Initial Teacher Education for Inclusion Phase 1 and 2 Report: NCSE Research Report No. 26

P. Hick, Y. Solomon, J. Mintz, A. Matziari, F. Ó Murchú, K. Hall, K. Cahill, C. Curtin, D. Margariti

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


Executive Summary Background to the project The context for this project is a growing international consensus on the importance of policy initiatives to both raise the quality of teaching (OECD, 2005) and to better prepare teachers to respond to increasing diversity in communities and classrooms (EADSNE, 2011). The DES and the Teaching Council of Ireland developed policies requiring higher education institutions providing Initial Teacher Education (ITE) to undergo a re-accreditation process from 2012. This involved both an extension and a reconceptualization of programmes, with mandatory additional content related to inclusive education and differentiation, together with the opportunity for a wider range of school placement experiences. All concurrent (undergraduate) programmes of initial teacher education must be of four years' duration and all consecutive (postgraduate) programmes of initial teacher education must be of two years' duration. The latter were re-accredited at Masters Level 9 on the National Framework of Qualifications. Following this major reform, the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) in Ireland commissioned a study of ‘Initial Teacher Education for Inclusion’ in 2015. NCSE’s research aim was: ‘to establish what the components of inclusive/special education are within Initial Teacher Education (ITE) programmes in Ireland and to explore if the recent changes prepare newly qualified teachers to be inclusive using the indicators set out in the EASNIE’s Profile of Inclusive Teachers’. The European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education (EASNIE) conducted a four-year project on Teacher Education for Inclusion, involving representatives of twenty five countries. A key output was a proposed ‘Profile of Inclusive Teachers’ (EADSNE, 2012), which outlines a range of attitudes, knowledge and skills in relation to four core values and eight areas of competence, to be addressed in initial teacher education to prepare all new teachers to become more inclusive. The NCSE proposed the EASNIE Profile of Inclusive Teachers as the baseline definition of inclusive teaching for the project and it is used by the research team as the framework and starting point for analysis. The ‘Initial Teacher Education for Inclusion’ project (ITE4I), runs from 2015-2018. The research team is led by Manchester Metropolitan University in partnership with University College Cork and University College London, Institute of Education. We understand this project may be one of the first system-wide, longitudinal studies of initial teacher education for inclusive teaching in Europe. This report relates to the first year of the project in 2015/16, which analysed the content of ITE programmes and studied the experiences of the first cohort of student teachers to graduate from the extended and reconceptualised programmes, in their final year of study. This comprised two phases of data collection: in Phase 1 we analysed programme documents and surveyed teacher educators; in Phase 2 we surveyed student teachers and interviewed a sample of student teachers and teacher educators. At the same time, a literature review was developed setting out definitional debates on inclusive education and outlining the scope of the international literature on inclusive teaching. Research design The Research Questions formulated by National Council for Special Education (NCSE) were as follows: 1. What are the components of inclusive/special education within Initial Teacher Education (ITE) programmes in Ireland for primary and post-primary teachers? 2. Do the recent changes to ITE prepare newly qualified teachers to be inclusive as identified by European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education (EASNIE) Profile of Inclusive Teachers? 3. What is the intended impact of the changes in ITE on outcomes for students with special educational needs (SEN) and do student/newly qualified teachers perceive their learning during initial teacher education makes an impact on outcomes for students with SEN? 4. What gaps are there in how current ITE programmes prepare student teachers to be inclusive as per the EASNIE Profile of Inclusive Teachers and what aspects need to be strengthened to better prepare student teachers to be inclusive? 5. What lessons can be identified from this research for initial teacher education in Ireland and subsequent phases in the continuum of teacher education? The Project Phases were planned around data collection over the three years of the project: Phase 1 (Sept. – Jan. 2016): Analysing ITE Programme Content Data collection in Phase 1 included documentary analysis and a survey of teacher educators. Documentation relating to some 30 programmes (out of 59 nationally) from 13 ITE providers (out of 19 in total) was obtained with the support of the Teaching Council. These were primarily standard proforma submitted for re-accreditation, with module outlines appended in some cases; in addition, reviews of these submissions published by the Teaching Council were analysed, together with the criteria used for re-accreditation. The documentary analysis started from a typology derived from the EASNIE Profile of Inclusive Teachers, to examine how and where inclusive teaching is represented within ITE programme documents. A survey of teacher educators was conducted at the same time, to collect initial data on the range of views expressed by teacher educators in relation to issues of inclusive teaching in ITE programmes. The survey was constructed to reflect areas of competence within the EASNIE Profile of Inclusive Teachers, and to collect free-text comments. Following piloting, 21 respondents (programme leaders, module leaders, heads of departments) provided complete or near-complete responses giving information relating to 27 programmes from 13 institutions (some survey responses related to more than one programme). Phase 2 (Feb. – Aug. 2016): Understanding the ITE Student Experience Data collection in Phase 2 included a survey of student teachers, together with interviews with student teachers and with teacher educators at five case study sites. The five ITE providers were selected to represent a range of primary, post-primary, consecutive and concurrent programmes; and to provide a geographical spread of institutions. The survey of student teachers elicited data about their experiences of initial teacher education and their understandings of inclusive teaching. The questionnaire captured demographic information, key areas of experience prior to and during the respondents’ ITE programme, and a series of statements mapped to an analysis of the attitude, knowledge and skills components of the EASNIE profile. A total of 430 valid responses were received, representing a sample of approximately 13% of the national cohort of student teachers. The interviews with student teachers aimed to elicit their views about their course and how their studies related to their school placement experiences; their understandings of inclusive teaching; their approaches to inclusive teaching in practice; and their reflections on their own professional development in relation to inclusive teaching and how their courses might be developed. A total of 47 students were interviewed in person or by Skype, with 32 recruited at the five case study sites and a further 15 recruited by survey responses from other institutions. The interviews with teacher educators sought their views on issues of inclusive teaching and ITE in Ireland, and on the impact of the extension and reconceptualization of ITE programmes; their responses to emergent themes and issues arising from the survey of teacher educators and the documentary analysis; and their reflections on aspects of the EASNIE Profile of Inclusive Teachers. A total of 11 staff interviews were conducted across the five case study sites, typically including the Head of School or a Programme Leader and a lecturer in inclusive or special education.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationTrim, Co. Meath, Ireland
Publication statusPublished - 7 Sept 2018

Publication series

NameInitial Teacher Education for Inclusion Phase 1 and 2 Report


  • Teacher Education
  • Inclusive Education
  • Longitudinal study
  • Mixed Methods study
  • International research


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