Following the almost worldwide implementation of policies giving all students – including those with special education needs – the right to learn within the general education system, there has been a sharp increase in the number of inclusion assistants (IA). IAs provide special-needs students one-to-one accompaniment, allowing them to function in the general education classroom and reducing the onus on the classroom teacher in such cases. Unfortunately, many, if not most, of IAs enter the system without suitable training or special qualifications and often neither they nor the teachers have a clear idea of how they should fulfill their role. This exploratory study used a questionnaire and semi-structured interviews to identify and compare how 30 classroom teachers and IAs define the IA’s role. It also studied how eight IAs changed their perception of their roles after attending an IA training course and what the implications of such courses may be.
The findings indicated that there is a discrepancy in how teachers and IAs define the IA’s role, indicating a need for clearer delineations. The results also indicated the necessity for creating a suitable framework for teaching IAs the theoretical and practical aspects of the job.
The results of the first stage of this exploratory study point to the need to clearly define the role of the IA in the general education system and to clearly differentiate this role from that of the TA working in special education. It is important to precisely describe the skills required for the role. This is especially important given the large number of IAs currently employed in the general education setting. The results of the second stage point to the need to expand and broaden the IA’s training, something that should be grounded in legislative changes that stipulate pre-service training for IAs before they are accepted to the role, and professional guidance throughout.