LITERACY AND INCLUSION: ISSUES AND RESEARCH FOR EFFECTIVE TEACHING
University of Notre Dame (AUSTRALIA)
In a regular classroom, a teacher often faces a diverse group of students with complex arrays of learning needs, including those with a learning disability or other special educational need. This paper addresses the issues related to inclusive education in the field of literacy teaching. It is based on the findings of international research and scholarship published in a recent academic book edited by the author. The paper discusses common themes that emerge from the research and examines the effectiveness of teaching strategies to assist students develop literacy. Many of the students mentioned were formerly placed in special educational facilities. The change factors of a civil rights agenda, increased notions of social justice and questions within special education, lead to changes in education laws in a number of countries, such that there is an expectation that the majority of children will be taught in a regular class alongside same age peers. Enacting inclusive education is complex, for example, when policies and practices intersect, and well-intentioned or aspirational policies are difficult to enact on the ground in classrooms due to a range of reasons, including lack of appropriate resources, support, teacher transience, training or quality. Inclusion could be seen as an added burden for teachers who had little or no training in how to cater for students with special learning needs. As literacy is arguably the most important skill a child will learn at school, teaching literacy in a way that includes all children is paramount. Literacy is regarded as multimodal, integrating reading, writing, viewing, analysing and responding in an increasingly technological world. Current literacy teaching therefore, demands the use of a range of modalities. Using digital technologies to teach literacy, requires a learning environment that is collaborative and participatory. For literacy teaching to be inclusive, however, it must be targeted to address the differentiated needs of each student, not only by creating interest and motivation, and using language that is inclusive, but also providing specific, structured and sequential instruction in the sub-skills that underpin literacy development for those children who have not already mastered them. This paper brings together two fields of inquiry, literacy education and inclusive education and discusses some of the issues and teaching methods and strategies that research has found to have positive outcomes.