Refining crucial terms

York University Faculty of Education Professor Gary Bunch in partnership with The Canadian Abilities Foundation, the University of Quebec at Montreal, People First Ontario, and the Marsha Forest Centre, is leading a project to clarify and define the crucial terms that are presently used in education for Canadians with disabilities.

Right: Gary Bunch

The project, titled, “Finding a Way Through the Maze: Crucial Terms Used in Education Provision for Canadians with Disabilities”, is designed to clarify meanings of terms “special education and inclusive education” which are currently used to describe the two present approaches used in Canada to the education of persons with disabilities.

At the National Consultation into Canadian Interest in Strengthening Canadian Research into Inclusive Education roundtable, delegates listed clarification of crucial terms such as inclusion, full inclusion, special education and integration, as the first priority for Canadian research. Presently, the confusing terms used to describe services under the special education model and the newer inclusive model of education has contributed to what the National Consultation roundtable referred to as “a deep rift between parts of the educational community with regard to how best to serve the educational interests of Canadians with disabilities.”

“Education for people with disabilities is changing from ‘special education’, which has roots in the medical model, to ‘inclusive education’, which springs from the social justice and human rights perspective,” explains Bunch. “Change is occurring around the globe and with that change comes confusion and resistance. The hope is that at the end of the 15-month long study, a lexicon of critical terms will be published and distributed to interested groups across the nation.”

The first phase of the project, which has just been completed, resulted in the development of a Crucial Terms Questionnaire to investigate the definitions of critical terms as taken from a large set of terms developed from a review of Canadian literature on special education and inclusive education. A panel of 25 Canadians, selected on the basis of expertise in education and disability, indicated in the questionnaire, which terms they considered crucial.

From the terms chosen, a final group of 24 crucial terms has been developed. These crucial terms will then be presented to persons with disabilities, education systems, special education advocates, inclusive education advocates, teachers, parents, ministries of education, faculties of education, community colleges and other key stakeholders during the second phase of the project. This second phase is a series of six regional meetings across the country, the first of which took place at York University. The focus of the meetings is to discuss and refine definitions for each crucial term.

“Developing clear definitions for crucial terms at an early point of changing philosophy and practice, will reduce confusion and support accord,” says Bunch. “York University is known for its commitment to diversity and equity, and inclusive education is yet another area where York has potential for leadership in the interest of social justice.”

This article was sent to YFile by Anderson Coward, communications coordinator for the Faculty of Education.