Belonging in a Grade 6 Inclusive Classroom: Three Multiple Perspective Case Studies of Students with Mild Disabilities
Sense of Belonging , Disabilities , Inclusive Classrooms
This study describes the experiences of belonging of three Grade 6 students with mild disabilities, Jacob, Leah, and Andy, educated in an inclusive classroom. In addition, I gained the perspective of the classroom teacher, Linda, who described her approaches to facilitating belonging in an inclusive environment. Data collection included field observations and interviews with the classroom teacher and with the three focal participants. After completing data collection, analysis of the classroom data and the data of the three individual students was conducted using standard methods of qualitative analysis. Themes that emerged from the classroom data included: developing a trust culture, developing trusting relationships, teaching pro-social behaviours, building competence, and fostering autonomy. The classroom teacher fostered a supportive community environment that encouraged the development of interpersonal relationships, and she actively supported the social-emotional needs and the academic needs of all her students. Each student participant presented a unique case; therefore, the themes for the three student participants varied. Common themes included: sense of belonging, interpersonal relationships, and peer victimization. Themes that varied were sense of academic and social competence and fostering autonomy. For each individual student, belonging was fostered slightly differently and yet to fill this need, relatedness with others and a sense of academic or social competence was necessary. This study emphasizes that a sense of belonging is complex and multidimensional.