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Inclusive Education

Kathryn Hall

UCID: 10139442

Core 205: Introduction to Disability Studies

Patti Desjardine and Gregor Wolbring

November 26th 2015


Prominence in research surrounding inclusive education settings has increased significantly in

recent years. As diversity and difference within our populations increase, so too does the concept of

ability privilege. This has become increasingly discernable in educational settings, as children who

exhibit certain abilities are included without question, however there continues to be an unwillingness,

and pushback to relinquish jurisdictions to include children of varying abilities (Wolbring, 2014).

Antagonistic views of inclusive education are largely built on the notion that inclusion could have

negative impacts and consequences for children (Tunidor, & York, 1995). The literature, selected for

review collectively sought to impede upon these arguments from adversaries, and appears largely in

support of equitable access to education. The first portion of the report will serve solely as a literature

review, where a plethora of studies outlining findings of effects of inclusive education practices will be

reviewed. Upon review of the literature, I will share my own critical analysis and thoughts on the

content. I will then conclude by offering my own thoughts in relation to larger themes presented within

the course, and implications on a larger scale in society as well.

Review of Literature

Upon reviewing various literatures, it was apparent that inclusive education is a topic

surrounded by immense attention and ongoing controversial debates regarding the potential impacts on

students when implemented. Thus, multiple studies have been conducted to uncover the true impacts

and implications, predominantly seeking to discredit contradictory opinions of researchers, parents, and

educators alike. The specific literatures I reviewed appeared to be written by researchers whom

collectively argued vehemently that inclusive educational practices divulged to be highly beneficial. In

order to construct a credible argumentative analysis, I saw it as my obligation to dig deeper to

understand the true nature of ability expectation oppression and the ability inequities appearing within

educational sectors. Uncovering strong empirical evidence is needed to substantiate if such claims are

warranted, or erroneous as initially hypothesized by these specific researchers.

Academic Benefits

Throughout the literature, there is ample evidence regarding the positive outcomes and

beneficial features inclusive education can have on the academic capacities of students. McLeskey and

Waldron (1998) devised an investigative study administering a curriculum-based measure, to recount

academic progress, or lack thereof in reading and math capabilities of children following one year in an

inclusive classroom. The functioning of 71 students with disabilities in inclusive settings was compared

to that of 73 children with disabilities receiving their education in segregated resource rooms. Findings

revealed that students in inclusive settings showed exponentially greater gains in reading levels, by

67% more, than students receiving education in resource rooms (McLeskey & Waldron, 1998). Another

study on the effects of learning through peer-model observation had similar results of positive effects

on academic achievement and cognitive functioning (Charlop, Schreibman & Tryon, 1983).

Researchers studied a group of four children with autism, testing abilities to receptively label items,

under two conditions; one involving a trial and error method, and the other under a modeling condition

where children learned from peer models (Charlop et al., 1983). It was noted after exposure to 20 trials

of peer model observation, children were able to label the objects with 100% accuracy, but in the no-

modeling condition, on average over 32 trials were needed to reach criterion (Charlop et al., 1983).

Researchers concluded the immense superiority of peer models, rather than independent work in

segregated settings, and how inclusive settings promoted the acquisition of academic and cognitive

skills for children with disabilities (Charlop et al., 1983).

Research allocated to evaluate impacts of inclusive education on children without disabilities is

also becoming an area of increased interest (Garrick Duhaney & Salend, 1999; Giangreco, 1997).

McMillan (2008) reviewed various studies finding with inclusion being implemented, students without

disabilities were also benefitting academically. One criterion-referenced exploratory study, assessing

educational achievement in areas of reading/language arts and mathematics, showed positive results

(Disher, Mathot-Buckner, McDonnell, Mendel, & Thorson, 2003). Results from 324 students without
disabilities in inclusive settings indicated a small increase in academic performance compared to results

of 221 students whose classes did not include students with disabilities (Disher et al., 2003). Another

study analyzing data collected from 606 individuals found that students without disabilities in inclusive

settings proved to achieve either neutral or more positive results compared to children in non-inclusive

settings, which teachers collectively attributed to additional support and alternative teaching methods

provided in inclusive classrooms (Cole, Majd, & Waldron, 2004). It was concluded that the presence of

students with disabilities did not compromise the performances of other students in the classroom (Cole

et al., 2014). Together these studies give substantial empirical evidence, which researchers argue

corroborates that arguments and concerns of adverse or negative impacts on educational achievement

may be unwarranted, and possibly erroneous (Tunidor & York, 1995; Disher et al., 2003).

Social and Behavioral Benefits

Proponents of inclusive education, including many researchers within the review, indicate

education, and specifically inclusive education, involves benefits that reach beyond academics, to offer

a number of non-educational, social, self-conceptual and behavioral beneficial outcomes (Staub &

Peck, 1994; Garrick Duhaney & Salend, 1999, Disher et al., 2003; Barclay, Dupuis, Holmes, Platt &

Shaha, 2007; McMillan, 2008). Tardif and Wiener (2004) completed a study comparing the social and

emotional functioning of 117 children receiving education through multiple diverse service delivery

models. Results revealed that children within the more inclusive placements had more positive social

and emotional functioning, and appeared to score significantly better on all socio-metric and social skill

rating measures in comparison to those in self-contained or resources room placements (Tardif &

Wiener, 2004). Children receiving inclusive in class supports not only had higher self-perceptions of

their own competencies, and were better accepted by their peers, but had fewer teacher-rated problem

behaviors than those reported of students in segregated settings (Tardif & Wiener, 2004).

Many other studies have been replicated under similar hypotheses of inclusive settings

providing beneficial outcomes, such as the researcher Hepler (1998) who was interested in social
interactions, behavioral mannerisms and cognitive proficiencies when children with disabilities were

included. Measures such as role-play tests were administered to assess social status knowledge,

cognitive and behavioral skills, as well as social interactions (Hepler, 1998). Both groups of children

with and without disabilities showed vast improvement from pre to post test in social behavioral

responses, and used fewer negative responses altogether (Hepler, 1998). This particular measure, along

with socio-metric ratings from students, and observational data collected from researchers lead to a

strong proposition that all the children benefitted largely in cognitive and behavioral skills, as well as

improved their ability to positively socially interact (Hepler, 1998). It was concluded that by allowing

children opportunities to observe positive role models and to interact with nondisabled children

(Hepler, 1998, p. 99) they learned constructive behavioral and cognitive skills leading to positive social


Another study was employed surrounding partner learning processes to assess effects of

inclusive education in terms of amount of academic responding behaviors which increase chances and

ability for children to attain knowledge, as well as competing behaviors, being responses viewed as

unacceptable or disruptive to learning processes (Allen et al., 2002). Findings revealed that students

had less competing behaviors and a substantial increase in academic responding when engaged in

partner learning in an inclusive classroom rather than independent seatwork learning (Allen et al.

2002). Researchers believed their findings stood to assist in discrediting many concerns and

apprehensions educators and parents had that students with disabilities presences could harm the

learning and behaviors of other children (Allen et al, 2002; Staub & Peck, 1994). Additional positive

results were found in a parent survey, revealing over 80 percent believing inclusive classroom

experiences enhanced their childs social and emotional growth, and over 90 percent of the parents

concluding that having students with disabilities in the class had been an overall positive experience

(Gallucci, Peck, Schwartz, & Staub, 2004). Collectively, these studies appear to support the impetus

behind inclusive education in providing strong empirical, and qualitative evidence which in conclusion
revealed these settings were highly likely to increase social, communicative, and behavioral skills of

children both with and without disabilities (Katz & Mirenda, 2002).

Social Prejudice Removal

One highly emerging topic of interest within the literature sought to address the question of

plausible impacts inclusive education can have on perspectives and attitudes of students (Knight,

Sharpe, & York, 1994). Investigators Staub and Peck (1994) grouped the main potential benefits of

their research findings into the categories; reduced fear of human differences, growth in social

cognition, development of personal principles and warm and caring friendships. Numerous students

attributed their reduced fear, and increased comfort around the notion of disability to having had close

interactions with individuals with disabilities within their classrooms (Carlson, Helmstetter, & Peck,

1992). Another researcher, Murray-Seegert (1989) conducted an ethnographic study, resulting in

findings of growth in social cognition, newly found sophisticated tolerances of difference and

disability, as well as increased awareness and concern for the needs of their peers with disabilities.

Many of the students expressed experiencing a growth in their personal, moral and ethical principles as

a result of relationships they had created with their peers with disabilities (Carlson et al., 1992).

Researchers concluded the consistency in results proved that exposing children to diversity in inclusive

settings, provided students with a better understanding and tolerance for differences within society

(Knight et al., 1994). Thus, the removal of social prejudice is expected by various researchers to

continue the production of ethics, values of caring, and acceptance, helping to alleviate barriers later in

life, making integration into society easier for children of all abilities (Giangreco, 1997; Katz &

Mirenda, 2002; McCarty, 2006).

Critical Analysis and Discussion

Analysis of the Literature

Upon reviewing the assemblage of literature, it is apparent this topic is not only widely

researched, but remains extremely controversial. The specific literature I reviewed approached the

notion of inclusive education utilizing both disability studies and ability studies lenses. Researchers

inquired into the lived reality children of varying abilities face, and continued on to question the

disablement, and segregation experienced by children who have been labeled on false notions as

causative factors of negative academic or behavioral attainment (Wolbring & Yumakulov, 2015).

Researchers discussed the implications linked to these ability expectations, and the ricocheting negative

effects and consequences segregation can have, in preventing truly positive and enriching educational

and social experiences for all children (Burke & Wolbring, 2013). The literature presented represents

only a small fraction of the wealth and breadth of research on inclusive education. The case promoting

beneficial outcomes continues to grow and strengthen, standing to assist in decreasing ableism related

attitudinal and environmental barriers hindering the participation of children of varying abilities.

The purpose behind the literature reviewed was largely to address concerns appearing to be

built upon and governed by negative ability expectations. Many studies emulated in their findings there

were no adverse effects on academic performance and instead many other positive, beneficial outcomes

(Knight et al., 1994; Giangreco, 1997; Disher et al., 2003; Cole et al., 2004; McMillan, 2008). Alone

the empirical evidence presenting positive academic effects is staggering, and it is imperative to

annotate these gains were largely accredited to children having opportunities to observe and interact

with children of varying abilities, whom served as great role models, and motivation for one another

(Charlop et al., 1983). It was noted that within inclusive settings, there is likely additional focus on

academic achievement which I believe motivates children, and truly pushes those with varied abilities

to reach their full potentials, instead of being generalized by lower ability expectations in segregated

settings (Barclay et al., 2007; Myklebust, 2007). A common curriculum for all, providing academically

challenging material, and stimulating environments proved to be far superior, and succeeded in

promoting that all children are valued, highly capable individuals, leading to an upsurge in feelings of
accomplishment, confidence, and acceptance (McLeskey & Waldron, 1998). I believe inclusive

classrooms give greater prospect for growth as opposed to two separate curriculums, created largely on

the false notion that children with disabilities hinder the learning of other students, proven to be

iniquitous in the review of literature.

While it is important to note beneficial academic outcomes, I personally believe there is further

merit and importance in recognizing social and behavioral benefits. I myself am an advocate for

inclusive education, especially since the research shows it heightens development of social skills and

aggregates positive behaviors, effectively preparing children to adapt to life outside the classroom

(Tardif & Wiener, 2004; De Vivo, 2013). I believe education, and socialization during the early years is

key in preparing for later life, and how successfully children will navigate through larger society.

Children are sponges, learning principally by example and experience, thus by exposure to diversity

through inclusive educational practices; children are shown the true reality of the world (McMillan,

2008). As educators and operatives in the disabilities studies field, I believe by not advocating and

pushing for inclusive education, and acceptance of all, we are effectively failing at preparing students

for the real world, and to nurture a more accepting society. In instilling that inclusion and acceptance

from a young age is a natural fact of life, I believe inclusive education aids in effectively lessening

chances of social prejudices, exclusion, and ableist perspectives later on. In fact, Garrick Duhaney &

Salend (1999) concluded in their findings that students in inclusive settings possessed more positive

views of inclusion, which lead to increased acceptance, tolerance of individual differences, and a

greater awareness and sensitivity to others. It was also noted that children in non-inclusive classrooms

were more likely to engage in stereotyping and to hold negative perceptions of diversity (Garrick

Duhaney & Salend, 1999). Thus, it appears segregation makes stigmatization and greater ability

expectations more likely, impacting a sustainable, positive future for people of varied abilities.

We are not born into this world with preconceived notions or ideas regarding differences

already fashioned. What children are exposed to at a young age, and how we teach them, is how I
believe negative biases and stereotypes are created and carried on. When we practice segregation, it

effectively teaches children that social prejudice, and ableism is appropriate, and tolerated (Castaeda

& Peters, 2000). Segregation upholds erroneous stereotypes and biases, and teaches children that

anyone who does not fit species-typical norms, or ability expectations, should be automatically labeled

or segregated (Wolbring & Yumakulov, 2015). Governance of ability expectations through effectively

implementing inclusive education is imperative, which as the literature proves can not only provide

beneficial outcomes within schools, but can unveil a greater ability diverse acceptance (Wolbring &

Yumakulov, 2015, para. 14).

Relation to Larger Themes Within the Course

One of the major things I noticed in assessing various literatures was although the majority of

articles appeared to be largely in support of inclusive education, the language used by these researchers

eluded otherwise at times, and appeared contrary to their standpoints and beliefs. While preaching

inclusive educational benefits, and in prohibiting segregated settings, researchers sometimes

themselves used language continually defining children with a disability descriptor, referring to

groupings as children with disabilities, or children without disabilities, instead of just children with

varying abilities. Even though it was perhaps not the researchers intent, the phrases, and terms used at

times stood to reinforce the notion of ableism, which they had initially being attempting to discredit.

This goes to show the immense power language holds, and how even with the best of intentions,

language is often used in ways, which promote the continuation of social and attitudinal discriminatory

barriers by a larger society or audience.

While there appear to be many proponents behind inclusive education, there still exist

adversaries whom have yet to come to terms with the long list of benefits inclusive education conveys.

Farrell (2000) remarked that there are typically two arguments used in favor of inclusive education:

socio-political and empirical. The first socio-political argument states inclusion is a matter of all

children having the human right to be educated in the same setting (Farrell, 2000). I noticed within the
research that opponents stated full support of the socio-political argument, however attacked the

empirical side, stating their concerns were regarding adverse effects on academic achievement, and

negative behavioral tendencies (Peetsma & Rujis, 2009). If these opposing arguments were in fact

based solely on empirical evidence as adversaries claim, instead of a human rights socio-political

argument, there should be no question left on the subject, especially with such substantial amounts of

empirical evidence showing no adverse effects from literature I reviewed. However, opposing, aversive

arguments still exist to this day, even after researchers have made a resounding case for inclusive

education. Thus, it leaves me to question that opponents of inclusive education still subjectively partake

in an ableistic perspective, or tendencies, and are culpable of ability expectation oppression. The

literature proves on countless occasions the various benefits of inclusion; thus, I believe any continued

argument against inclusive education is a result of stereotypes and bias against the notion of disability

or variabilitys. The fact that such considerable amounts of research and empirical evidence is needed

to prove to opponents that anything varying from what is considered species-typical norms, should be

included shows that ability diversity is still looked negatively upon. The persistent existence of such

controversy around ability diverse children being included in a single classroom shows the ways

society instinctually governs a favoritism for certain abilities and how we truly are in an age of an

ability expectation and ableism creep (Wolbring & Yumakulov, 2015, para. 14).

As the social model of disability states, and what I truly believe, is that disability is largely

socially constructed and primarily exists in the environments we subsist in. The amount of literature

being solely devised with the purpose of substantiating the merit of inclusion, rather than acceptance of

these practices without question, confirms we unfortunately appear to live largely within an ableist

culture and society. Consequently, many young children are unfortunately missing out on the

multifaceted benefits of inclusive practices. Researchers and educators appear so vastly worried about

the possible impacts of inclusive education, they are failing to recognize and appreciate that the facts

and findings show their concerns are largely unwarranted. I wholly believe, even more so after
reviewing the literature that inclusion not only gives all children better chances at performing

academically, but also gives them crucial life skills to live a successful, fulfilling life. The validity of

the argument for inclusive education has been largely established, and I believe there should be little

room for question or controversy to remain because everyone, no matter their ability, deserves to be

accepted and included. I see it as my duty, in being involved in the disability studies field, to continue

to engage with and expose the ability expectations evident within educational settings and society, and

to impede upon these notions and beliefs (Wolbring & Yumakulov, 2015).

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