Removing barriers to learning, enabling international schools to respond to diverse needs: identifying the climate and conditions

  • Jayne Pletser

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Education (EdD)


While there was a wealth of research and documentation on meeting student learning needs in mainstream national schools, the world of international schooling appeared to have remained relatively untouched by the march towards inclusion. The motivation for this inquiry was to examine efforts to develop inclusive educational provision in the elementary department of an international school.This small-scale study gave the researcher access to an international elementary school that was considered successful in responding flexibly to the needs of all learners. As there had been little research in the area of inclusion and international schooling the theory for this study was generated from the data and from a comparison with the findings of research on inclusion in national education systems. The research aimed to identify the climate and conditions present in the primary school at the time of the research by considering how it had removed barriers to learning for three students in different levels of learning support. A qualitative approach sought to use the data to understand the context and an ‘emergent’ design combining grounded theory and a case study approach was used. A central principle of constructivist grounded theory is that of giving voice to research participants and this study incorporated the voices, views and experiences of the students alongside their parents, educators and the specialists who worked with them.Data was collected from interviews and multidisciplinary child study meetings. Interviews were carried out with the senior leadership team, the students, their parents and educators. Classroom observations were carried out to supplement interview data for the student in intensive levels of support and further data was collected from school documentation written for parents.The findings indicated that the school climate was characterised by a strong focus on learning, access and solution seeking and the conditions found to support this climate were space and resources. Space was considered in terms of the use of space and the time required to facilitate both collaboration within the wider school community and collaborative teaching practices. Resources considered at the level of school organisation included personnel, therapies, policies and procedures, and the school curriculum. The overall findings from this study indicate that inclusion in this context was a process bound up in a proactive, dynamic, continuous cycle where a focus on solution seeking, learning and access drove the cycle.Based on the findings from this small-scale study it is recommended that international schools locate inclusion in the arena of whole school development where learning, access and solution seeking drives the school development cycle. It is recognised that the emerging theory could not be divorced from the interpretations of the researcher and additional research by a diverse range of researchers, in diverse international school contexts is needed. To better inform international school leaders it is hoped that these results will become part of a larger body of research that better reflects the range of international school contexts.
Date of Award12 May 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorDavid Skidmore (Supervisor) & Mary Hayden (Supervisor)


  • Inclusion
  • International schools
  • School climate
  • Developmental cycle
  • Learning focussed

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