In 2009, the UN-Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was incepted in Germany. Since then, all pupils have the right to education, for which the states are obliged to provide inclusive school-systems. Pupils have the right to attend mainstream schools independent of their physical or cognitive predisposition. On order to support all pupils, teachers have to be able to adapt lessons to their diverse needs. Consequently, teacher training has to be structured to prepare future teachers for that task. Numerous scholars have therefore investigated what are the prerequisites for successful inclusion, and there seems to be a consensus that positive attitudes towards inclusion and the ability to work in a team are essential for inclusion to be successful. These should be addressed during teacher training. In the context of inclusive education, co-teaching is defined as the joint delivery of instruction by a teacher for General Education (GE) together with a teacher for Special Educational Needs (SEN). For the context of this study, this constellation is called multi-professional co-teaching.
The object of this study is to evaluate, whether teacher trainees working with a partner of a different discipline develop more positive attitudes and more elaborate knowledge/beliefs about inclusion than teacher trainees working in a team with a partner of the same discipline.
For that purpose, a newly designed seminar for teacher trainees for GE and for SEN was evaluated to assess its effect on teacher traineesÕ attitude, collaboration skills, and beliefs about inclusive education. The seminar has three different episodes: i) a theoretical episode to introduce teaching techniques suitable for groups of different learners as well as different forms of co-teaching, ii) a practical episode in which teacher trainees plan and conduct lessons for inclusive classes in co-operation, iii) and a reflective episode to discuss newly acquired knowledge on a meta-level. During the practical episode, teacher trainees worked in multi-professional teams (i.e.one teacher trainee for GE and one for SEN) or in mono-professional teams (two teacher trainees for GE or two teacher trainees for SEN).
Attitude and collaboration skills were assessed at three different testing times: before the seminar (t1), after the theoretical episode (t2), and after the practical episode (t3) with the help of questionnaires. Beliefs were assessed at two testing times: before the seminar (T1) and after the practical episode (T2). To assess beliefs, teacher trainees created concept maps to visualize their subjective definition of inclusive education.
Questionnaires were analyzed quantitatively applying inference statistical methods; the concept maps were analyzed qualitatively performing a summarizing, inductive, qualitative content analysis of the propositions. Additionally, the structures of the maps were analyzed applying graph-theoretical calculations.
Results indicate that all teacher trainees significantly improve their collaboration skills during the practical episode. Furthermore, teacher trainees working in multi-professional teams develop more positive attitudes towards inclusion than teacher trainees working in mono-professional teams. Also, they expand their subjective conceptualization of inclusion to include aspects like differentiation, individualization, and support; aspects that do not appear in the concepts of members of mono-professional teams. Therefore, this seminar form appears to be a suitable means to prepare teacher trainees for inclusive education. Consequently, it is recommended to implement it in the training curriculum for future teachers.