and those with disabilities.

The inclusion of students with disabilities into regular classrooms is the predominant policy in Canadian schools. Yet, there is considerable resistance to inclusion, particularly among teachers in secondary schools. Positive attitudes towards inclusion are the most important factor governing the success of inclusive education. Dr. McGhie-Richmond is especially interested in the role of teacher efficacy and beliefs, how they inform what teachers do in their classrooms, and consequently, student learning outcomes.

Dr. McGhie-Richmond is a co-investigator on a SSHRC-funded research program examining factors that contribute to successful inclusive education for students with disabilities and their peers. The research is taking place in the Pembina Hills Regional School District (PHRD) in Alberta. The team has measured student, parent, teacher, educational assistant, and administrator views on factors that contribute to inclusive education. They are conducting case studies of students with and without special needs as well as elementary through secondary teachers who are considered to be effective. Very little is currently known about inclusion in secondary schools.

In Canada, vulnerable students, who are at risk of failing to graduate high school, make up 28.6% of Canadian children (Willms, 2002). Students with mild disabilities are most likely to drop out of high school. The survey research in PHRD reveals significantly more negative views of inclusion among secondary level teachers, findings that are also documented in US and UK research studies.

Dr. McGhie-Richmond has applied for SSHRC funding to extend her research to several secondary schools in Canada. The research will identify the characteristics of school districts, schools, and teachers, as well as student outcomes that contribute to effective inclusion in Canadian secondary schools. The findings will expand our understanding of teaching in complex and diverse secondary-level classrooms with the intent of informing educational policy development and teacher education programs.

Visit Dr. Donna McGhie-Richmond's profile page.