Increasing amounts of research show that students with disabilities can receive quality education when educated in the same classrooms as children without disabilities (Hunt, et al, 315). Inclusive education assumes that all children have the ability to learn, that all children have the right to be educated in regular classrooms and that the school is responsible for providing an education regardless of ability level (Hunt, et al, 315). This research study aims to discover the positive impact that inclusive education has for students with disabilities.
The problem the research study wishes to solve is the debate between inclusive education and special education. The question being posed is whether or not inclusive education can result in positive educational outcomes for disabled students (Hunt, et al, 315). The terms unique to this study include inclusive education and special education. Inclusive education embraces all students regardless of academic or ability level. Disabled students are mainstreamed into general education classrooms and the curriculum is modified if necessary to accommodate the needs of the disabled students.
Special education classrooms are designed solely for disabled students and special education students are not educated in the presence of “normal” students. Special education classrooms generally have their own curriculum guidelines as well. Using these two definitions the researchers assume that inclusive classrooms are more beneficial than special education classrooms. They cite previous research to support this assumption (Hunt, et al, 316). The method used in the study included the participation of six students.
Three of the students had severe disabilities and the other three were considered to be academically at risk. Each student was supported by a general classroom teacher, a special education teacher and his/her parents (Hunt, et al, 315). Two schools were used for the study; one had been using inclusive education for six years and the other for ten years. The success of inclusion in these two schools provided valid evidence and research supporting inclusive education. Based on previous research, the researchers for this study used engagement and interaction patterns as one basis for data collection.
The Interaction and Engagement Scale was created to measure interaction and engagement levels for disabled students in general education classrooms. The results of this data collection provided information regarding the percentage of increase in interaction and engagement. Interviews were also used based on past research that shows how well interviews can help identify patterns across students (Hunt, et al, 322 – 324). Unified Plans of Support were then implemented for each specific student.
The results of the study show that engagement and interaction levels (discussed as non engagement levels) increased with the implementation of the UPS (Hunt, et al, 324). Non engagement levels decreased by 35%, 27%, 40%, 39%, 39% and 23% for each of the six students (Hunt, et al, 324). Additionally, academic performance increased as a result of UPS implementation as disabled students experienced an increase in motivation to learn as well as a decrease in distractibility. These results can imply that inclusive classrooms are extremely beneficial to disabled students.
The authors infer that with a dedicated and supportive education team, inclusive education will have a positive impact on disabled students (Hunt, et al, 328). At the same time negative consequences may arise if a supportive team is not utilized. This article provides compelling evidence that inclusive education has a positive impact on disabled students. The results show significant decreases in non engagement behavior which indicates that disabled students are learning more as they interact in the learning environment.
Despite the promising results of this research study, one should be hesitant to agree completely. The study only included six children so studies using larger sample sizes may or may not produce the same results. At the same time, inclusive education may benefit students with specific types of disabilities while hindering the education of others with different types of disabilities. Therefore, inclusive education should continue to be explored as it certainly has the potential to positively impact the learning of disabled students.