Background/Context: For an increasing percentage of students with disabilities, writing instruction is taking place in general education classrooms. The practice of instructing students with disabilities in general education classrooms is commonly referred to as inclusion. For elementary and middle school English teachers, inclusion requires that they teach students with varying instructional needs how to write. While numerous studies have examined writing instruction and interventions for students with disabilities, little research has closely examined the phenomenon and implications of providing writing instruction in inclusive classrooms.
Focus of Study: In this study, we examined the writing opportunities provided to students in four eighth-grade English classrooms at a full inclusion middle school.
Research Design: We employed a qualitative case study design to collect multiple sources of data, including writing tasks, grading requirements, prewriting activities, lesson plans, writing task information sheets, and interviews with teachers. Our analysis sought to triangulate findings from these multiple data sources to examine the types and quality of writing instruction provided in these inclusive English classrooms, along with the factors that influenced this instruction.
Findings: The findings from this study indicate the writing opportunities provided to students were of poor quality and were influenced by state standards and high-stakes accountability assessments. Furthermore, students with disabilities were provided with nearly the same writing opportunities as their nondisabled peers, with little differentiation, modification, or accommodation. The study also exposed organizational features and accountability policy pressures that promoted the instructional practice of standardization.
Conclusions/Recommendations: Our findings suggest that including students with disabilities into a general education English classroom does not necessarily lead to high-quality writing opportunities for those students. Current accountability policy emphasizes the standardization of learning goals and outcomes, with little focus on the actual types and quality of instruction provided to students. We argue that for students with disabilities, focusing solely on teaching grade-level learning standards and improving high-stakes accountability assessments is not the solution for improving instructional opportunities and outcomes. Our findings also revealed that, under certain conditions, standardization of instruction is a potential unintended consequence of inclusive education.