Inclusion and behavioural difficulties in secondary schools : representations and practices : a thesis presented for partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Education at Massey University, Manawatū, New Zealand
Despite a political commitment towards inclusive education, research evidence suggests that
barriers to inclusion in New.Zealand remain. Notably, disciplinary practices exclude students
from secondary schools. There is also little evidence as to how teachers define and practice
inclusion, in spite of the fact that the translation of inclusion into practice necessitates the
development of an articulated and shared vision of what inclusion entails for practice. Thus, this
study aims to explore social representations of inclusion among secondary school teachers. It
also aims to explore how these representations function in the classroom by examining their
relationships with the practices used by teachers to prevent and manage difficult behaviour.
The study was designed as an iterative two-phase research process. Phase One involved an
online questionnaire intended for teachers, teacher aides, Resource Teachers: Learning and
Behaviour and Ministry of Education: Special education staff to explore their representations of
inclusion and behavioural difficulties. Building on this preliminary investigation, Phase Two
involved case studies conducted with teachers in three schools where multiple sources of
information and data collection methods allowed investigation of teachers’ representations and
practices in context.
Findings indicate that inclusion is multi-dimensional in teachers’ representations with elements
pertaining to practices, values, social justice, and resourcing. This reveals that teachers are
knowledgeable about inclusion as a professional group. Each school context and teachers’
representations of their school community influenced their respresentations of inclusion.
However, results also show that teachers’ representations are anchored in the model of
integration as participants name conditions to inclusion, among which is the condition that
students’ behavioural needs are not too severe for their presence in regular classrooms. Barriers
to inclusion are also identified within teachers’ representations. Teachers’ practices in
preventing and dealing with difficult behaviour show a progression with preventative strategies
used first and targeted practices used as behaviour seriousness increased. The variety of
explanations used by participants to justify their practices point to the importance of
understanding the complex relationships between representations and practices to evaluate the
inclusiveness of teachers’ actions. Recommendations are made to help individual teachers and
school communities building on their existing knowledge for greater inclusion.