Community of Inquiry: Research-Based Learning for Inclusive Practice

Community of Inquiry: Research-Based Learning for Inclusive Practice

Benjamin Brass (Koblenz-Landau University, Koblenz, Germany) and Heike de Boer (Koblenz-Landau University, Koblenz, Germany)
DOI: 10.4018/IJBIDE.2018070104

Abstract

This article establishes a connection between research-based learning and the development of inclusive practices in teacher education with a special focus on pre-service teachers' ways of talking in philosophical dialogues with children. Adopting an interactionist point of view on learning as a co-constructive process and a processual understanding of inclusion and exclusion on the classroom level, the fundamental importance of conversational practices to learning is carved out and then exemplified using transcripts from a teacher education project. Building on this analysis, inclusive conversational practices are identified. Moreover, it is shown how joint reflection and peer feedback in teacher education courses lead to changes in pre-service teachers' conversational practices. These findings lead to reflections on how research-based learning in teacher education can contribute to inclusive education by looking at habitual ways of talking in class.
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Introduction

In Germany, the primary school is the place in the educational system with the most diverse learners. Relevant dimensions of diversity in the German primary school include disability, cultural background, religion, class and gender, but also individual biographies, as it has the objective to mediate between the children’s out-of-school experiences and the demands of the school system. With an ongoing diversification of the conditions of growing up, primary school teachers who are able to work with children’s diversity in constructive ways are more important than ever.

One omnipresent medium for learning in the classroom are the teachers’ conversational practices. Following an understanding of inclusion/exclusion as a dynamic process, facilitating meaningful participation in classroom interaction for every student is crucial to the idea of learning in groups of diverse learners. This requires teachers to reflect on their habitual ways of talking, which might exclude students who do not speak the dominant language well enough, use another register and so on. Not taking into account one’s own conversational habits can lead to repeated experiences of exclusion from meaningful interaction and learning for some children.

This paper takes a closer look at how ways of talking contribute to or subtract from inclusive education. After a discussion of the relationship between inclusive practice and classroom interaction, a teacher education project is highlighted that focuses on pre-service teachers’ ways of talking in philosophical dialogues with children. Using data from the project, conversational practices that initiate collective reasoning and learning processes are identified, and it is shown how such practices can be refined through reflection.

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