Developing Inclusive School Cultures From Within
Chapter 5. A Fish in Water and a Peasant at a Dance: The Importance of Culture
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While trying to identify specific practices that contributed to what was considered a “successful model” of inclusion in a U.S. school, the researchers Zollers, Ramanathan, and Yu (1999) found that successful inclusion was linked to the culture of the school. Entering the field expecting to find educational practices contributing to successful inclusion, they instead discovered that such practices were only one part of a cultural context that supported inclusive values. While in the school they found that practice was only one aspect of a larger school culture “that was wholly supportive of inclusion” (p. 157). The school in which they conducted their research was multi-ethnic and acted as a “magnet” in attracting students with disabilities. The principal himself had “a significant visual impairment” (p. 166) that earlier research found acted as a model and daily reminder of the values he, as a school leader, promoted (Zollers & Yu, 1998). But perhaps more than his impairment, his democratic leadership style, the collaboration fostered between community and school, the shared language around inclusion and belonging all contributed to a school culture that was “inclusive.”
Corbett (1999) similarly drew a correlation between cultural values of inclusion and the extent to which a programme of inclusion can be successful. Corbett recognised that changing the culture of an institution may be a ← 55 | 56 → necessary step in making it more responsive to difference. “It is about creating an institutional culture,” she wrote, “which welcomes, supports and nurtures diverse needs” (p. 58). Corbett was...
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