Within the EU-funded Teaching and Learning Development Capacity Improvement Programme (TLDCIP), Optentia Research Focus Area and the Faculty of Education Sciences of the North-West University in collaboration with VVOB hosted the 2017 Symposium on Teacher Education for Inclusion: Linking Research to Practise from the 7th to the 8th of June 2017 in Vanderbijlpark, South Africa.
A key strategy was to bring together teacher educators, researchers, practitioners and policymakers to share knowledge and experience to plot a constructive way forward in classrooms and lecture halls. The symposium provided opportunities for practitioners to profile good inclusive practises, - researchers, and teacher educators to report recent findings and policy makers to share the latest conceptual thinking and policy developments.
Both keynote presentations and break-away sessions focused on national and international research as well as best practises on teacher education for inclusion. Dr. Moses Simelane from the Department of Basic Education (DBE) framed the agenda for the conference by sharing the strategic and policy goals of the department. At the heart of the policy lies inclusion and equitable quality education that promotes learning for all. Challenges include teachers who are incapable of accommodating diversity and inclusive teaching practises making efficiency and quality in education evasive. The keynote address of Dr. Marijke Willsens, from Artevelde Hogeschool Brussels in Belgium highlighted the importance of reflective practises in schools to support inclusive teaching practises, stating that the greatest effect on pupil learning is when teachers become learners themselves. Robyn Beere from Inclusive Education South Africa (IESA), shared an implementation model to support inclusion through the establishment of Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) in schools. PLCs create a supportive learning network for teachers and offer opportunities to reflect on practise. Professor Elizabeth Walton (Wits) and Professor Mirna Nel (NWU) reflected on a model for teacher education for inclusion, highlighting the importance of the transformation required to reach the objectives of quality education for all. IESA shared the upcoming induction pilot for new teachers which aims to bridge the gap between initial teacher training and the teaching profession with a targeted focus on inclusion.
The necessity of driving change at all levels was raised by Gert van der Westhuizen from the University of Johannesburg. The statement ‘If you want to rethink inclusion, it’s not a regulative change. It goes beyond that - it’s changing the motherboard’ captures the importance of supporting systemic change. Principal Ms Horwitz, shared the importance of principals being part of the change by becoming activists for change and key to promoting successful inclusive learning environments in schools.
Round-table discussion allowed delegates at the symposium to reflect on the issues raised by both key note speakers and the break-away sessions. As a way forward three working groups will be established to further the discourse on inclusive Education in Teacher Development. Results will be presented at the 2018 National Symposium.
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