Mainstreaming is one of the core principles in the education of learners with disabilities. The practice entails placing a student with disabilities in the regular class or school in order for him or her to work with the peers without disabilities (Farrell, 2009). This paper discusses the issues brought about by mainstreaming by focusing on a case involving three educators, namely Joan Martin, Marilyn Coe and Warren Groves. The paper uses ideas from scholarly research to analyze and suggest solutions of the projected problem.
The case involves Marilyn (a teacher of children with disabilities) and Joan (a regular education teacher reputed for her creative and demanding approach that enables her to “challenge her students successfully”). There is also Warren, who is the principal of the school. Marilyn had come up with a plan to start integrating some of her students with disabilities. She approached the principal who gave his permission to proceed. As a result, the two approached Joan and persuaded her to mainstream some three students with disabilities. Joan, humbled by the trust from the two colleagues, readily accepted the idea and mainstreamed Barry Frederick, Michael Neafe and Donald Garcia.
While Barry and Michael coped well with the studies, Donald had many challenges. Donald had learning disabilities and was extremely below the expectation of a fourth grade student. The problem became even more obvious after the student handed in a blank paper after a surprise quiz. This made Joan start worrying about the wisdom behind mainstreaming learners with disabilities who cannot benefit in the regular class. Marilyn pointed out that Donald had made some gains in social interaction and communication. However, apart from improvement in social and communication skills, Donald could not do any other academic activity like reading and writing. It was evident that Donald would fail if he stayed in Joan’s class. Warren and Joan agreed that there was no need for Donald to stay in the mainstream class if he could not benefit. On the contrary, Marilyn felt that Joan needed to provide additional support to Donald and to “consider changing her grading procedures to accommodate” him. As a result, the three educators were in a gridlock on how best to move forward with Donald’s education.
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The case involves a clash between expectations of a regular education teacher and those of a teacher of students with disabilities. While the regular teacher has objectives that she expects each of her students to achieve, the teacher for students with disabilities believes that there should be a consideration for the strengths and weakness of a learner. The school principal posits that the teacher for students with disabilities, being the expert, should come up with modalities of the practice. However, while the school principal believes that the school should only pursue beneficial mainstreaming, the teacher for students with disabilities believes that there should be opportunities for mainstreaming of all children with disabilities. This is a clash based on the different professional orientations of the educators. Nevertheless, the school expects the principal to come up with a solution agreeable to both parties so that there are no negative consequences like loss of staff and discouragement.
There are several assumptions involved in the scenario. For instance, Marilyn assumes that mainstreaming will benefit all children with disabilities. The truth may be that severe cases of disability might not benefit from the practice (Smart, 2002). This is because such students might require attendance by specialized teachers rather than regular teachers like Joan. Besides, Joan assumes that standardized tests are the only means of judging students’ achievement. On the contrary, there are several means of assessing a student’s achievement like task analysis and assessments based on individualized education programs (Pankajam, 2009. The assumption made by Warren is that Marilyn, being the expert in the education of children with disabilities, has a monopoly of knowledge about how to pursue the mainstreaming. The reality is that the education of learners with disabilities needs a multidisciplinary approach in order to identify the best approaches to serve the interests of the child (Lipsky & Gartner, 1996).
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Main problems in the scenario involve pursuing mainstreaming while, at the same time, meeting the individual needs of a learner with a disability. These are problems faced by many institutions adopting mainstreaming. If there is no care in adopting the mainstreaming, there is the danger that a student with disabilities “might seem misplaced, ignored and left to suffer” (Hall, Healey & Harrison, 2002). This normally happens when there is no holistic approach to mainstreaming. Just like in the current case, the regular education teacher and the teacher of students with disabilities are likely to collide on the best course of the student with disabilities. In addition, fellow students might see the student with disabilities as a bother, misplaced and helpless (Farrell, 2009). “Children might tend to sympathize with such a student instead of empathizing” (Smart, 2002).
Possible solutions to the current scenario include the principal’s decision to engage the conflicting parties in a strategic discussion. The two parties will get a chance to allay their fears and come up with amicable solutions. Besides, as already noted, there should be a holistic approach to mainstreaming. Such an approach would include training of regular education teachers on the education of children with disabilities and creation of awareness on the advantages of mainstreaming. There is also need to create awareness on the significance of individualized education programs in the education of learners with disabilities (Farrell, 2009).
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Educators should pursue mainstreaming with caution. There should be a holistic approach involving teacher training and awareness creation on the education of learners with disabilities. Besides, educators should shun education approaches that might negatively affect learners. Lastly, mainstreaming is a worthy goal to realize the full development of the child with disabilities.
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