In the educational setting concerned with working with students that have either behavioral or learning challenges, it is essential to have a tight grasp on the actual limitations and develop plans that can help each student (Darling-Hammond et al., 2020). During placements working closely with children, special attention was given to observing students and identifying their needs based on their interests, learning tendencies, and challenges (Arthur et al., 2018). While the placements have helped identify the limitations in practice, there are two specific opportunities that can help enrich the practice and benefit students’ learning in the long run.
The first goal for future development stemming from the placements is concerned with expanding knowledge of children’s disabilities to have an improved understanding of student’s needs and the way in which they learn and develop (Darling-Hammond et al., 2020). The goal will be achieved through a comprehensive approach entailing self-education through print and online sources, participation in forums, and engaging with families that have children with special needs. By doing so, it is expected to get a better understanding of how to develop a positive and inclusive environment in which the needs of students will be met.
The second goal for professional development entails practicing and learning the fundamental principles of communication with families using various strategies. The goal will be achieved through regular engagement with parents and identifying critical areas of concern for their children that are expected to meet the expectations of the multi-dimensional learning curriculum. Also, it is crucial to conduct outside research of academic articles, blogs, and published books on the best practices in which educators should engage.
Reflection on Goal 1
The goal concerning the expansion of knowledge on the education of children with special needs is supported by extensive research and collaboration with the mentor. Throughout the placement in Friendship Square Child Care & Kindergarten Co-Operative, new essential skills and knowledge were developed in the area of inclusive early learning. Specifically, an understanding was gained regarding the fact that each child has unique behavioral and learning needs. Thus, to teach them effectively, it is imperative to create inclusive learning experiences and curriculum plans to improve the learning process of each child.
When it comes to the things that went well, it was easy to do research in the area because there is an abundance of literature, ranging from studies published in journals to blog posts on best practices written by top specialists in the field. In addition, it was easy to learn about the unique needs of children by working with them closely and being able to observe them and identify their learning needs based on their tendencies, interests, and challenges. Even though the placements were instrumental for teaching how to make early learners safe in an inclusive environment, there is still limited knowledge in two areas. First, it is necessary to understand best practices for providing positive learning experiences for children according to their needs. Second, it is imperative to learn how to create fruitful relationships with children and their parents or caretakers.
The goal corresponds with Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory, which suggests that learning is a social process that entails the need for parents’, caregivers’, and peers’ support as well as the influence of the wider society (McLeod, 2020). Higher psychological functions form as a result of the above-mentioned factors’ impact, which means that from early learning, educators must consider the social component of learning (McLeod, 2020). The primary role of an educator in the inclusive learning context is to act as a learning facilitator. Through creating an engaging community that values comprehensive discussions and guided exchanges, teachers practice social connections and small-group learning to facilitate learners’ development. Besides, sociocultural theory corresponds with the theory of inclusive education, which implies that all learners become part of the learning processes, irrespective of their strengths and weaknesses in some areas. Significantly, the theory of inclusive education does not discriminate against children who may have different needs or abilities, which enables educators to implement a rights-based approach and pay special attention to those subjected to exclusionary pressures (Al-Shammari, Faulkner, and Forlin, 2019).
The theories are evident in practice because early childhood educators must be well-trained in managing children with behavioral and learning difficulties (Colker, 2008). It is, therefore, imperative to facilitate ongoing training and self-development because their lack is a prerequisite to poor educational outcomes (Colker, 2008). The theories are appealing because they encourage expanding one’s knowledge on the demands of children with special needs. Educators are expected to consider various approaches to inclusive education and embrace the fact that it is impossible to provide inclusive education to students with special needs without a theoretical background (Haug, 2017).
In the accomplishment of the goal concerning strengthening the knowledge about the specific challenges of children with special needs, such EYLF principles as ongoing learning reflective practice, high expectations and equity, assessment for learning, as well as partnerships are illustrated (Belonging, being & becoming. The early years learning framework for Australia, 2008). They are practiced through creating a supportive educational climate conducive to learners’ inclusion and collaboration, with the help of which it is possible to engage students with special needs and assess practices and feedback related to teaching and learning. They can be strengthened through improving partnerships with professionals, which can enable the development of evidence-based strategies for driving professional practice improvement.
Concerning AITSL standards, the accomplishment of the goal directly correlates to knowing students and how they learn. Throughout goal accomplishment, the professional learning needs were identified, and the individual engaged in professional learning for practice improvement. Drawing from external research to personal experiences, an educator can develop an enhanced understanding of special students’ needs. The legislative requirements and teaching strategies within the inclusive education framework align with Australia’s disability standards for education. They imply the right to education and training opportunities on the same basis as students without disabilities. Therefore, when discovering the needs of students and understanding how they learn, it is imperative for early childhood educators to treat them equally and in alignment with the legal requirements.
Reflection on Goal 2
The second goal for professional development entails practicing and learning the key principles of communication with families, which is carried out through effective collaboration with families. The goal focuses on communication as a two-way process of information exchanges between families and professionals. Therefore, it entails the development of listening and problem-solving skills, keeping track of relevant records to record specifics regarding interactions, as well as being available to parents when they want to talk.
Throughout goal accomplishment, it was easy to collect large volumes of information from parents and develop comprehensive plans for meeting the needs of their children. The parents were open to discussing their children’s education and offered a comprehensive understanding of the benefits and challenges of the learning process. While some parents were quite critical of the approaches that educators take when teaching their children, such as high levels of standardization and the lack of instructional personalization, their feedback was vital to expanding the knowledge on expectations of the improved learning process. However, it was complicated to deal with many parents because the majority of them had different views and always wanted to be heard and understood. Although challenging to deal with, the large volumes of information pushed the work further because learning and teaching are far from perfect, as parents reported. However, what is holding the progress back is the lack of support from parents when it comes to helping develop the curriculum. They rely solely on the expertise of educators and expect the meeting of their children’s needs as soon as possible.
In the accomplishment of the goal, the three-dimensional approach to inclusive education is considered. Behaviorism-based education practices are the classical learning theories that entail that behavior is learned and is guided by the environment in which it takes place. Moreover, teaching rarely occurs in isolation from learning while learning is equal to behavior, which has to be observed and the focus of educators. In the practice setting, behaviorism-based education practices include the application of behaviorism in an inclusive education setting, which clearly appears to emphasize improving student behavior and performance (Ertmer and Newby, 2013). Cognitive-based practices in education underline the importance of thought processes such as memory, personal reflection, and motivation to learn. Cognitivist instruction must be focused on students’ existing mental structures, such as memory and reflection, to be effective (Ertmer and Newby, 2013). Constructivism-based education practices entail considerations of the importance of social dimensions in the process of learning with the help of observation, adaptation, or interpretation. The social impact of learning is particularly relevant in the theoretical context of education.
The theories appear appealing in the context of collaboration with parents to meet the needs of children in the context of learning because they cover the various approaches to teaching and allow explaining why some students learn a certain way while others are more productive through other means. Because of the need to individualize instruction and develop strategies that are fine-tuned to the peculiarities of each learner, educators can use different educational theories (Lindner and Schwab, 2020). Besides, it is possible to use the different characteristics of various approaches to create a targeted framework to inform the educational process and adjustment to the particular needs of every learner.
In the accomplishment of the goal concerning the collaboration with families, such EYLF principles as partnerships with families, high expectations for every child, and integrated teaching and learning approaches are applied (Belonging, being & becoming. The early years learning framework for Australia, 2008). When it comes to partnerships with families, it is expected to establish a supportive and productive environment for learning to promote collaboration. The support of parents is imperative for supporting the accomplishments of students and enhancing their learning. By setting high expectations for every child, it is possible to promote increased levels of intellectual engagement and self-awareness. A supportive and productive environment facilitates collaboration, enabling the development of the student’s voice to empower leadership and build pride. The integrated teaching and learning approaches are achieved through engaging and challenging all students regardless of their levels of achievement by using evidence-based strategies for driving professional practice improvement.
In terms of AITSL standards applied to the goal’s accomplishment, the professional engagement standard of engaging professionally with peers, parents or carers, and the wider community is involved. By collaborating with families to meet the needs of children, the professional is expected to understand and use the core principles of the profession outlined in the code of conduct (AITSL, 2020). Besides, the engagement with families enables them to understand strategies for working effectively and sensitively, preserving confidentiality with parents (AITSL, 2020). Therefore, to understand the appropriate approaches that fit the needs of each child, it is necessary to be open to parents and their concerns as they are the ones who engage with learners in a non-educational setting and can point out the main challenges.
To conclude the reflective experience, it should be noted that the sphere of inclusive education will always be shifting because of the unique needs of learners and the challenges they may face, both long- and short-term. Throughout the experience, it was imperative to be on the one page with both colleagues and parents to develop a multi-dimensional approach to teaching that considers different perspectives. The collaboration with different stakeholders combined with professional development and personal accountability often challenges specialists involved in inclusive teaching but also gives way for future research and improvement.
AITSL. (2020) Australian professional standards for teachers. Standards at the graduate teacher level. Web.
Al-Shammari, Z., Faulkner, P. and Forlin, C. (2019) ‘Theories-based inclusive education practices’, Education Quarterly Reviews, 2(2), pp. 408-414.
Arthur, L., Beecher, B., Death, E., Dockett, S. and Farmer, S. (2018) Programming and planning in early childhood settings. Victoria, Cengage Learning.
Belonging, being & becoming. The early years learning framework for Australia. (2008). Web.
Colker, L. (2008) ‘Twelve characteristics of effective early childhood teachers’, Young Children, 2008, pp. 68-73.
Darling-Hammond, L., Flook, L., Cook-Harvey, C., Barron, B. and Osher, D. (2020) ‘Implications for educational practice of the science of learning and development’, Applied Developmental Science, 24(2), pp. 97-140.
Ertmer, P. A. and Newby, T. J. (2013) ‘Behaviourism, cognitivism, constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective’, Performance Improvement Quarterly, 26(2), pp. 43-71.
Haug, P. (2017) ‘Understanding inclusive education: ideals and reality’, Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research, 19(3), pp. 206-217.
Lindner, K-T. and Schwab, S. (2020) ‘Differentiation and individualisation in inclusive education: a systematic review and narrative synthesis’, International Journal of Inclusive Education. Web.
McLeod, S. (2020) Lev Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory. Web.