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Working paper

Teachers’ beliefs about student diversity: exclusive and inclusive models

Larina G., Markina V. M.
This article provides an empirically grounded analysis for two fundamentally different models of math teachers’ beliefs about student diversity in Russian secondary schools: exclusive and inclusive models. Although teachers’ beliefs are considered a central factor for the differentiated approach, teachers’ attitudes could be stereotyped and, consequently, the evaluation of a student’s ability would be systematically shifted and decisions about the possibility of teaching a student would be incorrect. In-depth interview research allowed us to investigate what criteria teachers employ while classifying students in the classroom and what expectations they have for each group of students. It was revealed that within the exclusive model, teachers have an image of a “normal” student and use discrete categories for labelling students with reference to the “normality”. Within the inclusive model teachers tend not to juxtapose students with discrete categories; rather they prefer to compare a student only with herself or himself. Research findings are discussed in the context of a possible “fixed effect” on a student’s development. However, there is a need for further investigation of a connection between teachers’ belief systems, teaching practices, and students’ achievements.