Teacher - occupational therapist collaboration in the implementation of a classroom approach to enhance inclusive education in primary mainstream schools: a case study
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The collaboration between occupational therapists and teachers within the classroom is a relatively new practice in South Africa and few literature sources can be found reporting on studies in this regard specifically on descriptions of relevant models for such collaboration. There is a need for a better understanding of how occupational therapists and teachers can work collaboratively within a classroom approach, together address learners’ needs and so make the curriculum accessible to all learners. According to South Africa’s key education policies, all children can learn and need support. Inclusive education acknowledges the diversity of learners and that each learner learns differently. The aim of this study was to explore and describe teacher- occupational therapist collaboration in the implementation of a classroom approach to address learning support strategies in order to enhance inclusive education in three primary mainstream schools in the Metro North education district of the Western Cape. More specifically, the study explored teachers and occupational therapists’ perspectives and experiences regarding inclusive education and factors that influence teacher-occupational therapist collaboration while adopting a classroom approach to learning barriers. A qualitative research approach and single, exploratory descriptive case study design was utilised. Data collection included document review, focus groups and semi- structured interviews that was analysed through thematic data analysis. The strategies of member checking, reflexivity and peer debriefing were utilised to ensure trustworthiness of the study. Ethics clearance was obtained from the UWC Humanities and Social Sciences Research Ethics Committee as well as the Western Cape Department of Education. Four themes emerged from data analysis: Theme 1 explores education for all that illustrates the participant’s understanding of inclusion; Theme 2 highlights working together in the classroom and the meaning and value of collaborative teaching for the learner; Theme 3 explains the factors that facilitate the implementation of a Curriculum of Support and Theme 4 concludes with factors that inhibit the classroom approach for inclusion. The significance of this study lies in its ability to offer a conceptual understanding of the effective implementation of learning support strategies through teacher-occupational therapist collaboration and the experiences of those involved in enhancing inclusive education in mainstream schools. The findings of this study are helpful for the development of teacher support and inclusive learning strategies using the whole classroom approach.