Scholarly article on topic 'Curriculum for Children with Disabilities in Inclusive Education. A Literature Review'

Curriculum for Children with Disabilities in Inclusive Education. A Literature Review Academic research paper on "Economics and business"

Share paper
OECD Field of science
{curriculum / "chidren with disabilities" / "inclusive education"}

Abstract of research paper on Economics and business, author of scientific article — Traian Vrasmas

Abstract The main purpose of this meta-analysis study is to identify trends and emerging themes from the literature review regarding the curriculum for children with disabilities in inclusive education. The summary of findings: the curriculum for children with disabilities in inclusive contexts should ensure both equal rights and equal opportunities; individualised educational planning for these children is very wide spread; the teachers and parents opinions should be more reflected by different studies. Educational literature in Romania is generaly in line with the international and Europeean trends in the area of study but we need more research in connection with the emerging themes.

Academic research paper on topic "Curriculum for Children with Disabilities in Inclusive Education. A Literature Review"


Available online at


Procedía - Social and Behavioral Sciences 127 (2014) 336 - 341


Curriculum for children with disabilities in inclusive education. A

literature review

Traian Vrasmas*

_"Ovidius" Constanta University, Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, Bd. Mamaia no.124, Constanta;_


The main purpose of this meta-analysis study is to identify trends and emerging themes from the literature review regarding the curriculum for children with disabilities in inclusive education. The summary of findings: the curriculum for children with disabilities in inclusive contexts should ensure both equal rights and equal opportunities; individualised educational planning for these children is very wide spread; the teachers and parents opinions should be more reflected by different studies. Educational literature in Romania is generaly in line with the international and Europeean trends in the area of study but we need more research in connection with the emerging themes.

© 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of Romanian Society of Applied Experimental Psychology.

Keywords: curriculum; chidren with disabilities; inclusive education

1. Problem statement

Studies and educational experiences focussing on inclusive education, from Europe, USA and Romania have shown the importance of school curriculum in promoting and implementing inclusive education for children with disabilities. As inclusive education has become more prevalent, the curriculum perspective has gained greater attention among educators and researchers (Avissar, 2012) but there are limitations on the current research on inclusive education in general (Ozlem & Savagea, 2012).

* Corresponding author. Email:

1877-0428 © 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of Romanian Society of Applied Experimental Psychology. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.03.267

Curriculum: "Curriculum is what is learned and what is taught (content); how it is delivered (teaching-learning methods); how it is assessed (exams, for example); and the resources used (i.e., books used to deliver and support

Disability: „Persons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others" (UN Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, 2006, article 1). „States Parties shall take all necessary measures to ensure the full enjoyment by children with disabilities of all human rights and fundamental freedoms on an equal basis with other children" (UN Convention on the rights of persons

Inclusive education: 'Inclusive education is an ongoing process aimed at offering quality education for all, while respecting diversity and the different needs and abilities, characteristics and learning expectations of the students and communities, eliminating all forms of discrimination' (UNESCO, 2009, p. 126). „States Parties recognize the right of persons with disabilities to education. With a view to realizing this right without discrimination and on the basis of equal opportunity, States Parties shall ensure an inclusive education system at all levels and lifelong

Some of the key questions raised from experience and previous research on this complex domain are:

What should be the content of teaching and learning for children with disabilities in inclusive contexts, also

Which are the basic teaching and learning strategies and methods in such circumstances?

How are these themes approached comparatively, internationaly (in the English language) and in the Romanian

a) To identify some trends, principles and criteria for the main content, the IEPs situation and the teaching and learning strategies and methods for children with disabilities, in inclusive educational settings.

b) To establish a core of emerging themes for research under the above circumstances.

c) To make a short comparison on how these issues are tackled internationaly and in Romania, in order to

In this meta-analysis study, based on the definitions for the three main concepts (curriculum, disability and inclusive education) and using narative literature review as a main method, several criteria for including various pieces of literature in the research area were identified, on the educational sciences field. The inclusion criteria for studies were: publications from the last 10 years; domain sources - educational sciences field (pedagogy, educational psychology, special education); a clear linkage betwen the three concepts: children with disabilities, school

The data collection for this investigation was made both in English and in the Romanian language. The main channels of investigation were internet (for English texts, in most cases) and written published texts (particulary for Romanian language). UNESCO publications, various electronic international databeses in English, Government legislation and policies from various countries were important sources.

4. The reasearch process and preliminary findings

While looking for curriculum issues - in connection with children with disabilities - we have found a huge amount of information regarding all the curriculum components (content, methods, assessment, materials). There is also a lot of information regarding how to make the curriculum more accessible on different subjects (mathematics, language etc.). That is why, for the purpose of this study we have adopted a narrower view on curriculum that is only referring to content and methods and from a rather general view on curriculum - not detailed on subjects. This reduction is of course quite artificial and has its limitations, as the teaching and learning (instructional) process cannot be really conceived and analyzed without taking into account educational materials and assessments. In fact, when approaching teaching methods some issues linked to assessment will be touched, as well as organizational and ecological issues in the classroom. The disability perspective remained also rather general - cross-disability - even if there are many pieces of literature focussing on particular disabilities (intelectual disability, autism etc). Searching the international literature almost 400 documents were covered, out of which 42 have met the criteria for inclusion. In the Romanian language, there where about 60 texts explored, out of which 15 have have met the criteria. On the whole 26 references have formed the basic documentation of this article but many of the others are implicit.

5. Summary of the findings on the research questions

Table 1 - The content of teaching and learning

English sources Romanian sources Comments

Evolution - conceptualizing curricular issues for learners with disabilities have moved from a Evolution in legislation In Romania

developmental model in the 1970s, through a functional model in the 1980s and 1990s, to the - Before 1990 the only school context were such issues are

contemporary model of enabling such students to participate in the general education curriculum for children with disabilities was still part of a

curriculum (Mitchel and all (2010). The rights based approach (equality and equity) is discussed was special education (in special separate

developing. schools); specialized

- There is now wide agreement and support for using general education contexts and curriculum - After 1990 various attempts for reforming the field of the

content and for not using other contexts and curriculum content (UNESCO, 2009, Jackson and 'special curriculum' were made, basically on educational

all, 2010) the integration model. system, even

- An inclusive curriculum is based on the four pillars of education for the 21st century- learning On the theoretical field (particularly in special now integrated.

to know, to do, to be and to live together (UNESCO, 2004). education) the main concept are: A national

- Curriculum differentiation for diverse learners is the process of modifying or adapting the - 'Curriculum adaptation'(Cretu, V., 2006 ; updating on

curriculum according to the different ability levels of the students in one class (UNESCO, Rosan, and col., 2006, Popovici, 2007, 2009) curriculum is

2004, 2009); -Functional curriculum (Popovici, 2007) needed,

- Accessible and flexible curricula, textbooks and learning materials are very important for Modalities of curricular adaptations: focusing on the

children with disabilities (UNESCO, 2009); -Selecting parts of the curriculum; principles of

- The content of the curriculum needs to be relevant to the needs and future of children and -Accessing through simplification all parts of inclusion,

youth (UNESCO, 2009); the curriculum; equity and

- Curricula for children with disabilities, is on a wide trend towards inclusion, but vary greatly - Completing (adding to) the curriculum new equal

in Europe (NESSE, 2012). elements, individual activities, compensatory opportunities

- To make the curriculum accessible, the following alternatives are used, in relation to the (for abilitation and rehabilitation ((Popovici, from the

content: (a) modifications (e.g., computer responses instead of oral responses, enlarging the 2007); Education Law

print), (b) substitutions (e.g., Braille for written materials); (c) omissions (e.g., omitting very - IEP has been approached only scientifically (2011).

complex work); and (d) compensations (e.g., speech therapy, mobility and orientation etc.). (Popovici, 2007, Vrasmas, T, 2010, Ghergut, Review of the

- Individual Educational Plans (IEP) - It is designed for each student (pupil) with a disability for 2013), but it is not operational under the educational

allowing better access and progress in education (USA - since 1975 - UK, since 1994, current educational laws. PEI can be planning in

Australia, Canada, Finland, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Sweden, Netherlands, Austria, assimilated with PIP (Personalized program for inclusive

Belgium, and Malta etc.); Mitchel and all (2010) have identified 199 references to IEP, 124 intervention - since 2002) in inclusive context is

came from the USA (62%) and 75 (38%) from outside the USA. Recent emphasis is made on education (Ghergut, 2013). necessary.

how to make the IEPs more inclusive.

Table 2 - The strategies and methods

English sources

a) for the classroom work

* In planning the instruction

- the universal design for instruction - for curriculum design and delivery, for enhancing the learning process - rather than designing for the average student,the teacher shoud design instruction for students who potentially have broad ranges with respect to ability, disability, age, reading level, learning style, native language, race, ethnicity, and other characteristics (Burgstahler and all, 2012);

* In deliversing the instruction and in the learning process - differentiated instructional strategies; differentiated instruction is a process of teaching and learning for students of differing abilities in the same class. Differentiation is recognized to be a compilation of many theories and practices (Hall, T., Strangman, N., Meye, A., (2011). Among the most cited such strategies are:

- Heterogeneous/ flexible grouping arrangements (UNESCO, 2009)

- Cooperative learning (UNESCO, 2004,2009)

- Peer group interactions - seems to be quite efficient, to be used by teachers to support all learners (Nind & Wearmouth, 2006);

- Scaffolding (modeling the support in learning);

b) for the teachers themselfs, in order to cope with stress, in an inclusive classroom, among the most valuable strategies are (Brackenreed, 2011):

- keeping a sense of humour;

- draw on past experiences;

- make a plan of action;

- discuss with colleagues, etc._

Romanian sources Comments

- 'Curricular augmentation' - The focus on

enrichment of the curricular strategies and

standards, with strategies for methods for

executive processing, fostering

enhancing the learning and inclusive

generalization of the education-

information (Rosan, 2006); like

Strategies to make learning cooperative

more efficient learning - is

-Interactive learning; more obvious

-Establishing in common the in the

learning objectives; Romanian

-Demonstration, application texts of

and feedback; 'general

-Modalities of support for pedagogy'

learning; then in the

-Continuous assessment of special

the learning (Ghergut, 2013. education writings.

Table - 3 Emerging themes

English sources

Romanian sources


- Inclusive pedagogy - for a better educational response to human differences; knowledge, attitudes and beliefs of the teachers about learners and learning are very important in developing inclusive pedagogical approaches (Lani Florian & Kristine Black-Hawkins, 2011);

- Inclusive curriculum (NESSE, 2012, UNESCO, 2004, 2009); inclusive curriculum has entered recently the doors of the universities, for better responding to the diversity of the students, worldwide.

- a Disability Pedagogy (associated with critical pedagogy, Paolo Freire) - is not only about the process of teaching, but also it is about critiquing the concept of normal, average, equal, and standard in education (Nocella, 2013);

- Reasonable adjustment to curriculum (UN Convention, 2006, Poed, S., Keen, D, 2013);

- Universal design for Learning - curriculum and instruction to be accessible and useable by learners with widely different backgrounds and abilities (the three block model, Katz and Sugden, 2013).

Other important themes for further research:

-identifying the most effective methods and strategies to design and develop an appropriate curriculum that minimizes problems with access to that curriculum for post-primary students with disabilities',

- aligning (harmonizing) the teachers, students and standards in education (Valtz and all, 2010)._

- universal In Romania

curriculum there needs to

design in be a coherent

favor of and structured

educational approach in

inclusion researching

(Cretu, V., inclusive

in Verza, education, in

& Verza, the European

(coord), and

2011) international


6. Final comments and conclusions

From what we explored, it is quite clear, both from the scientific world and from many countries legislation and educational practices that inclusive education for children with disabilities its seriously taken into account, even if it is a very complex undertaking. The human rights evolution in the last decades has moved us to a situation where equality and equity in education for these children have become a reality. As concerning curricula, the main trend is towards general, ordinary curriculum - expresing equality - but also the need for differentiation, adaptation or modification, based on the pupils needs and potential - expressing the equaV opportunitiess (ethical) side of the human rights. The need for accessibility, adaptation and flexibility it's obvious, both in the content and in the methods of teaching and learning. The individualised (personalised) educational planning for these children is very

wide spread. The teachers and parents opinions - very important - in designing access to the curriculum are less reflected by different studies, but some information for them is there (NCAC, 2013).

Some of the emerging themes for further research can be grouped under the question: How to define and develop - an inclusive pedagogy and an inclusive curriculum, universal design and reasonable adjustments in education. Other challenging questions: How and how far the Disability Pedagogy will evolve in the future ?The involvement of educational sciences (and not only) in documenting a relevant curriculum for children with disabilities - learning in inclusive contexts - is obvious in many countries (from English language sources).In Romania, for the time being, authors from special education (special psychopedagogy) are the front runners in dealing with inclusion and integration issues. General pedagogy can offer more, at least on curriculum issues.

Educational and special education literature in Romania are generaly in line with the international and Europeean trends in the area of study. The need for further research in the emerging topics is more obvious for Romania, as well as the need to involve more scientists and also the policy makers in the educational system.


National Center on Accessing General Curriculum (2013). Access to the General Curriculum for Students with Disabilities. A Brief for Parents and Teachers,; - accessed July 17, 2013.

Avissar, G. (2012). Inclusive Education in Israel from a Curriculum Perspective: An Exploratory Study, European Journal of Special Needs Education, 27(1), 35-49.

Brackenreed, D. (2011). Inclusive education: identifying teachers' strategies for coping with perceived stressors in inclusive classrooms, - accessed August 17, 2013.

Burgstahler, S. (2012). Equal Access: Universal Design of Instruction. A Checklist for Inclusive

re<2c/2i«(g. - accessed November 28, 2012. Cretu, V. (2006). Incluziunea sociala si scolara a persoanei cu handicap. Editura Printech: Bucuresti.

NESSE. (2012). Education and disability/special needs, policies and practices in education, training and employment for students with disabilities and special educational needs in the EU, (2012), European Union,

Ghergut, A. ( 2013), Sinteze de psihopedagogie speciala. Ghidpentru concursuri si examene de obtinere a gradelor didactice, Polirom.

Jackson, L., B., Ryndak, D., L. & Wehmeyer, M., L. (2010). The Dynamic Relationship Between Context, Curriculum, and Student Learning: A Case for Inclusive Education as a Research-based Practice, Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 34(4), 175-195.

Katz, J., & Sugden, R.(2013). The three-block model of universal design for learning implementation in a high school. Canadian Journal of Educational Administration and Policy, 141, May 18, 2013 (

Hall, T., Strangman, N., & Meye, A. (2011). Differentiated Instruction and Implications for UDL Implementation, National Center on Accessible Instructional Materials; - 20.08.2013

Lani, F., & Black-Hawkins, K. (2011). Exploring inclusive pedagogy, British Educational Research Journal, 37(5), 813-828, DOI: 10.1080/01411926 ( *** Legea Educatiei Nationale, nr.1/2011.

Mitchel, D., Morton, M., & Hornby, G. (2010). Review of the Literature on Individual Education Plans, -Accessed August 17 2013.

Nind M., & Wearmouth, J. (2006). Including children with special educational needs in mainstream classrooms: implications for

pedagogy from a systematic review, Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs, 6(3), 116-124, doi: 10.1111/J.1471-3802.2006.00069.x.

Nocella II, A. J. (2013). Emergence of Disability Pedagogy, Journal For Critical Education Policy Studies, 6, (2) - accessed August 18A 2013.

Ozlem E., & Savagea R., S. (2013). Moving forward in inclusive education research, International Journal of Inclusive Education, 16(2); - accessed July 24, 2013.

Poed, S., & Keen, D. (2013). Reasonable Adjustment?The intersection between Australian disability discrimination legislation andparental perceptions of curriculum adjustments in Queensland schools _and_parental_perceptions_of_curriculum_adjustments_in_Queensland - accessed August 19, 2013.

Popovici, D. V. (2007). Orientari teoretice si practice in educatia integrata. Editura Universitatii Aurel Vlaicu: Arad.

Rosan, A., & Marcu, S., D. (coord) (2006). Invatam impreuna. Repere metdologice in educatia incluziva. Editura Alma Mater:Cluj-Napoca.

*** UNESCO. (2004). Changing Teaching Practices: Using curriculum differentiation to respond to students'diversity, Paris, UNESCO. *** UNESCO. (2009). Policy Guidelines on Inclusion in Education, Paris: UNESCO.

*** United Nations (ed.). (2006). Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. New York: United Nations. Voltz, D., L., Sims, M., J., & Nelson, B. (2010). Connecting Teachers, Students, and Standards. l/chapters/Introduction@_Teaching_in_Diverse,_Standar s-Based_Classrooms.aspx accessed August 19, 2013.

Verza, E., & Verza, F., E.(coord) 2011 Tratat de psihopedagogie speciala, Editura Universitatii Bucuresti Vrasmas, T. (2010). Incluziunea scolara a copiilor cu cerinte educationale speciale (coordonare generala), UNICEF, MECTS si RENINCO, Ed. Vanemonde.