The Rhetoric and Reality of Leading the Inclusive School: Socio-Cultural Reflections on Lived Experiences
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This paper details a cross-cultural study of inclusive leadership practices within a basic education context in each of the following countries: Australia, Canada, and Colombia. Each school was selected after district educational leaders identified the school as being inclusive of students with diverse learning needs over an extended period of time. The researchers were particularly interested in the norms and assumptions that were evident within conversations because these were viewed as indicators of the nature of the embedded school culture within each context.” School leaders and teachers were interviewed to determine the link between rhetoric and reality, and what inclusion ‘looked like’, ‘felt like’, and ‘sounded like’ at each site, and whether any discernible differences could be attributed to societal culture. A refractive phenomenological case study approach was used to capture the messages within each context and the lived experiences of the participants as they sought to cater for the needs of students. Data were collected from semi-structured interviews with school leaders and teaching staff. Each researcher conducted environmental observations, documenting the impressions and insights gained from the more implicit messages communicated verbally, non-verbally, and experientially from school structures, visuals, and school ground interactions. Themes were collated from the various narratives that were recounted. Both similarities and distinct socio-cultural differences emerged.