Reference: Mortier, K, Hunt P, Leroy M, Van de Putte I, Van Hove G (2010). Communities of Practice in Inclusive Education. Educational Studies, 36(3), 345-355. https://doi.org/10.1080/03055690903424816.
The article Community of Practice in Inclusive Education written by Mortier, Hunt, Leroy, Van de Putte & Van Hove (2010), discusses how parents along with general education teachers, belonging to a “community of practice”, developed different strategies for the inclusion of three students with learning disabilities. In this context, “community of practice” is defined as a group of individuals who share the same passions and concerns about a given topic, and who believe that learning is a process of social participation.
The research methodology is an in-depth study conducted by three educational teams, in Belgium, who worked collaboratively to develop “Unified Plans of Support” (UPS) for students with intellectual disabilities. Through their interviews and questionnaires, the research found that there exists highly probable benefits to sharing knowledge and cooperating amongst a community when working towards educational inclusion. Amongst the research professionals, each educational team worked with one child with their own intellectual disability. The three educational support teams functioned as the community of practice for each child. The first team worked with a student named Jacob, who was diagnosed with Down’s syndrome. The second student participant was a girl named Olivia, diagnosed with Autism. The last of the children participants was Jade, a young girl diagnosed with Down’s syndrome. Each child worked with an educational support group, acting as a community of practice, in order to gather information regarding strategies for inclusion. Once a month, the groups would meet to develop and organize a support plan for each child. After several meetings, each group would be interviewed to discuss the benefits and disadvantages of the process of working within a community of practice. After a six month period, the parents, teachers and members of the educational team were given a questionnaire and were asked to reflect on their experiences working as a collaborative group and developing a support plan for each child. Lastly, the results were collected by a line-by-line analysis on the interview transcripts, where themes in the responses were coded. Themes were identified in order to compare and contrast patterns in the data.
The results found that the members of the three educational support teams felt confident in their abilities to cooperatively develop support plans for children with learning disabilities. They developed their confidence through understanding that their interventions were of their own solutions and not enforced upon them. The members of the three teams emphasized the importance of meeting regularly and including parents’ insights. In conclusion, working within a community of practice was beneficial to the inclusion of the students with disabilities, through strengthening the support offered by the educational teams.