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Profile Issues in Teachers` Professional Development

Print version ISSN 1657-0790

profile vol.20 no.2 Bogotá July/Dec. 2018 

Issues from Novice Teacher Researchers

Pedagogical and Research Approaches in Inclusive Education in ELT in Colombia: Perspectives From Some Profile Journal Authors

Educación inclusiva, enfoques pedagógicos e investigativos en la enseñanza del inglés: perspectivas de algunos autores de la revista Profile

Óscar Andrés Mosquera *   , Melba Libia Cárdenas **   , María Claudia Nieto ***  

* Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá, Colombia,

** Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá, Colombia,

*** Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá, Colombia,


This article reports on a descriptive study carried out in articles published in the Profile: Issues in Teachers’ Professional Development journal that deal with inclusive education in English language teaching in Colombia. The study embraced documentary research and critical discourse analysis which helped us identify trends in pedagogical approaches in foreign language instruction and research approaches employed by the journal’s authors. It also allowed us to examine how such approaches show the presence or absence of inclusive education both in public policies and pedagogical interventions by institutions and individuals. We hope that the outcomes derived from this study nurture further discussion, encourage research, and motivate pedagogical practices that foster inclusive education in foreign language teaching and teacher education.

Key words: English language teaching; inclusive education; pedagogical approaches; public language policies; research approaches


Reportamos un estudio descriptivo sobre la inclusión educativa en la enseñanza del inglés, en artículos de la revista Profile: Issues in Teachers’ Profesional Development. A través del análisis documental y del análisis crítico del discurso identificamos tendencias en enfoques pedagógicos en la enseñanza del inglés y en enfoques investigativos usados por los autores. También examinamos cómo dichos enfoques evidencian la presencia o ausencia de la inclusión educativa tanto en políticas públicas como en intervenciones pedagógicas realizadas por instituciones e individuos. Esperamos que los resultados promuevan la discusión, la investigación y prácticas pedagógicas que fomenten la inclusión educativa en la enseñanza de lenguas extranjeras y en la formación de docentes.

Palabras-clave: educación inclusiva; enfoques investigativos; enfoques pedagógicos; enseñanza del inglés; políticas lingüísticas públicas


The term inclusive education (IE) has become an important component in political discourses at different levels. IE comprises a set of processes with the goal of eliminating or reducing the obstacles that limit the learning and participation of all the students. It presupposes that all the students are in equal conditions in terms of educative opportunities. Following this trend, governments have issued and implemented policies, programs, and projects with diverse grades of efficiency, directed to tackle the problem of IE. In the Colombian context, the Congress of the Republic of Colombia (1994) provided the initial regulations for students with “limitations” in its articles 46, 47, and 48.

Profile: Issues in Teachers’ Professional Development (Profile henceforth) is a biannual publication concerned with sharing the results of classroom research projects, reflections, and innovations undertaken by teachers of English as a second or foreign language as well as by teacher educators and novice teacher-researchers. Profile deals with topics regarding the learning and teaching of English as a second or foreign language and teacher education. It is addressed to an international readership of pre- and in-service teachers. The authors of Profile have faced, explicitly or implicitly, the topic of inclusion in foreign languages teaching in Colombia via research, reflexive articles, or reports of pedagogical interventions. Within that framework, Cárdenas (2013) discussed the topic and evidenced language, teaching, pedagogical, and research practices in IE in the journal and Robayo and Cárdenas (2017) examined the inclusive policies in the teaching of English as a foreign language (EFL).

This study reports on pedagogical and research approaches employed by Profile authors in connection with the study of inclusion in English instruction and public policies in Colombia. The main source of information is the articles that deal with those issues, published from 2000 to 2016.

Theoretical Framework

Four central constructs guide this study. They are: inclusive education, public policies in education in Colombia, research approaches in education, and pedagogy in English language instruction.

Inclusive Education

IE means that students with special needs or conditions participate and are recognized as individuals who belong to the community and who have the same rights and opportunities of every single person (Montaño & Vera, 2012). IE fortifies the capability of education systems to cover all kinds of learners. Under this perspective, IE is presented “as an overall principle, it should guide all education policies and practices, starting from the fact that education is a basic human right and the foundation for a more just and equal society” (UNESCO, 2009, p. 8). Consequently, IE entails the conception and the implementation of several learning strategies to face the diversity of students (Aguerrondo, 2008).

IE is a framework based on international guidelines. Its success is only possible in contexts within a culture of collaboration and problem support. The education system becomes inclusive when the promotion of its principles is featured in key policies, when senior staff provides leadership, when leaders at all levels articulate consistent policy aspirations to develop inclusive practices in schools, and when leaders at all levels challenge non-inclusive practices in schools (Ainscow & Miles, 2009).

The importance of providing education to people with special needs is highlighted in international agreements. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and its Optional Protocol (OP) were adopted on 13 December 2006, as the first comprehensive human rights treaty of the 21st century (United Nations, 2016). The purpose of the Convention is to promote, protect, and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity (United Nations, 2006).

The General Law of Education (Congreso de Colombia, 1994) included a complete section dedicated to the education for people with limitations or with exceptional aptitudes or talents. The government clearly recognizes the need to include these populations within the educational system and provide them with the necessary support to enter and remain within the educational system. In 2009, the Congress of Colombia approved the CRPD, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 2006 and enacted Law 1346 of July 31st, 2009. Later, the Statutory Law 1618 enacted by the Congress of Colombia (2013a) pursues the dispositions to guarantee the full exercise of rights of people in condition of disability. In terms of education, the law intends to foster the establishment of pedagogical and promotion strategies for children with disabilities and the design of programs that ensure the initial inclusive education of children with disabilities in the educational system. The norms that dictate the right to education of people with disability are in process of being shaped.

The Colombian government, Montaño and Vera (2012), UNESCO (2009), and Ainscow and Miles (2009) stress that inclusion goes farther than the mere assistance to students with special needs or those of a marginalized population. For the Colombian Ministry of Education (MEN), inclusion is “a group of processes oriented to eliminate or minimize the barriers that limit learning and participation of all the students. Inclusion aims for all students to be under the same conditions in terms of educational opportunities, and get appropriate instruction taking into consideration their needs and personal characteristics”1 (MEN, 2008b, p. 158). Inclusion means, then, to take care of the needs of the population with special educational requirements with quality, pertinence, and equity (MEN, 2007).

Nonetheless the Administrative Department of Statistics (DANE) provides worrisome numbers about the education of handicapped people in Colombia (Pandi Agencia de Comunicación, 2013): Seven percent of the Colombian population is handicapped; 33% of this population from 5-7 years old, and 58.3% from 15 to 19 years old do not attend school. Surprisingly, only 5% of handicapped people finish secondary. As we can see, although there is clarity regarding what IE means, the processes, public policies, programs, and their impact on the Colombian context are either far away from the above definition or not efficient.

Regarding the Basic Competence Standards, institutions must generate strategies and methodologies as well as adjustments to respond to students with special needs (MEN, 2007). These demands may not be fulfilled as most schools may have neither the training nor the backing to provide these students with the necessary instruction. Schools, though, have to establish guidelines for IE in the Institutional Education Project (PEI: Proyecto Educativo Institucional), plans of studies, schools’ rulebooks, and so on, to be implemented (MEN, 2008a).

Public Policies in Education in English Instruction in Colombia

Public policies exist only if the state institutions assume in partial or sufficient degrees the attainment of necessary or desirable objectives to change the state of affairs (Castaño Posada, 2016). Public policies are volatile and complex scenarios of discursive contention where different agents aim to impose their logics and ideas. In Colombia, policies in education are not the outcome of harmonic guidelines from discussions, but the results of symbolic struggles to enforce determined guidance in terms of politics and legislation (Arias, 2014).

The 1994 General Education Law (Congreso de Colombia, 1994), granted foreign languages a relevant status amid globalization. Thus, in 2004, the MEN established The National Bilingualism Program 2004-2015 (Programa Nacional de Bilingüismo, PNB). Its main goal was to educate more competitive citizens able to interact in the global society via three axes: standards, evaluation, and improvement of EFL for preschool, elementary, secondary, tertiary education, and non-formal instruction as well as English as a second language for bilingual schools. Further changes have been introduced in the bilingualism plans between 2004 and 2016 and in the Ley de bilingüismo [Bilingualism Law] (Congreso de Colombia, 2013b) (Bonilla Carvajal & Tejada-Sánchez, 2016; Gómez Sará, 2017).

Even though several changes have been made to the so-called “bilingual” policies, our literature search did not show any information regarding guidelines for students with special needs. Apart from the justification to provide opportunities for Colombian citizens to have access to foreign language learning, no guidelines, teaching resources, or teacher education schemes have been made in terms of IE.

Research Approaches in Education

Cohen, Manion, and Morrison (2011) suggest several research approaches in education. We gather the main features or definitions of the ones found in the articles we analyzed in this study.

Ethnography: Its goal is to develop a representation of the reality of the people involved. The world’s view of the participant is essential to setting up the participant’s position through a set of empirical data, observational techniques, description and interpretation of the total data to create inferences, explanations, suggestions, and eventually, theory generation (Cohen et al., 2011). It may be performed on both a large and small scale. In very detailed and specific contexts with few actors (two or three people), studies of the abovementioned features may be considered micro-ethnographic.

Case studies: They examine a class of events in a bounded system in action that is used to depict a more general principle (Cohen et al., 2011; George & Bennet, 2004). Case studies seek to unveil the insights of the participants and their realities to fix them with abstract principles and theorizing. To do so, it is necessary to set up guiding initial questions (George & Bennet, 2004), but those questions evolve as we have more contact with the context. The interpretation of the whole is more than the mere addition of its parts (Cohen et al., 2011). In our case the events are the articles published in Profile related to pedagogical practices and research methods used to study inclusion in bilingual policies in Colombia.

Action research: It is a tool to understand and make improvements at local settings. It combines both action and research through disciplined inquiry to find solutions or improvements, and consequently, reform educational practices. It may be used in places involving people, tasks, and procedures in a variety of areas and may be carried out by institutions, stakeholders, or individual teachers (Cohen et al., 2011).

Pedagogical Approaches in English Language Teaching

In this section we summarize the main features or definitions of the general and overall standpoints of the pedagogical approaches contained in the articles we analyzed in this study. We examined collaborative learning, autonomous learning, tutoring, blended learning, task-based learning, and grammar translation pedagogical approaches. Below we summarise their main features.

Collaborative learning claims that knowledge is a social construct that might occur on a peer-to-peer or in larger group basis. Its objective is “to achieve shared learning goals” (Barkley, Cross, & Major, 2005, p. 4). For Benson (2006), autonomous learning is the capacity to take control or responsibility for one’s learning process which, in turn, requires a certain degree of freedom. In this scenario, the learner needs to set up a plan, select materials, monitor him or herself, and self-assess. Tutoring, on the other hand, seeks to provide, guide, and assist students to achieve integral learning. Academic tutoring is one of the strategies for the development of the communicative competence in the learning of a foreign language because it triggers the interaction of the students with their tutor and among peer students (Nieto, Cortés, & Cárdenas, 2013).

Blended learning is the convergence of two “archetypal learning environments” (Bonk & Graham, 2006, p. 5). It combines traditional face-to-face learning environments with new technologies that have expanded the possibilities for communication and interaction. On the other hand, task-based language learning is an approach that involves the completion of meaningful pedagogical tasks to fulfill the learning objectives. In this approach, error correction plays a minor role (Richards & Rodgers, 2001). Finally, grammar-translation aims at the practice of translation from the target language to the native language and vice versa via specimen sentences in texts. This method is used with deaf learners, whose input and output is restricted to written codes and images. They also have to rely on their mother tongue to construct meaning, establish strategies and, in the end, communicate and comprehend ideas in the target language.

Research Framework


This is a qualitative case study guided by the constructs of documentary research and critical discourse analysis. The foundations of qualitative research rely on the idea that “meaning is socially constructed by individuals in interaction with their world” (Merriam, 1998, p. 3); hence, “the individual’s own frame of reference is important for understanding the human behavior” (Nunan, 1992, p. 4). To attain this goal, the researcher’s job is to capture the data “from the inside” through a process of deep attentiveness and of emphatic understanding about the topics under discussion (Miles & Huberman, 1994, p. 6).

A case is a phenomenon of some sort occurring in a bounded context (Miles & Huberman, 1994). The case study is not a methodological choice but an election on what to study (Stake, 2005). Case studies offer the opportunity to study in depth an aspect of a problem within three limitations: the relationships, the micro political topics, and the models of influence in a given context (Bell, 1999).

To accomplish the objectives of this study, documentary research and critical discourse analysis were used as the tools for the analysis. The former embraces the use of sources such as documents, which allow the researcher to provide insights on a given problem (Cohen et al., 2011; Prior, 2003; Scott, 2006). To this end, we engaged in a lesser or higher degree in three key requirements: conceptualizing, using, and assessing documents. We focused on a set of articles published in the Profile journal, assessed their authors’ viewpoints and processes regarding IE, and made connections with the research methods and pedagogical approaches they used.

Critical discourse analysis (CDA) is one form of a justifiably reflective and suspicious inspection of how discourses shape and frame us (Toolan, 1997). The interpretation of the discourses present in the units of analysis of this study (the articles from Profile) made it possible to grasp the discourses of power, dominance, and inequality and the ways they are reproduced (van Dick, 1995) in the Colombian context of IE.

CDA follows a critical approach to problems, as there is need to make explicit power relationships that are hidden. CDA is also hermeneutic in the sense that it grasps and produces meaning relationships. Consequently, this process would produce results that are of practical use (Wodak & Mayer, 2001). For Wodak and Mayer (2001), a relevant characteristic of CDA is the incorporation of linguistic devices which some scholars use frequently as a means of focusing on pronouns, attributes, and the verbal mode, time, and tense. All those lead to text analysis. For Fairclough (2003) text (written and spoken) analysis is not only linguistic analysis; it also includes interdiscursive analysis. It is the process of reading texts in terms of the different discourses, genres, and styles they draw upon and examining how they articulate together.

Data Collection

The main sources of information (units of analysis) were the articles that deal with both public policies regarding English language instruction and inclusive pedagogical practices published in Profile from 2000 to 2016. A systematic review of the articles published within this time frame helped us filter the initial corpus. We focused on seven articles that reported research, reflections, and pedagogical innovations dealing with IE (see Table 1). Along the process, checklists and notes were kept to trace the research process, select the corpus, examine their contents, and categorize the findings.

Table 1 Units of Analysis 

No. Article Section in Profile
1 Velandia, D. (2007). Tutorial plan to support the English speaking skill of an Inga student of an initial teacher education program. INTR
2 Sánchez, A., & Obando, G. (2008). Is Colombia ready for bilingualism? IBRI
3 Guerrero, C. (2010). The portrayal of EFL teachers in official discourse: The perpetuation of disdain. ITR
4 Usma Wilches, J. (2009). Education and language policy in Colombia: Exploring processes of inclusion, exclusion, and stratification in times of global reform. IBRI
5 Cuasialpud Canchalá, R. (2010). Indigenous students’ attitudes towards learning English through a virtual program: A study in a Colombian public university. INTR
6 Ávila Caica, O. (2011). Teacher: Can you see what I’m saying? A research experience with deaf learners. ITR
7 Bonilla Carvajal, C. & Tejada-Sánchez, I. (2016). Unanswered questions in Colombia’s foreign language education policy. IBRI

Note. ITR = Issues from teacher-researchers, INTR = Issues from novice teacher-researchers, IBRI = Issues based on reflections and innovations.

Articles 2, 3, 4, and 7 examine public policies concerning English language instruction in Colombia and articles 1, 5, and 6 are related to inclusive pedagogical interventions carried out by Colombian pre-service or in-service teachers. The authors’ background information is noted in the articles.

Results and Discussion

Constant analysis let us interpret:

  1. The manifestation and description of the research and pedagogical approaches present in the Profile articles.

  2. If the inclusion component is present or not in the research and pedagogical approaches previously recognized.

Trends in Pedagogical Approaches in Foreign Language Instruction

Three articles report pedagogical interventions with indigenous (Cuasialpud Canchalá, 2010; Velandia, 2007) and deaf students (Ávila Caica, 2011) in different contexts. Inclusion is seen in these articles as the need to solve a problematic situation faced by a marginalized population. Velandia’s study is about the problem of improving the speaking skills of an Inga student through tutoring sessions and Cuasialpud Canchalá’s research is about the insights of indigenous students towards the online tutoring sessions (OTS). On the other hand, Ávila Caica’s focuses on teaching English to deaf students.

We identified six inclusive pedagogical practices in their articles: tutoring, autonomous learning, task-based learning, blended learning, collaborative learning, and grammar-translation.

Velandia (2007) used tutoring to help an indigenous student overcome difficulties in English learning. Along the pedagogical intervention, tutoring interweaves with autonomous learning and with the task-based approaches. Through the personalized process followed, the teacher provides the students with the required tools to reach the learning objectives. Thus, tutoring becomes a space where the interaction between the teacher and learner goes beyond solving tutee’s doubts.


Tutoring also helped Andrés to take responsibility for his learning process. The learner progressively discovered a great deal of “magic wands” for language learning. Among the most important are self-reflection, self-evaluation, learning strategies, setting of goals and action plans. In the end, these tools became essential for the learner as he realized they enhanced his ability to learn the language. (Velandia, 2007, p. 129)

The adverbial phrase progressively discovered implies that the tutee had to go through a process in which he had to find out what his strengths and weaknesses in his learning process were. This shows that awareness in language features and self-monitoring are required to set up the foundations for speaking skills improvement (Thornbury, 2005). Moreover, tutoring has humanistic implications as expressed by Velandia: “the tutor is to increase the confidence of the tutees” (p. 123). The tutees’ confidence towards themselves, their background and conditions (cultural heritage, disability, etc.), their learning abilities, and their skills can be strengthened if their needs are taken into consideration. Whatever the scenario, it is indispensable to raise the students’ awareness towards learning so that they can enhance their autonomy. Velandia (2007) illustrates this:


The discussions of the learning process taking place in the second part of the (tutoring) sessions revealed big advantages: the student increased his autonomy and self-reflection. (p. 127)

The verb revealed conveys that in Velandia’s (2007) study autonomous learning is a fulfilled outcome from the tutoring sessions. The tutor probably did not ask the student to become autonomous; he may have had to discover that if he wanted to improve his oral skills, an extra effort was required. The rapport between the indigenous tutee and the tutor helped the former to be more in charge of reflecting on his learning process. In this sense, a switch in the learner’s attitude towards the content and methodology allowed him to appropriate his process to establish a clear learning pace. That seems to be the reason why the author used the adjective phrase big advantages. Thanks to the reflections fostered in the tutorials, the learner gained self-awareness. In consequence, his attitude and disposition to perform activities to improve his speaking abilities increased.

We also find in this study that task completion fosters language acquisition since it focuses on the achievement of clear outcomes (Willis, 1995). The Inga student had to perform tasks in different stages with a final goal, to reflect on the language produced and to establish improvement plans.


The completion of the tasks was done in three stages or cycles: Pre-task, when the topic and instructions were given. The task cycle, when the student planned, developed and reported the task. And finally, the language analysis cycle, that included a reflection and practice of the language used and its features. (Velandia, 2007, p. 126)

The noun phrases reflection and practice tell us that the mere completion of the tasks in the tutoring is not enough. The tutee had to see himself as an English user, taking into consideration his cultural and English language background. He also had to monitor his errors; some of them derived from the mingling of his L1 (Inga) and L2 (Spanish).


Firstly, the way in which he was meant to acquire the English language was artificial as opposed to the way he had learnt Spanish and Inga. (Velandia, 2007, p. 129)

The inclusive aspect is present in how the author used the adjective artificial to qualify her tutee’s progression in the acquisition of the English language. The student compared those learning experiences to the ones he faced when learning the Inga and Spanish languages. This crossing reflective exercise may have raised his awareness about the facts that surround the language of his indigenous group and his culture too.

Nevertheless, the looked-for goal of learning English is restricted when there is no inclusive learning setting for in-need students. The analysis of Cuasialpud Canchalá (2010) on the attitudes of indigenous students towards OTS is a sample of a non-inclusive milieu. One of the main goals of the OTS was to promote autonomy in English language acquisition. However, the lack of planning to provide the necessary assets for students who belonged to marginalized populations, for example indigenous students, was a serious mishap that the students had to face to be actual English language autonomous learners.


Students showed frustration once again because being in front of a computer for more than one hour was stressful and tiring. The participants manifested during the interviews that they were not used to studying with a computer all the time. Here they expressed that in their communities, having a computer is not a dire necessity and so they just had to worry about working. (Cuasialpud Canchalá, 2010, p. 143)

As demonstrated in Excerpt 5, the students lacked access to computers and their autonomous learning was not optimal as they did not have enough contact with the required resources. The verb phrase to become aware refers to what the learners are expected to perform to reach autonomy; however, no explicit or implicit reference is given to the institutional effort to guarantee access to the tools. Performing any language task in these conditions was a hard challenge for the learners. The access to ICT tools to take the OTS was reduced because of the lack of both assets and required computation literacy. The students felt frustrated because of this situation.

In Excerpt 5, the verb phrase were not used to shows that the course did not take into consideration the students’ context. There was no adaptation of the course to the learners’ needs and conditions. Therefore, it was not possible for the indigenous students to take advantage of the course.

In contrast to Cuasialpud Canchalá, Ávila Caica (2011) reports on the benefits of ICT tools and blended learning in her inclusive pedagogical intervention with deaf students. In her study, the Internet is a requirement to allow the deaf learner to comprehend the language through a strong visual component.


Given that deaf students do not “hear” the linguistic information and have to “see the language” expressed by images, gestures, body movements and sign language, they found the use of visual aids for vocabulary to be the most effective teaching strategy during the course. The final interview also reinforced the use of Internet resources as a useful source of iconic language that responds to the visual and written necessities of deaf learners. (p. 143)

The verbs “hear” and “see” refer to the adaption of the deaf learners to the course, as well as to blended learning, which was conceived to respond to the learners’ needs. The adaption resides in the fact that the deaf students developed competences in English by “seeing the language”, and the teacher-researcher (the author) had to come up with innovations about other usages of blended learning strategies. Eventually they had to explore the plasticity of this approach. Inclusion is evidenced in the fact that the deaf-students community and the teachers “moulded” the blended learning pedagogical approach to tackle the specific learning needs.

Ávila Caica (2011) states that the blended learning strategies included face-to-face sessions. A close learning community was created derived from such meetings. The integration of collaborative learning in her inclusive pedagogical intervention with deaf learners was possible within the deaf learners group, as evidenced in the following excerpt.


The familiarity and casual atmosphere fostered students’ participation making them feel included, valued, and respected. Students enjoyed the activities and they showed highly collaborative work. They helped each other by explaining or giving examples of new concepts. I noticed that each student is explicitly conscious of self and others and all have a common objective: learning English. (p. 144)

The identification of features related to the senses of closeness and belongingness is key to determine how close a learning community is. One of the salient features is that learning is assisted when classmates are engaged to support each other (Johnson & Johnson, 1999). The noun phrase familiarity and casual atmosphere demonstrates that the students were the subject of such senses. Success attributed by Ávila Caica (2011) in working with deaf students was possible because values, as in the adjective group included, valued, and respected, were part of the core of the learning community. In consequence, it is quite predictable that plenty of collaborative work occurred.

The collaborative features in Ávila Caica’s (2011) article show interesting solutions for the problem of deaf students learning English. The inclusion of a Colombian Sign Language (CSL) interpreter made the path smoother. The following excerpt displays this idea:


It is easier working among deaf students because for working in a mixed group with hearing people I must agree with them and it is really necessary to have a sign language interpreter. However, if I am only with deaf partners, the class goes faster and I save time. (Excerpt 6, Video interview 1, Students 1, 4, and 8) (p. 144)

The incorporation of a CSL interpreter is neither accessorial nor symbolic. The collocation really necessary implies the dependency on the human resource that the interpreter meant. The interpreter became fundamental, as he was directly involved with the learning community; he did collaborative work as well. The inclusive factor is present at the time of creating a learning community with specific disabilities and needs, specifically with the adoption and innovation of pedagogical strategies.

One of such innovations is evidenced in Excerpt 7 as the deaf learners had to “see the language”. To do so, Ávila Caica (2011) employed grammar-translation strategies:


During the face-to-face sessions some strategies from the Grammar Translation Method such as using grammar charts to explain the language structure, doing written exercises for completing the gaps and translating sentences from English into Spanish were useful to reinforce the topic or grammar structure studied. (p. 137)

The adjective phrase useful to reinforce and the gerund translating imply that the grammar explanation and the use of Spanish played a fundamental role to understand, internalize, and practice the target language. The input was assisted by strong written and visual elements to identify grammar, an important feature because of the auditory-based nature of English (Ávila Caica, 2011). Spanish (L2) was a bridge between the L1 (CSL) and the L3 (English). All these salient elements serve to identify that thanks to the combination and adaptation of blended and collaborative learning approaches plus the grammar-translation, the deaf learners were included to receive English language instruction regardless of their disability.

Trends in Research Approaches in Inclusive Pedagogical Interventions

As regards the research approaches, Velandia (2007), Cualsialpud Canchalá (2010), and Ávila Caica (2011) followed action research, case study, and the micro-ethnographic approaches. As previously stated, Velandia’s study is about the problem of improving the speaking skills of an Inga student through tutoring sessions. She explains that


This study shared principles with action research since it aimed to take part in this problematic situation by identifying the problem, reflecting, making decisions and taking actions (Kogan, 2004). In this study, I, as the researcher, played a mixed role: one as an observer-researcher and one as a tutor. (p. 124)

The clause this study shared principles with action research implies that she undertook a judicious tutoring process with the student. She had no initial idea about the scope of the problem, since she had first to identify the problem, as an observer-researcher. Based on that, she acted along the process as a tutee-researcher.

Ávila Caica’s (2011) inclusive pedagogical intervention deals with one clear objective: to make the deaf students comprehend and communicate ideas in English. She identified the problem, and then adopted and adapted pedagogical strategies and methods to that population. She also followed the principles of action research:


The [action research] methodology applied in the project enabled a hearing teacher to conduct a classroom based study to explore issues related to the learning process of her deaf students in order to refine or adopt effective teaching strategies to fulfil their English language needs. (p. 136)

The noun phrase action research methodology applied in the project reveals that as mentioned above, the researcher was in charge of identifying the problem and the context to adapt the research methodologies. In this sense, the problem is intrinsic to the students, and the problem, the processes, and expected progress had to go around the disability of the learners.

Velandia’s (2007) research also exemplifies a case study methodology as her sample: one student is described in depth in a bounded system of action that is used to depict a more general principle (Cohen et al., 2011; George & Bennet, 2004). The researcher is present in all the stages of the process of improving the oral competences of an Inga student at university level, as described below:


Andrés presented some pronunciation problems, especially with the following phonemes: /ð/ /æ/ /ə/ /e/ and in the final position of the words the phonemes: /Ө/ /p/ /v/ /z/. The reason for this, almost certainly, was the lack of these phonemes in Spanish or Inga. In order to get the student to pronounce better, we decided to start practicing isolated phonemes, phonetic patterns, linking, assimilation, etc. (Velandia, 2007, p. 127)

This excerpt shows interesting elements in terms of inclusion. The description of the problems with phonemes shows that the researcher depicted rigorously the phenomenon with metalinguistic descriptions. This led to the identification of the obstacles at the time of speaking. The clause: The reason for this, almost certainly, was the lack of these phonemes in Spanish and Inga is powerful in this sense. The researcher was able to recognize the interference due to the learner’s L1 and L2, set up a plan, and act upon it.

Following the trend of placing the researcher as an observer and describer, Cuasialpud Canchalá’s (2010) micro-ethnographic study deals with the attitudes of indigenous students related to OTS at a public university in Bogotá.


In regard to the OTS (Online Tutoring Sessions), students confessed they gave little use to this tool, mainly because of accessibility limitations:

Student 1: I never used the online tutoring sessions, I don’t have access to internet at home, and I don’t afford to pay outside, sometimes I go to the university’s computers rooms but they do not have the tools I need, e.g. headphones, microphone and webcam. I don’t feel comfortable going to the Resource Center.

Student 2: It was difficult to access to the Internet resources as my friend states, and also because I could not understand how it worked. (p. 144)

In this micro-ethnographic study, the researcher provides real thoughts from the indigenous students. The voices of the indigenous students who took part in the project reveal serious problems in terms of inclusion. The first one has to do with economic exclusion, the sentences I don’t have access to Internet at home, and I don’t afford to pay outside reveal two serious problems. The lack of connectivity, and the resources derived from being connected, held up the student’s progress. This problem was even worse at the time since the institutional capacity to provide the students with the required assets to go through their studies was really limited, as demonstrated in the compound sentence I go to the university’s computers rooms but they do not have the tools I need, e.g. headphones, microphone and webcam. Another factor of exclusion is poor computational literacy. The literacy of one of the participants seemed to be poor; a fact that is probably worsened by his English level that delays his comprehension of the instructions and commands. The verb understand plus the collocation how it worked demonstrate that the OTS were not designed for students whose background and resources were tremendously short. The program in theory was available for all the participants, but in practice was just for some of them.

Trends in Research Approaches Employed by the Journal’s Authors About Linguistic Policies

As already mentioned, four articles deal with public policies concerning English language instruction in Colombia (Bonilla Carvajal & Tejada-Sánchez, 2016; Guerrero, 2010; Sánchez & Obando, 2008; Usma Wilches, 2009). Usma Wilches (2009) examines the National Bilingual Program in connection with other education and language reforms in Colombia and some of the processes of inclusion, exclusion, and stratification that accompany current school reforms. The exclusion of local knowledge is evident due to the borrowing of foreign discourses while making and implementing foreign language policies. Bonilla Carvajal and Tejada-Sánchez (2016) provide a critical account of the transitions of the linguistic policies that have shaped the concept of bilingualism and remark that the specific education paradigm in ELT has led to exclusion of the local knowledge. Guerrero (2010) presents an interpretation of the images of Colombian English teachers constructed in official discourse, particularly in the document “Estándares básicos de competencias en lenguas extranjeras: inglés. Formar en lenguas extranjeras, el reto”: (Basic competency standards of foreign languages: English: Shaping the challenge in foreign languages). In her discussion, exclusion is evident through the invisibility of Colombian teachers in policy making. Finally, Sánchez and Obando (2008) examine the academic needs that must be met to achieve governmental goals in foreign language programmes. They deal with exclusion, remarking on the invisibility of Colombian teachers in policy making as well. The research approaches employed by these authors are documentary research and CDA.

The rationale of the Colombian government to make and implement the language polices has to do with the longstanding servile and uncritical attitude of the Colombian government with the ideas that come from the global powers. Usma Wilches (2009) employs the documentary research tool to reveal that the government’s rationale has fostered the mentality that the foreign is better just because it is foreign. This is evident in the language policies discussed by Quintero (2007) and taken by Usma Wilches in his documentary study. Quintero makes explicit that due to the externalization and internalization of discourses, local knowledge is deliberately ignored, and foreign actors are given a sound relevance, regardless of their sometimes scarce knowledge of the local contexts.

Usma Wilches (2009) leads us to analyze the historic thought that has been replicated program after program. The imposition of the foreign ideas does not consider the local context because it is mainly the replication of a model that may work well in the contexts of origin but not necessarily in the context of application. This situation has placed the actors, government, and foreign implementers on one side and the local teachers on the other, to collide in the realization of their ideas in language policies. The joint venture between the government and foreign agents resembles a naturalization of ideologies (Fairclough, 2003) since the government accepts what comes from abroad without further discussion and ignores the expertise owned by the local teachers.

Another research tool that the Profile authors employed to deal with the issue of inclusive education is CDA. Bonilla Carvajal and Tejada-Sánchez’s (2016) study leads one to examine the exclusion of local knowledge in the linguistic public policies.


In their thorough analysis of the inclusion of English as a post-conflict plan, these authors refer to the “drastic shifts” in language policy taking place in different parts of post-colonial Africa, benefiting English over other languages. The rationale behind these changes is rooted in the social imaginary of what the English language has come to represent: power, along with the understatement of being powerless where it is not in the official agenda. In this way, Rassool’s parallel with Bourdieu’s “colonial habitus” proves to be particularly relevant to Colombia’s case. (p. 193)

The authors identify the struggles for the imposition of ideas. In the excerpt above, the adjective powerless is influential in weighing the unequal situation of the actors, government, and foreign implementers on the one hand, and the local teachers on the other. Bourdieu’s concept of “colonial habitus” is perfect to state that views from abroad are considered from the “metropole”; they are trendy and the model to follow. However, the ideas of the locals are considered from the “colony”. They may be depicted as childish, naïve, and amateur. The historical circumstances and the dominance of the foreign over the local have embodied and shaped the rationale, discourses, and practices. Notwithstanding, we gained our political independence more than 200 years ago, but the cultural and intellectual one, we probably have not yet (Guerrero, 2010). Thus, it is not surprising that the rationale of the government is to implement the foreign views on language policies excluding deliberately the local actors (the local teachers) in the process. In this respect, in her detailed CDA, Guerrero (2010) states that the teachers are virtually invisible for the Ministry of Education at making the linguistic policies, and just depicted as clerks (p. 41) who are to follow their addresses uncritically.


The asymmetrical power relationship that exists between the two (MEN/teachers) given by their roles in society. By announcing that the standards are to be found on the following pages, the MEN is saying more than that; it is stating that the MEN has established certain standards and teachers have to implement them. (p. 44)

Guerrero (2010) states power struggles that consequently lead to an old-fashioned mentality of the government. The noun phrase asymmetrical power relationship underscores the position of the actors (government and foreign implementers above, and teachers below). Implicitly, she states that there is a lack of communication among the actors resulting in a lack of symbiosis. In this circumstance, the relation between the actors is vertical, and the position of the government is eminently absolutist. As in any absolutist regime, the ruler is advised by his “entourage”. The “entourage” is comprised of the foreign implementers who pursue their own economic interests (Usma Wilches, 2009). Another trace of such absolutist rationale is present in the clause the MEN is saying more than that . . . the MEN has established certain standards and teachers have to implement them. Here, the author underpins her analysis with an implication. Guerrero makes inferences based on the power struggles she identifies in the standards’ document. As in any absolutist regime, the rulers are the ones who enact, dictate, and regulate and the subordinates have to implement or obey with neither hesitation nor participation in the making of public policies.

The invisibility of the Colombian teachers is also explicit in the analysis by Sánchez and Obando (2008). Albeit they do not mention overtly the use of CDA, their article has some of its characteristics. They analyse the discourse at the macro level as a reaction against the authoritarian and absolutist practices of the Colombian state.


This seems to be the case in Colombia where policies are created in a top-down approach where only a few people (not necessarily teachers) know what “should be done and why” and the participation of schoolteachers in the creation of standards is virtually invisible. The first step in ensuring effective foreign language programs in Colombia should be to inform everyone about not only the goals but also the rationale behind the goals for L2 teaching in this context. (p. 184)

The inclusion of the noun phrase top-down rationale is a clear critique of the effects of the domination of the foreign discourse of ELT towards society (Fairclough, 2003; van Dijk, 1995). For Sánchez and Obando (2008), the rationale of the government is not neutral but seeks to maintain and reproduce unequal relations of power. Such relation aims to impose the government and foreign implementers’ logics, agendas, and interests at the expense of the local teachers and students who, at the end of the day, have to suffer the poor planning in which they are deemed practically invisible and with no voice.


This study reported on pedagogical and research approaches employed by Profile authors in connection with the study of inclusion in English instruction and public policies in Colombia. In this sense, we conducted the above analysis in three main parts: pedagogical approaches in pedagogical interventions, research approaches in pedagogical interventions, and research approaches in linguistic policies.

Pedagogical approaches in pedagogical interventions: In Velandia’s study (2007), inclusion is possible as tutoring, autonomous learning, and task-based approach techniques helped an Inga student to reflect upon his learning process with the consequence of raising his awareness to improve his speaking skills and increase his confidence towards his own cultural heritage. In Ávila Caica’s report (2011), inclusion is supported by the fact that the deaf students created a collaborative learning community, and the teacher adapted both the blended learning and grammar-translation approaches to tackle students’ specific learning needs. In Cuasialpud Canchalá (2010) it was not possible for the indigenous students to follow the autonomous methodology; they were the subject of exclusion due to their poor access to resources to perform the OTS activities.

Research approaches in pedagogical interventions: In Velandia (2007) and Ávila Caica’s (2011) studies, inclusion is achievable through action research as the processes and expected progress had to emerge while taking into consideration the cultural background and disability of the learners. In Velandia’s study, inclusion is identified as the study depicts an Inga student’s learning problems with accurate metalinguistic descriptions. From such descriptions, the researcher is able to come up with an inclusive pedagogical intervention to improve his speaking skills. In Cuasialpud Canchalá’s (2010) micro-ethnographic study, the voices of the indigenous students revealed economic exclusion, poor institutional capacity to provide the students with the required assets, low computational literacy, and poor English background as well.

Research approaches in linguistic policies: Usma Wilches (2009), Bonilla Carvajal and Tejada-Sánchez (2016), Guerrero (2010), and Sánchez and Obando (2008) used documentary research and CDA. While Usma Wilches discusses that the exclusion of local knowledge is evident due to the borrowing of foreign discourses while making and implementing foreign language policies, Bonilla Carvajal and Tejada-Sánchez deal with the specific educational paradigm in ELT that has led to exclusion of local knowledge. On the other hand, in Guerrero and Sánchez and Obando, exclusion is evident through the invisibility of Colombian teachers in policy making.

This study is an initial glance at the relationship between research and pedagogical approaches regarding inclusion or exclusion in ELT and language policies. Further research related to the outcomes of this study could include proposals of inclusive pedagogical interventions carried out by institutions and individuals, the development of projects to diminish the factors of exclusion in marginalized populations derived from the lack of resources, and analysis in terms of the methodology to carry out inclusive pedagogical practices. Besides, research to foster the adoption of the local expertise at the time of planning public policies is very much needed so that inclusive education becomes a reality in ELT practices.


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This article is based on the undergraduate monograph of Óscar Andrés Mosquera to obtain his B.Ed. in Philology and Languages: English at Universidad Nacional de Colombia. His study was conducted as part of a macro-project led by his tutors, Melba Libia Cárdenas and Maria Claudia Nieto. They are co-writers/co-authors of the present article. Code 20175, Sistema de Información Hermes, Universidad Nacional de Colombia.

How to cite this article (APA, 6th ed.): Mosquera, O. A., Cárdenas, M. L., & Nieto, M. C. (2018). Pedagogical and research approaches in inclusive education in ELT in Colombia: Perspectives from some Profile journal authors. Profile: Issues in Teachers’ Professional Development, 20(2), 231-246.

About the Authors

Óscar Andrés Mosquera holds a B.Ed. in Philology and Languages: English, from Universidad Nacional de Colombia. He is currently an English teacher. His research interests are foreign language didactics, ICT in English language teaching, autonomous learning, and sociocultural studies.

Melba Libia Cárdenas is an associate professor of the Foreign Languages Department at Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá campus. She is currently studying for a PhD in Education at Universidad de Zaragoza, Spain, thanks to a scholarship granted by Fundación Carolina. She is the editor of the Profile and HOW journals, edited in Colombia.

María Claudia Nieto is an associate professor of the Foreign Languages Department at Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá campus. She is a co-researcher in two groups of the same department: PROFILE and LEXI. At the moment, she is the national coordinator of the Spanish as a Foreign Language Network in Colombia.

1 All extracts taken from documents in Spanish have been translated for the purpose of this publication.

Received: October 01, 2017; Accepted: April 09, 2018

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