Sandra Cottingham


Implementing the Mandate of Inclusion for Students with Special Needs: A Model for Moving From Concept to Action

Sandra Cottingham is a Special Education consultant in the School District of Surrey, British Columbia, Canada. Surrey is B.C.’s largest and fastest growing school district, with 65,000 students and 4100 teachers. Now a specialist for low incidence special needs students (those with moderate to severe physical and developmental disabilities) in the high school setting, she has twenty years of teaching experience in regular and special education high school classrooms.

Her dissertation interest is in the topic of “inclusive schools”. Although inclusion has been mandated by government and has become common language found at every level of school planning, it remains at the conceptual stage. In fact, the prerequisites for successful educational integration of students with disabilities are so frequently ignored that the very principle of inclusion has become threatened. The call for social change in education on the issue of inclusion is at a critical juncture.

Applying the principles of social constructionist theory and Appreciative Inquiry, the primary purpose of her project is to create a model for educational institutions and other organizations to move ideas from concept to positive action – to salvage, rethink and retool important principles which reflect core values, but which are incongruent with entrenched organizational practice. Her action research will facilitate a move from the present Ministerial mandate of inclusion to democratic dialogue amongst stakeholders, and ultimately to a reconstructed notion of “inclusion” owned by all.