PhD education study becomes book

Gisborne educator publishes study on inclusivity in education.

Gisborne educator publishes study on inclusivity in education.

EDUCATING ALL: Chris McMaster with his book Educating All: Developing Inclusive School Culture from Within. Picture by Rebecca Grunwell

A STUDY on inclusion at a Gisborne High School has been published as a book.

Special educator, school advisor and author Chris McMaster conducted a year-long study for his PhD on inclusion at Lytton High School throughout 2013, and has published it as a book, Educating All: Developing Inclusive School Culture from Within.

The study focused on inclusion as a component of school culture, using the index of inclusion, a whole-school framework, to look at school culture and improve outcomes for students with special needs or learning needs.

Dr McMaster had realised how important culture was while teaching at Tikitiki.

“If you feel welcomed then you feel included. Once you start reflecting on what your basic values are and how those align with what you do then you can change and improve your culture.”

Dr McMaster found New Zealand schools have a unique flexibility in creating inclusive school cultures.

“I kept saying to students and staff, ‘describe yourself in three words’, and things like, “caring, sharing and a place for all” kept coming up.

“So we looked at what that meant and how that is reflected in the way the school does things and how ‘caring’ is defined.”

Aligning school values and practice

By incorporating the special needs unit into a larger department and using it as a teaching centre rather than a classroom, staff and school leadership were able to better align school values and practice.

“We think about change and we want to just make it happen but change is a really really gradual process, especially when it comes to the way we do things.

“Trying to change the name of a word does not change how we define it. Caring is one for example. Caring can be taken as caring for a person in a really protective, almost stifling way, or it can mean advocating for change or rights.”

The study was for his doctoral thesis, and the book was a way to give back to Lytton High School for hosting him and putting his findings into action.

“I felt like I would be using that school community too much if I did not turn it into something they could use and refer to, so I took all the boring stuff out of the thesis and put all the interesting stuff into a book.”

Dr McMaster’s experience in education is lengthy. He has many qualifications including a doctor of philosophy from the University of Canterbury, a postgraduate certificate in education from the Institute of Education, University of London and an endorsement in special education from the University of Alaska Southeast.

But it was actually one of his children who spurred his passion for special education.

Dr McMaster’s first daughter was born with a disability, which brought close to home his initial idea of measuring how inclusive a school was.

“It can be hard when you are branded the difficult parent for advocating for your child. Things like sports days, those were terrible.”

He says one things about Gisborne high schools, including Lytton, is the way things like sports days can be made inclusive, by giving the event social and fun elements and encouraging dressing up in house colours. This makes the event for everyone, not just for the best athletes.

“Things like shared experiences are important for inclusivity. When you do things together you build community.”

A STUDY on inclusion at a Gisborne High School has been published as a book.

Special educator, school advisor and author Chris McMaster conducted a year-long study for his PhD on inclusion at Lytton High School throughout 2013, and has published it as a book, Educating All: Developing Inclusive School Culture from Within.

The study focused on inclusion as a component of school culture, using the index of inclusion, a whole-school framework, to look at school culture and improve outcomes for students with special needs or learning needs.

Dr McMaster had realised how important culture was while teaching at Tikitiki.

“If you feel welcomed then you feel included. Once you start reflecting on what your basic values are and how those align with what you do then you can change and improve your culture.”

Dr McMaster found New Zealand schools have a unique flexibility in creating inclusive school cultures.

“I kept saying to students and staff, ‘describe yourself in three words’, and things like, “caring, sharing and a place for all” kept coming up.

“So we looked at what that meant and how that is reflected in the way the school does things and how ‘caring’ is defined.”

Aligning school values and practice

By incorporating the special needs unit into a larger department and using it as a teaching centre rather than a classroom, staff and school leadership were able to better align school values and practice.

“We think about change and we want to just make it happen but change is a really really gradual process, especially when it comes to the way we do things.

“Trying to change the name of a word does not change how we define it. Caring is one for example. Caring can be taken as caring for a person in a really protective, almost stifling way, or it can mean advocating for change or rights.”

The study was for his doctoral thesis, and the book was a way to give back to Lytton High School for hosting him and putting his findings into action.

“I felt like I would be using that school community too much if I did not turn it into something they could use and refer to, so I took all the boring stuff out of the thesis and put all the interesting stuff into a book.”

Dr McMaster’s experience in education is lengthy. He has many qualifications including a doctor of philosophy from the University of Canterbury, a postgraduate certificate in education from the Institute of Education, University of London and an endorsement in special education from the University of Alaska Southeast.

But it was actually one of his children who spurred his passion for special education.

Dr McMaster’s first daughter was born with a disability, which brought close to home his initial idea of measuring how inclusive a school was.

“It can be hard when you are branded the difficult parent for advocating for your child. Things like sports days, those were terrible.”

He says one things about Gisborne high schools, including Lytton, is the way things like sports days can be made inclusive, by giving the event social and fun elements and encouraging dressing up in house colours. This makes the event for everyone, not just for the best athletes.

“Things like shared experiences are important for inclusivity. When you do things together you build community.”

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