Journey towards inclusion: a reflective exploration of changing teacher practice and identity
Teachers today face many challenges. They are required to teach greater numbers of students with diverse learning needs, to implement redesigned curriculum, and to engage in ongoing professional learning. This study explored the research question: Through a self-study of changing teaching practice to support inclusion, how can I better know, understand, and transform myself and my role as a secondary classroom teacher? Using self-study methodology, I reflectively explored in my journals and in conversations with a critical friend my experiences of using the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) informed by Aboriginal perspectives to create units, and to try out inclusive learning approaches in my Grades 8 and 9 social studies classes. Themes which emerged from the coding and analysis of the research data were teaching to diversity, planning for instruction, and inclusive instructional approaches. My efforts to create an inclusive classroom where all learners could experience school success changed the way I planned, the types of instructional strategies I used, and how I perceived my teaching role. Changing my practice also transformed my beliefs about learning and attitude towards inclusion and led to increased self-efficacy and job satisfaction. One of the study’s conclusions is that to successfully meet the challenges of education today, teachers must be change agents, have a strong sense of self-efficacy, and be open to shifts in their role and sense of identity.