According is just one factor among many that

According
to Okoli and Okpara (2017:150) and Spaul (2013:54) there is wide practice of
attributing students’ achievement to teacher effectiveness. Teachers are
questioned over poor performances of their students by some school authorities.
Although
the teacher is just one factor among many that influence learners’
performances, the teachers’ attributes and qualities are very important in the
teaching and learning processes.

Despite
several innovations in the areas of individualised learning, the essence of the
teacher in the teaching and learning process has not shifted.  Teachers’ 
beliefs, as reflected in their behaviour and interactions in the
classroom, is based on their initial teacher training regarding special
educational needs because of their specific understanding of barriers to
learning, that focus on a medical deficit approach. Furthermore, teachers
frequently mentioned their perceived lack of specialised knowledge regarding
the professional identification and support of ‘special needs’ such as learning
and sensory disabilities, behavioural, as well as social problems.   The development of inclusive education and
its envisaged outcomes are influenced by the dynamic interaction between
contextual challenges and teachers’ understanding of inclusive education in
providing inclusive practices for learners who are experiencing diverse
barriers to learning in their classrooms.  Individual attention to learners’ needs is an
added stressor for teachers dealing with a variety of contextual challenges in
a classroom with a diversity of needs. 
Additional and significant obstacles in enabling teachers to enact inclusive
classroom practices are overcrowded classrooms, lack of administrative and
financial support as well as prescriptive curriculum requirements (Engelbrecht et al., 2015:6).

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The
study findings from LeDoux, Graves and Burt (2012:20) identify general
education teachers’ need for better communication, professional development
concerning children with disabilities and a need for more planning time.  The consensus among the literature has been
that general education teachers are inadequately prepared to work with students
with special educational needs and therefore, are not prepared for
inclusion.  Although this has been a
major concern for nearly two decades, efforts to address this issue have been
unsatisfactory in most cases.  Pather (2011:1107)
mentioned that it is evident from available research that despite the array of
challenges facing mainstream schools which relate mainly to systemic barriers
such as teacher training, lack of resources, funding and resistant attitudes,
there is some evidence, although limited, of successful practice where support
is available and teachers demonstrate capacity to respond positively and
effectively. 

 

2.3.1   
Teachers
in inclusive classrooms 

It is
not yet settled among experts what constitutes effective teaching, however
Weimer (2013 cited in Okoli , 150:2017) define teacher effectiveness
as ‘teaching in such a way that learning results.  It was observed that teachers’ effectiveness
is not the only determinant of students’ academic achievement.  The definition extracted from descriptions of
teachers nominated for teaching awards used these words: approachable, presents
material well, makes subject interesting, helpful, and knowledgeable (Okoli
& Okpara, 150:2017).

Teacher
effectiveness and teaching quality in inclusion has received a great deal of
attention internationally since interactions between learners and teachers are
important social processes that contribute to every learner’s academic, social
and emotional development (Luckner & Pianta, 2011 cited in Engelbrecht et al., 2015:1). Barber and Mourshed
(2007:12 cited in Spaull, 2013:24) indicated that a popular McKinsey &
Company study finds that ‘The available evidence suggests that the main driver
of the variation in a child  learning at
school is the quality of the teachers’ and thus that ‘the quality of an
education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers’.

The
broader social and institutional contexts in which teachers operate,  is shaped by 
the restructuring and reorganisation of educational policies in response
to national and global imperatives for the development of inclusive
education.  It is the way in which policy
is reformulated in practice which determines teachers’ personal interpretations
and understanding in their day-to-day enactment of inclusion (Engelbrecht et
al., 2015:1).  Research done by
Shoulders and Krei (2016:23-25) has found that teachers often feel unprepared
for changes, with some expressing uncertain or even negative attitudes toward
inclusion.  Staff with formal
qualifications also reported more negative emotional reactions when facing
challenges from students with special educational needs.  These results highlight the importance of
providing teachers high level of training that promote teacher commitment and
this could be linked to mitigating burnout in teachers and improving the
outcomes of all students with special needs.

McKinsey
(2007:13) mentioned that the negative impact of low-performing teachers is
severe, particularly during the earlier years of schooling.  If learners are placed with low performing
teachers for several years at primary level, they can suffer a large
irreversible educational loss.  One of
the most striking features of the inequality in South Africa according to
Spaull (2017:29) is that the best performing Grade Six pupils know more than
some Grade Six teachers, albeit not their own teachers.  There is a strong case to be made, in
addition to not being able to teach what they do not know, that teachers who
lack an elementary understanding of the subjects they teach can actually
influence the learning process of their learners.  A 2010 study of 45 primary schools in the
Western Cape found that the average Grade Three teacher felt that at the
beginning of the year only 55 per cent of their pupils were performing at the
appropriate level for numeracy, but by the end of the academic year that they
thought that 84 per cent were now performing at the appropriate level.  Yet, in reality, only 22 per cent of their
pupils were actually achieving at the appropriate level relative to the
curriculum, as measured by the Western Cape Systemic Evaluations (WCED,
2010:10).  The need to focus on
the primary grades is because it is more likely to close the gap and
cost-effective when children are still young and not only driven by the fact
that underperformance is so widespread in these phases (Spaul 2017:40;
McKinsey, 2007:4). 

Researchers have
attempted to investigate the beliefs and attitudes of the individuals who are
responsible for implementing inclusive policies.  Shoulders and Krei (2016:29) and Mangope et
al. (2013:82) have shown in their research findings that teachers’ experiences
in the classroom influence their attitudes toward inclusion and can have a
direct influence on the successful inclusion of children with disabilities into
regular classes.   Moreover, overall
feelings and outlooks of teachers, as well as actions, play a vital role in
student achievement.  

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