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EiTTT Project Objectives

1.  Highlight and address key challenges in advancing the inclusion agenda in schools:  The project team comprises teachers drawn from three schools (two primary and one secondary) and teacher educators employed in three teacher education institutions.  The teachers are working in mainstream classes of considerable learner diversity while the teacher educators have responsibility for Inclusive Education (pre- and in-service teacher education) in their respective institutions.  As an experienced, international, cross-sectoral group of educational practitioners, we share an understanding of the challenges involved in advancing the inclusive agenda in schools.

2.  Highlight and address the well-documented inadequacies in teacher confidence and competence with regard to inclusive practice in Europe's classrooms:  Inclusive education inevitably rests on teacher commitment and capability.  It requires that teachers hold appropriate attitudes and values regarding diversity in society and schools, as well as relevant knowledge and skills.  As high quality teacher education is therefore a pre-requisite, one of the main objectives of the project group will be to share examples of, implement and disseminate learning about particular strategies which we believe are highly effective in teacher education for inclusive education.

3.  Highlight and address the structural supports required in schools to facilitate classroom practitioners in their development of inclusive learning environments:  It is the view of this project team that if inclusive education is to become intrinsic to school practice, appropriate teacher education is a fundamental but insufficient requirement.  We have been motivated to undertake this project by a conviction that the greatest challenge to the advancement of inclusion in schools is teacher resistance, and that this is rooted not just in inadequacies in teacher education, but also in lack of support structures in schools.  'Teacher education cannot work in isolation' (European Agency for Development of Special Needs Education, 2011).  Even the most committed and capable of beginning teachers are challenged by the process of learning to teach.  The increasing diversity of learners in mainstream classes heightens this challenge.  In the context of such complexity it is understandable if, irrespective of incoming attitudes and knowledge, beginning teachers quickly develop 'coping' strategies which allow them to 'survive' these early years as practitioners.  Frustrated by trying to employ inclusive strategies and develop associated skills in increasingly more challenging classroom contexts, beginning teachers initial enthusiasm may quickly wane, and their potentially inclusive strategies dissipate.  These difficulties are likely to negatively impact teacher attitudes so that a vicious cycle becomes established whereby relatively ineffective 'strategies' become embedded as acceptable classroom practice, and the potential to develop the skills necessary to the creation of inclusive learning environments is lost.  In tandem with effective teacher education therefore, we believe that appropriate whole-school and in-class structures must be in place if teachers are to realise their inclusive aims.  Hence, in this project, partners will also share examples of, implement and disseminate learning about support structures and strategies which have been found to be particularly effective in our own schools. 

4.  Highlight the necessary interdependence of teacher education practice and in-school support structures in advancing inclusive education:  We aim to draw attention to a range of currently disparate activities under way in our teacher education institutions and schools, which if applied cohesively could significantly advance inclusive education practice in schools.  As our project team is comprised of practitioners drawn from each of these settings, our intention is to demonstrate how a more interrelated approach to inclusion has potential to counter the theory / practice dichotomy that has traditionally undermined teacher education and hence continuing teacher development.  Many of the activities we will share learning about are particular to teacher education institutions and schools in our own countries and some are specific to our own institutions, and as such their impact and potential are presently limited.  The transnational nature of our project will address this limitation and allow us to draw attention to a broad range of education practices and systems that if incorporated cohesively, could 'maximise educational potential and improve achievement for all learners' (EU Education Ministers, [Paris Declaration] 2015).