Professional development programme:
            The potential of disability arts and life stories

     Simoni Symeonidou, Department of Education
        Internal Research Grant of the University of Cyprus (2019-2021)
Over the last decade, there has been growing interest in teacher education for inclusion informed by disability studies. It has been argued that teacher education for inclusion needs to include of the voices and arts of people with disabilities in order to challenge dominant disability stereotypes. Using such materials (e.g., oral history interviews, paintings, poems, documentaries, autobiographies, and so on) enables the understanding of disability as a complex issue, rather than a health issue.
Aim and research questions
This research programme explores how engaging the life stories and arts of people with disabilities can benefit teacher professional learning at school level. It aims to answer the following questions:
(1) How do teachers shape their understanding of disability by engaging with the narratives and arts of people with disabilities and by employing them in their teaching?
(2) How do teachers (educated in this way), make decisions on incorporating the narratives and artwork of people with disabilities in their lessons, so that learners understand that:
(a) disability is human rights issue and a social construct; (b) people with disabilities are people with different characteristics that shape their identities, and have personal experiences that influence their views and actions
Participation in the programme
• This is a two-year programme and participant teachers come from all levels of education.
• Each school sets up a working group consisting of at least three teachers.
• Teachers work closely with the research team, discuss about disability and the curriculum, and are supported to develop curricula at micro-level using the narratives and arts of people with disabilities.

The benefits of participating in the programme
The schools

• Have a core team of teachers who are familiar with the theoretical framework of Disability Studies and can support other teachers in lesson planning by using materials developed by people with disabilities
• Participate in professional learning seminars organised as part of the program

The teachers
• Become familiar with the basic theoretical principles related to issues of disability and education
• Develop positive attitudes about disability and are enabled to think critically about dominant perceptions and disability stereotypes that have been criticized by people with disabilities
• May apply their knowledge and skills to develop curricula aimed at the (re)construction of the concept of disability, using materials developed by people with disabilities

The learners
• Are benefited from innovative teaching approaches and materials
• Develop positive attitudes towards disability, deconstruct stereotypes about disability, and develop critical thinking in relation to disability issues
Teachers’ obligations
Cooperation with the research team

At research level, the teachers are expected to:
• Provide an interview at the beginning and in the end of the program
• Submit any lesson plans and relevant materials to the research team
• Keep a short reflective diary during the program

At professional learning level, the teachers are expected to:
• Attend the introductory seminar of the programme
Attend other seminars organized for the purposes of the programme
• Design and implement lesson plans that include the work of people with disabilities and fall within the aims of the national curriculum