Teachers professional agency in promoting inclusion

Thesis event information

Date and time of the thesis defence

Place of the thesis defence

University of Oulu, IT115, Zoom link: https://oulu.zoom.us/j/63946277118

Topic of the dissertation

Teachers professional agency in promoting inclusion

Doctoral candidate

Master of Education Riikka Sirkko

Faculty and unit

University of Oulu Graduate School, Faculty of Education, Teachers, Teaching and Educational Communities

Subject of study

Special education


Docent Päivi Pihlaja, University of Turku


Professor Marjatta Takala, University of Oulu

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Teachers professional agency in promoting inclusion

Since the 1990s, the Finnish education policy has been committed to promoting inclusion and inclusive values. Inclusive education aims to promote the presence, learning and participation of all pupils in educational settings. One inclusive education method is co-teaching, where teachers plan, teach and evaluate students together. Collaboration between teachers requires professional agency, which in this dissertation summary section is understood as an ability that prepares employees for new learning, as well as a process that manifests when employees make choices about their work under different workplace conditions.

This article dissertation examines inclusive education through three sub-studies to answer two research questions: 1) What does a teacher’s professional agency look like in co-teaching practices?; and 2) How can teachers support the realization of inclusion?

Co-teaching, in which professional development, interactions between teachers, trust in one another and a similar perception of teaching are realized, can be described as a situation where co-teachers have reached a level of collective agency. At that point, teachers have a common vision of their work and its purpose, and a desire to reflect on their work together.

The research results showed that the definition of inclusion is unclear for teachers, even when their workplace has used an element of inclusive education. Furthermore, some pedagogical methods even featured practices that categorize and exclude students. In their work, several teachers implemented co-teaching in a way that deviated from the traditional definition of co-teaching, broadening its definition. The teachers also described that co-teaching had increased learning at work.
Last updated: 1.3.2023