Inclusion, team-teaching, and inquiry learning in biology classes – Development of a model seminar for teacher education
1. Theoretical background
Inclusion of all people with disabilities in regular education has become obligatory for all participating countries signing the “Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities”, which was ratified in December 2006 (Deutsche Bundesregierung 2008). In many countries, including Germany, the educational system has to prepare for inclusive education. For this purpose, particular attention should be paid to further training of teachers as well as teacher-training, since teachers have a key role in realizing inclusive education (Meijer 2003; Reich 2012). It is therefore essential that inclusion should become an integral part of teacher education. In order to achieve a comprehensive understanding of what inclusion means and which practical skills are necessary for inclusive education, it is recommended to instruct teachers as early a stage as possible, ideally with beginning of teacher-training (Demmer-Dieckmann, 2010; Reich, 2012).
However, in Germany, teacher-training with regard to inclusion hast two drawbacks: Firstly, it is usually tailored to the various so far existing school types. For example, there are degree programs for primary schools, secondary schools, and special schools. Secondly, teacher-training for special education teachers is generally separated from teacher-training of regular schools, as it is usually organized by different faculties (Demmer-Dieckmann, 2010). Thus, a thorough instruction of pre-service teachers for inclusive education is often inefficient, especially when on a structural level faculties are not very well interconnected (Demmer-Dieckmann, 2010; Gehrmann, 2005). As a consequence, trainee teachers for regular schools are ill-prepared for inclusive education in the same way that special education teachers are ill-prepared to teach in regular schools. Hence, in order to provide efficient teacher-training for inclusive education, it is necessary to overcome such structural deficiencies by combining degree programs on an inter-faculty basis.
At the University of Cologne, teacher-training is mainly divided between the department of orthopaedagogy (special education teachers) and department of biology and its didactics (regular school teachers), each belonging to different faculties. In a pilot project, we now have designed an inter-faculty seminar that combines the scope of teaching and seminars offered by each of the two departments. The focus of the seminar is on team-teaching, inquiry-based learning, and teaching with living animals in a behavioral ecology context.
The aim of this study is to optimize the provisional seminar in order to develop and establish a model seminar for inclusive education for biology pre-service teachers. For this, we want to identify general and perseverative problems regarding practical as well as cognitive complications such as i) misconceptions regarding inclusion, ii) the use of inquiry learning in inclusive lessons, and iii) teaching in teams. Hence, we are interested in the following questions:
What concepts do students have of inclusion and how are these concepts connected to teaching methodology?
What are general misconceptions with regard to inclusion?
Which problems do students have while conducting inquiry learning lessons with inclusive classes?
How can a seminar contribute to establish a thorough and networked knowledge-base with regard to inclusion, team-teaching, and inquiry learning?
3. Research design and methodology
3.1 Conception of the seminar
The seminar is organized and supervised by an interdisciplinary team consisting of staff of the department of orthopaedagogy and the department of biology and its didactics. The Seminar begins with a two-day block, in which students get an introduction to inclusion, inquiry-based learning, and behavioral ecology. The content is provided by using the jigsaw method. Groups are arranged so that equal numbers of pre-service teachers for special and regular schools form one team. The aims are i) to encourage an exchange of knowledge between pre-service teachers of special educational needs and regular school, ii) to learn open teaching methods with focus on inquiry-based learning, and finally, to conduct a practical lesson including living animals in an inclusive class, including development of inclusive teaching material. The lesson takes place in a school lab at the University of Cologne. Throughout the process, students work on one’s own responsibility, including the design of the inquiry-based lesson, choice of animals and behavioral ecological topic. Generally, the seminar is constructed to provide a thorough preparation for future profession with special regard to inclusion, appropriate teachings methods, and opportunities for reflection. A more detailed description is given in table 1.
3.2 Evaluation of the seminar
We evaluate the seminar by combining two approaches: Firstly, we use concept maps (Novak & Gowin 1984) to visualize, identify, and analyze current knowledge, misconceptions and existing gaps of knowledge concerning inclusion, inquiry learning, and team-teaching. Apart, concept maps are a good tool to evaluate seminar programs (Mintzes et al., 2005).
Secondly, on a practical level we analyze problems, which may occur during teaching a biology lesson with an inclusive class. In order to achieve a comprehensive understanding of such problems, we use a triple research approach. This approach includes determination and analysis of subjective, objective, and meta-cognitive problems of students while conducting an inquiry-based lesson with an inclusive biology class. For this, the following steps of analysis have to be accomplished:
Students answer an open questionnaire which helps us to reveal problems perceived subjectively.
Objectively perceived problems are gathered independently by two observers who analyze the recorded lessons conducted by the students. Both observers use the IBSE Diagnostic Tool (Borda Carulla 2012).
In order to identify problems on a meta-cognitive level, teacher-students analyze their own accomplished lessons using an open questionnaire.
Survey data is qualitatively analysed with the aim to identify and analyze categories (Mayring 2002). Evaluation of qualitative data is done with MAXQDA.
Analysis of concept maps starts after completion of the seminar.
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