New methods and content are in demand. Teacher training for inclusive schools

Ulrike Barth, Thomas Maschke

Teacher training in general aims to develop teaching ability. It communicates to the trainee teachers the basics of child development and leads to a recognition of the fundamental ability to develop of each child. It trains teachers to scrutinise what they do because openness and flexibility enable change and development. What underlies all these aims is the task and aspiration of self-education and the question: “How can and must I change to do justice to all pupils?” Teacher training can never be completed – neither by the individual nor as such. Teacher training therefore occurs from the day the decision is taken to train as a teacher to the last day in the job. 

What does all this mean with regard to teacher training in inclusive education? To begin with, the task is to develop a new element in the existing training for teachers. In inclusive education we no longer distinguish between Waldorf teachers and special-needs teachers; on the contrary, we work on a “general education” (Feuser) which does justice to all children.

The subject of inclusion in Mannheim

The Mannheim Institute for Waldorf Education, Inclusion and Interculturality has embarked on a first step in this direction by developing the subject of “Inclusive Education” within the Master’s course in Waldorf Education (Class Teacher). Classic special-needs elements are just as much at home here as questions about differentiated teaching and working in a team. The latter is not just taught theoretically but is practiced by students in the course of their studies and in practice placements. Research placements at an inclusive Waldorf school can benefit both the students and the school.

In addition, a school can develop towards becoming a “school for all” if individual teachers and colleges of teachers embark on such a path through further and advanced training. To this end the Mannheim Academy for Waldorf Education has designed a year-long further training series consisting of ten weekends which sees itself as a holistic path of development. The subjects range from “Seeing the other” through “Seeing myself as the teacher” to “Seeing everyone together”. Questions of law are discussed as are questions relating to school development and the concrete methodological implementation of differentiated teaching. Other possibilities of further training and development for teachers are events in a school or cooperations between existing (regular) Waldorf and special-needs schools. By studying the central theme of inclusion,  becoming acquainted with each other’s respective ways of working, looking at the way children are viewed as well as from the impulse to develop something new, a dialogue can arise enabling developments which are not possible to manage on one’s own. “Educational regions” arise through networking good practice which extend beyond the school(s). The term “dialogue” describes a basic characteristic of “inclusion”.

The existing knowledge must not be lost in the transitional phase to becoming an inclusive school. Colleges of teachers which already have extensive experience of broad heterogeneity in lessons as well as of team teaching can take on an important task in that they can pass on knowledge and offer an exchange of experiences. Teaching must be restructured to achieve successful inclusion in a regular school class. The supporting help given to children must not be focused exclusively on the child with disabilities. Inclusion should improve lessons as a whole and take account of the needs of all pupils, irrespective of whether they have a disability or not (Sander 2001). Such further and advanced training at a school which has already acquired some knowledge through experience on the way to inclusion must include various basic subjects:

• Knowledge of child development

• Process diagnosis and instruction as to how to work with development plans

• Team teaching, cooperation, network and differentiated teaching

• Teaching methodology.

Another possibility would be the reverse path: schools embarking on the path to inclusion reorganise themselves in a structured way, for example on the basis of the “Inclusion Index” (or through other measures of organisational development), and call on experts to come to the school to form their own network. Commissions of experts which are currently investigating questions of inclusion-oriented further and advanced training also suggest that schools undertake further training for inclusion in which experienced teachers can contribute their specialist and practical professional experience. An advanced training course on inclusion would be desirable in order to provide a qualified and systematic further training provision which goes beyond the current initial ideas on this subject. We are in transition to a school which caters for all children and urgently need to tackle teacher training so that it covers every pupil.

About the authors: Dr. Ulrike Barth is a Waldorf and special-needs teacher at the Kreuzberg Free Waldorf School. She is the co-initiator and developer of the integrative / inclusive section of the school. Dr. Thomas Maschke is a class teacher at the Kaspar Hauser School in Überlingen and lecturer at the Institute for Waldorf Education, Inclusion and Interculturality in Mannheim.