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It is increasingly replacing the concept of integration, used up to now. Attempts at defining inclusion can be summarised as narrower and wider conceptions that differ significantly in their scope. On the legal and administrative level, inclusion is negotiated in terms of the UN CRPD, which provides for the equal participation of people with disabilities in all areas of life and relates all proposed changes primarily to the interests of these people.
In the discussion, a further conceptual interpretation of inclusion is generally advocated, and the entire range of human diversity in all areas of life is taken into account. In the literature, it is occasionally suggested that the inclusive approach in Germany is usually understood in the sense of the narrower conceptual definition. In the German-speaking world, the conceptual content of inclusion has primarily been negotiated at the theoretical and conceptual level. It is less often the subject of empirical research. Thus, hardly any empirical evidence can be drawn from academic literature on how the inclusion approach is interpreted by actors in the school system itself.
This is the starting point for a research project at the University of Erfurt, which focuses on the views of inclusion among those in the education system itself in this case, school administrators and teachers. The insights gained will contribute to what has so far been an insufficient body of research. The research project examines the overarching question of how school administrators and teachers view inclusion, by which factors their attitudes are influenced and which experiences they have had working in an inclusive context.
In , a total of employees in the school system of Lower Saxony were interviewed in a standardised written survey on various aspects of inclusion. This served the purpose of depicting their current situation in as detailed a fashion as possible. Within the framework of the empirical study, it was determined how inclusion is understood by school administrators and teachers and how far their respective notions relate to selected socio-demographic factors.
To this end, respondents to the standardised survey were asked to present their own understandings of inclusion in writing. After an initial review of the data, interviewee statements were included in the further analysis. First, this involved assessing them in terms of content. Community definition — inclusion as creation of communities with specific characteristics which could vary between proposals.
The school system employees were divided into groups according to selected socio-demographic factors and examined for significant differences in their understandings of inclusion.
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In addition to age, gender and inclusion-specific experience, the type of school at which teachers were active during the survey was considered. The following will first elaborate on the findings regarding the understanding of inclusion among actors in the school system as a whole.
Figure 2. Percentage distribution of understandings of inclusion among education system employees in the sample group. From this, we can, first, conclude that the concept of inclusion within the education system — as within international and national academic discourse — is interpreted differently and sometimes vaguely. However, significant differences in concepts of inclusion were shown to correlate with prior experience of integrative or inclusive teaching see Figure 3.
Figure 3. Percentage distribution of understandings of inclusion according to prior experience. Regarding the schools at which interviewees were active at the time of the survey, significant differences could be identified in their understandings of inclusion see Figure 4. Figure 4. Percentage distribution of inclusion understanding according to school type. Few teachers in special-needs schools consider inclusion as a concept specific to pupils with disabilities. Significant differences in conceptual understanding of inclusion are also to be found between teachers and school administrators Figure 5.
iDiS – International research unit Disability Studies
Figure 5. Percentage distribution of understandings of inclusion for teachers and school administrators. This article has presented the theories and concepts of the inclusion approach that circulate in German academic and legal discourse. The findings of an empirical study of employees in Lower Saxon schools suggest that school administrators and teachers interpret inclusion differently, in parallel with academic discourse. The data demonstrate that neither the narrower nor the broader notion of inclusion dominates.
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Inclusion is predominantly associated with the education sector but is not clearly applied to one specific target group. According to the results, the type of school at which respondents were employed, their prior experience of integrative or inclusive teaching and their function within school were the most distinctive factors affecting the way in which the teachers conceptualise inclusion and its scope.
Teachers at regular schools and those without prior experience of integrative or inclusive teaching as well as those not in an administrative position tended towards a narrower notion of inclusion.
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Given that, so far, academic literature has not arrived at a consistent definition of inclusion, it is hardly surprising that employees at schools also conceive of it in different ways. In our opinion, teachers can hardly be expected to develop a coherent notion of inclusion in the light of inconsistencies in the theoretical discourse.
In other words, the question is open as to whether teachers can or even should compensate in their own practical work for discrepancies that arise in the formative stage of education science theory construction. Fundamentally, this problem touches on the relationship between teacher training and the actual practice and reality in schools. In the framework of school development, administrators might be advised to support their employees in exchanging their various views on the notion of inclusion.
A discussion between school administrators and teachers might initiate an exchange of opinions and help clarify the origins of their different opinions. School administrators could attempt to sensitise their colleagues to a broader understanding of inclusion by discussing its meaning and potential consequences for teachers with their colleagues. They may be motivated to do this if they assume that a narrower understanding of inclusion has certain consequences for educational practice e.
In the context of the development of inclusive schools, a joint model of broader inclusion could be worked out according to which the future action could be oriented. The school implemented the concept of a pedagogy of diversity. Every child of the district Berg Fidel is allowed to join the school, regardless of disability or intellectual giftedness, religious or family background. A regular feature of the inclusive concept is the multi-professional team, which includes class and subject teachers, educators, social workers, teachers for special education, trainees and other pedagogical staff.
To meet the needs of the individual student, the team members have to work collaboratively. At the Berg Fidel School, education takes place in diverse and open forms, the lessons are structured unconventionally, and the time schedule changes from lesson to lesson. Furthermore, the students learn in mixed age groups, which are composed of students of each grade. Once a week, the students come together to discuss and solve problems which occurred in the classroom Wenders, Another example is the Integrierte Gesamtschule IGS Hannover-Linden 3 which was founded in as the first integrative comprehensive school of Hannover.
The school educates about 1. The students are prepared for work life through several programmes since grade 8, while special support is given to students with difficulties. At the IGS Linden, diversity and difference are promoted as an enriching factor for the school community in the everyday school life. The school implemented a competence-oriented curriculum to support the students in their individual development.
Each student works with an Individualised Education Plan to enhance a self-organized learning process. Moreover, the school creates a positive learning atmosphere based on respect and recognition for others. In both school systems, recent years have seen structural changes that can be interpreted as a move in the direction of increased integration — for instance, the introduction of integrated schools and the dismantling of the special school system.
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