The concept of inclusive classroom: Points of view


An inclusive classroom is currently on the front line in education based on some researchers’ opinions (Nicaise, 2012). According to one study many school boards are globally recognizing the significance on being able to support all students’ individual needs in a general classroom setting (Jorgenson & Lambert, 2012). Although the benefits of inclusion in the classroom is seen as a benefit in research, there are still gaps in the implementation of classroom inclusion (McGhie-Richmond, Underwood & Jordan, 2007). Numerous teachers feel they are not equipped in their classroom to be able to support and serve every student’s diverse needs (Sari, 2007). Without the proper supports and intervention put in place, many students as a result will not be supported effectively in their education (Sharma, 2015).

Some research has focused on inclusive classroom based on the teachers needs in their classroom pay close attention on a numerous of factors that influence the classroom success on inclusion (Deutsch-Smith & Chowdhuri-Taylor; Underwood & Jordan, 2007). Other research regarding classroom inclusion have focused on including all students with a variety of developmental needs in the classroom and their benefits (Downing & Peckham-Hardin, 2007; Chmilliar, 2009), which have influenced province wide to push for a truly authentic inclusion in the classrooms (Jorgenson & Lambert, 2012).

Based on research by having support staff, school policy, education, parental support, self -efficacy, student involvement and beliefs on inclusion have all been referred to as the requirements need to have an effective inclusive classroom (Deutsch-Smith & Chowdhuri-Taylor, 2011; McGhie-Richmond, Underwood & Jordan, 2007). There have not been many studies implemented to address all these concerns, and at the same time allowing the teachers to share their perspectives on what they feel is mostly needed in facilitating inclusion in their classroom. Research has provided an understanding on the needs for inclusion in the classrooms, however evidence is minimal on better understanding why supports are essential and external factors are a potential to have a positive influences on practice.

By exploring individual teachers own experiences, using qualitative approaches, researchers will attempt to look more in depth to have a better understanding on the needs related to inclusion in the classrooms. With this, future researchers, educational institutions and school boards will benefit and can be bettered prepared in supporting teachers on inclusion in their classrooms. Schools can collectively work on putting effective supports and strategies in place to better facilitate inclusion while being able to

support teachers effectively. The purpose of this paper is to question what teachers’ perspectives are on supports needed to provide/create an effective inclusive classroom addressing all students’ exceptionalities.

Historical Overview

In the early 1970’s approximately 1 million of children who were identified as having a disability were totally excluded from public education, with approximately 3. 5 million who were lacking resources in just the United States alone (Dudley-Marling, Burns, 2014). Present research and policy fight continuously against the stigmas that are associated with exceptionalities in particularly ‘uneducable’ cognitive deficits (Dudley-Marling & Burns, 2014), as well as disruptions and demanding too much attention from teachers in the ‘regular educational settings’ that are detriment to students that do not have disabilities(Dudley-Marling & Burns, 2014).

Historically education in North American schools had a notion that children with exceptionalities did not ‘fit’ into the classroom’s goals, aims and structures (Dudley-Marling, Burns, 2014). In the 1950’s parent lead activism began to raise awareness to inclusion in the classroom, which has resulted in the rapid growth of free education for children with disabilities (Dudley-Marling & Burns, 2014).

At this time, specific legislations and acts were passed in supporting the movement towards educating children with disabilities. Dudley – Marling & Burns (2014) note PL-94-142 and ‘No Child left Behind’ mandates as two important mandates in allowing good quality education for every child. PL-94-142 allowed all students regardless of their abilities to have “appropriate education in the least restrictive environment” (Dudley-Marling & Burns, 2014, p. 15), and the No Child left Behind focus was on the importance for educational institutions to ‘maintain high expectation for student growth, and document student progress” (Downing & Peckham-Hardin, 2007, p. 17).

Research suggests that currently approximately eighty percent of students with exceptionalities in the United States are attending a general education class (DeMatthews & Mawhinney, 2013). Similar research also states that five percent of students with exceptionalities remained excluded from general classrooms, showing that inclusion still needs to grow and progress in the educational system (Dudley-Marling & Burns, 2014).

Inclusive education echoes priciples and values, and is disturbed with challenging the way educational systems replicate and perpetuate social inequalities in regards to excluded and marginalized groups of children across a range of characteristics, abilities, socioeconomic circumstances, and developmental trajectories (Dudley-Marling & Burns, 2014). Research shows that currently education focuses on standardized tests and scores that place less value on children with exceptionalities (Dudley-Marling, Burns, 2014), allowing others to focus in on what they lack instead of what they bring to the educational environment (Sharma, 2015).

Legislation and School Policy

The United Nations (UN) had two conventions that provided the framework that all children will have access to education. In 1989, the Convention on Rights of the Child (CRC) was held by the UN (UNRC, 1989). Currently there are 196 countries who have signed a document approving and confirming their obligation to uphold this right, outlined by the UN. In 2006, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) was held to ensure and identify the rights as well as dignities of persons with disabilities (UNCRPD, 2006). Currently there are 159 parties who have signed devoted to upholding the equal rights for individuals that have disabilities.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization took over the Convention against Discrimination in Education during 1960, and enacting the Salamanca Statement, a “framework for action for regular schools to provide equitable access to education by accommodating the diverse needs of all children” (Sharma, 2015). Lai Mui Lee, Tracey, Baker, & Fan (2014), determined the government initiative has a tremendous influence on implementing inclusion in classroom. Although global legislation ensured free education for children who have disabilities, there are also additional mandates that are legal to ensure children to have open access in education and accessible environments (Dudley-Marling & Burns, 2014).

According to Yssel, Engelbrecht, Oswald, Eloff, and Swart (2007) stated the findings of educational institutions being obligated for children with disabilities. Dudley-Marling & Burns (2014) also agreed stating schools are accountable for providing educational opportunities for students with disabilities making sure schools programs are equal to the average developing counterparts. Although inclusive education was paved through these policies (Hodkinson, 2013), according to Sharma (2015), systemic policy as well as legislation still exists, lacking detailed policy allowing for discriminatory practice and the segregation of students, as well as the limited teachers training and resources for children with a disability.

Local school districts make sense of mandates in policy departments of state and education from the U. S Department of Education to connect expectations to schools” (DeMatthews & Mawhinney, 2013). According to Sharma, Simi and Forlin (2015), legislation and policy are vital, “legislation will safeguard commitment and policy will specify the different roles that various stakeholders have to play and provide guidance for enacting this (Sharma, Simi, & Forlin, 2015). Inclusive Curriculum VariablesCommunity.  Research suggests, school districts that have a community that advocates for inclusion in the classroom and professional development were able to close the gaps on achievement (DeMatthews & Mawhinney, 2013). DeMatthews and Mawhinney (2013) state teachers that were supported by districts were able to provide all children with academic success.

Culture through the community impacts school culture and inclusion, inclusion plays an impact on schools and the culture in the community (DeMatthews & Mawhinney, 2013). According to Sharma (2015), Inclusion in the educational environment restructures the school’s culture, which includes policies and practices, to meet all students needs. There are however barriers that are present in education. DeMatthews and Mawhinney (2013), state issues in the community such as soci-economic status, and race can be detrimental on the impact of inclusion. The findings show early identification and special education placement are impacted by class inequalities and race, also recognizing that both African – American and children who are from low incomes have a higher increase from being excluded from the classroom (DeMatthews & Mawhinney, 2013).

There are also common factors in the community of misconceptions and beliefs that play a role. According to Loreman, McGhie-Richmond, Barber, and Lupart (2009) findings, parents who have children with exceptionalities experienced a lower community collaboration then parents whose children were averagely developing. In addition to fewer community supports and participation, there still are community beliefs that can impact inclusive classroom implementation and success.

It has been suggested those who have negative beliefs can cause detrimental impacts on the community as a whole, viewing children with exceptionalities to be different and incapable encouraging exclusion and segregation from the general classroom (Sharma, 2015). Sharma (2015) and Runswick-Cole (2008) findings on community and societal beliefs on children with exceptionalities, hindered action and school policy supporting inclusion in the classroom. Runswick-Cole (2008), recognised that media portrayal for children who have exceptionalities as a risk to general education classrooms, which can impact the average developing student’s success. Segregated school’s media portrayals are that this is the only setting that children’s individual ‘problems’ can be addressed, and is seen as their best chance to living a ‘normal life’ (Runswick-Cole, 2008).


According to research, parental collaboration and involvement all play a role in implementing and being able to sustain an inclusion in the classroom education (Runswick-Cole, 2008; Yssel, Engelbrecht, Oswald; Braunsteiner & Mariano-Lapidus, 2014). Loreman, McGhie-Richmond, Barber and Lupart (2009) stated, parental attitudes tend to have an influence by gender, age, exceptionality and age of the child. Although parents may be unaware on how their involvement and attitudes towards inclusion in the classroom play a direct impact on success, and future health of the progression of children who have exceptionalities (Loreman, McGhie-Richmond, Barber, Lupart, 2009).

According to Yssel, Engelbrecht, Oswald, Eloff, and Swart discovered in their research that parents felt a disconnect from the IEP process believing teachers failed in gaining the correct information about their child, and felt teachers were unwilling make accommodation for their child. Parents also felt in this research that they were not being heard and understood when educational decisions were being made. However, research did show that positive relationships between the schools and parents were beneficial (Chmilliar, 2009; Yssel, Engelbrecht, Oswald, Eloff, & Swart, 2007).

Chmillar (2009) concluded in their findings that, parents in this study parents wanted to actively engage in the process of inclusion committing their time and ensuring their child had success in be part of inclusion in the classrooms. This study reflected Yssel, Engelbrecht, Oswald, Eloff, and Swart’s (2007) study which showed the collaboration between parents and schools to have an overall higher achievement academically, improved behaviour,and positive attitude toward schools with children.


Based on research , children with or without exceptionalities do have an impact on inclusion in the classroom (Loreman, McGhie-Richmond, Barber and Lupart (2009), Braunsteiner and Mariano-Lapidus (2014), all of these found multiple benefits for children with exceptionalities and children who are average in their development for inclusion in the classrooms. Children with exceptionalities have been proven by research to have more friendships and engagements outside of the classroom (Loreman, McGhie-Richmond, Barber and Lupart, 2009). Disabilities in a general education class are proven to have an increase in academic success as well as independence in the future due to having an attentive teacher hence, better study skills.

Dudley-Marling and Burns (2014) stated, these research findings show that those children who spent more time in an inclusive classroom correlated with higher test scores in reading and math, less school absences, and less referrals for disruptive behaviours (Dudley-Marling & Burns, 2014). Not only did children with exceptionalities benefit from an inclusive classroom, but so did the average developing student (Braunsteiner & Mariano-Lapidus, 2014; Loreman, McGhie-Richmond, Barber and Lupart 2009). Overall, students that do not have exceptionalities and are given opportunities in collaborating with peers who do have exceptionalities do tend to develop higher self – esteem and a sense of self (Loreman, McGhie-Richmond, Barber, Lupart, 2009).


Many studies show through research, that teachers are the most impactful variable in the success of inclusion in the classroom (McMaster, 2014; Dudley-Marling & Burns, 2014; Lai Mui Lee, Tracey, Barker, Fan, Sheeshing & Yeung, 2014). There are many factors both positive and negative that play a role in inclusive educational environments, based on one study according to Runswick-Cole (2008) addresses that 98% of primary teachers believed there is a need for specialized programs in schools that are specifically for children who have disabilities.

Dudley-Marling and Burns (2014) and Braunsteiner and Mariano-Lapidus (2014) stated, that segregation of students with disabilities historically has led to similar thoughts amongst teachers who feels it’s the special education teacher accountability to teach children with exceptionalities. Research suggests the factors affecting inclusion are attitudes and beliefs of the educators are education and training, resources, and common practice. (Runswick-Cole, 2008; Lai Mui Lee, Tracey, Barker, Fan, Sheeshing & Yeung, 2014; McMaster, 2014). Due to these factors, children with an average development are given more attention and education than those who have exceptionalities (McGhie-Richmond, Underwood, and Jordan, 2007). B

raunsteiner and Mariano-Lapidus (2014), Sharma, Simi and Folrin (2015) conclude in their finding that positive beliefs and attitudes regarding inclusion in the classroom amongst teachers and principals is an essential factor in inclusion in the classroom to be successful. Lai Mui Lee, Tracey, Barker, Fan, Sheeshing & Yeung (2014) discuss their views on teachers’ negative attitudes in this study stating, 74. 5% of teachers that reported having negative attitudes were concerned about students learning progress as a result from inclusive practices. This negative perception increases when students who have a sever disability are involved (Chmilliar, 2009). Braunsteiner and Mariano-Lapidus propose that teachers feel this way because inclusion involves additional time, resources, planning which can take away from those students who do not have disabilities.

With the variance in teacher’s attitudes towards inclusion Sharma, Simi and Forlin (2015) suggest that the more positive attitudes we can get teachers to have, the greater success and quality of education for all children will take place. Lai Mui Lee, Tracey, Baker, Fan, Sheeshing and Yeung (2014) suggested teachers self – efficacy related to inclusion is powerful for determining their own behaviours, implementation, attitudes and inclusive practice, this allows more teachers believing in that they are capable in implementing inclusion in the classrooms hence, the more willing and they will want to encourage inclusion.

Research done by Dudley-Marling and Burn (2014) and Nicaise (2012) also state the importance of teachers having specialized training and knowledge to be able to provide proper instruction for children with exceptionalities. They concluded in their findings that many classroom teachers did lack the specialized skills needed in implementing an inclusive classroom. Sucuoglu, Bakkaloglu, Iscen Karasu, Demir and Akalin (2014) and Nicaise, (2012) state teachers training and education to be the most significant barriers for inclusion in the classroom. According to Sharma (2015), there is a gap in teachers training that leaves teachers feeling unprepared for diverse needs.

Sharma, Simi and Forlin (2015) in line with this research state, it is the experience and exposure teachers get during the children with disabilities pre-service that will give the teachers the foundation they need working in an inclusive classroom. Teachers are also finding according to research that they are provided with minimal resources for supporting inclusion by administration. Sharma, (2015) state, the lack of resources in supporting inclusion findings has been a major limitation for teachers, and that teachers are not given enough time in planning and are left alone to ‘make sense’ of an inclusive classroom. This research concluded with co-teaching collaboration is an essential tool in implementing inclusion.  As well, that many of these issues can be avoided if school administration provides adequate time and resources for the implementation of inclusion in the classroom (Sharma, 2015).


This review of literature identifies many variables that play a factor in Inclusion for schools. Braunsteiner and Mariano-Lapidus (2014) suggest that the education system currently focuses on standardized testing and scores as the main point of success which puts a disadvantage on students with exceptionalities. These are the fundamental practices in education that fail to appropriately give support to diverse student populations needs (Sucuoglu, Bakkaloglu, Iscen Karasu, Demir & Akalin, 2014). Braunsteiner and Mariano-Lapidus (2014) suggest continuous special education and in class segregation of dependence on students who are being taught separately by multiple teachers even those within the inclusive classroom.

DeMatthews and Mawhinney (2013) states that due to specific policies in place, have an impact on influencing the development of inclusion in generalized classrooms. Lai Mui Lee, Tracey, Baker, and Fan (2014) concluded in their research that this is a result of a variety of factors for teachers such as experience, age, and beliefs that have an affect on implementing an inclusive practice, supporting research done by Braunsteiner and Mariano-Lapidus’s (2014) which suggests, supporting training that increase teachers experimental opportunities when working with children who have exceptionalities.

Braunsteiner and Mariano-Lapidus (2014) also state that inclusion is vital rights of all children to be able to attend, participate and make contributions without having any threats of marginalization or restrictions. This statement by Braunsteiner and Mariano – Lapidus recognizes the importance of an inclusive classroom moving outside of the classroom walls. Loreman, McGhie-Richmond, Barber and Lupart (2009); McMaster (2014);Chmilliar (2009); and Braunsteiner, Mariano-Lapidus (2014) are a few amongst others that identify the positives that stem form an inclusive classroom.

Social development and communication skills (Loreman, McGhie-Richmond, Barber, Lupart, 2009), improved academics (Braunsteiner, Mariano-Lapidus, 2014), as well as acceptance from their peers (Chmilliar, 2009) improved in implemented authentic classrooms. To conclude, McMaster (2014) states without advocacy for inclusion, and without individuals being able to effectively speak form themselves, exclusion will more readily emerge.