04 SES 07 C, Teacher Views of Inclusive Education
Maintaining order in school is considered necessary for the smooth running and the survival of the school. When schools accommodate 20-30 students in classes, and hundreds in the buildings, they need ways of keeping order. The importance of maintaining order by disciplinary methods has thus become more important than processes towards more equal power relations in schools. In school certain behavior is regarded as appropriate, others not. When students fail to conform to the ‘order’, the need for ‘need’ occurs, and the construct of the students having Emotional and Behavioral Difficulties (EBD) becomes an easy solution. Students who misbehave are said to have special needs rooted in emotional disorder or disturbance, but deviance is not a quality that lies in the act or behavior itself but in the interaction between the student’s act and those who respond to it. Whether the behavior is seen positively, as diversity, or negatively as deviant, depends on the way of thinking of the person who observes the behavior. Any violation of a norm, or a set of norms is not in itself deviant, but becomes deviant when it evokes a particular set of negative responses (Thomas & Loxley, 2001). This study will explore how teachers in Sweden construct meaning of EBD.
The concept of EBD is described by UNESCO (2009) as an imprecise term, difficult to define since it is in a continuum of behavior which challenges teachers. EBD may manifest as introverted, passive, depressive, or aggressive behavior. EBD is a subjectively perceived disorder rather than an objective one with definite and clearly defined characteristics that lead to the same diagnostic conclusions (Mundschenk & Simpson, 2014). UNESCO (2009) emphasizes that what is considered socially acceptable behavior in one cultural, religious and traditional context may be unacceptable elsewhere. EBD are therefore highly sensitive to the concerned children’s background and situation.
There is a classical Western understanding of the individual as an autonomous subject with an identity. But identities are rather the result of contingent, discursive processes. Identities are accepted, refused and negotiated in discursive processes. Discourse theory rejects a true or perfect definition and conception of social identities as rooted in pre-given essences (Torfing, 1999). Discourse theory claims that our ways of talking play an active role in creating and changing identities. Identities are always established relationally, in relation to something they are not. Analysis of the other which is always created together with the creation of us can give some idea of what a given discourse excludes and what social consequences thisexclusion has (Winther Jørgensen & Phillips, 2002).
The purpose of this study is to contribute to the understanding of how teachers in mainstream school, grade 4-6 construct meaning of the collective identity of EBD. This study will seek which discourses prevail, and which are neglected. The consequences if one particular discourse is to become hegemonic instead of the others will also be discussed.
The specific research questions are:
- How do teachers jointly construct meaning of EBD?
- Which discourses of EBD prevail?
- Which discourses of EBD are neglected?
The theoretical framework of this study is Laclau and Mouffe’s (1985) discourse theory. According to discourse theory identities areconstructed in and through social relations, and aims to map out the struggles about the way in which the meaning of signs is to be fixed, and the processes by which certain fixations of meaning become conventionalized, and thus natural (Winter Jørgensen & Phillips, 2002). A study like this might therefore unmask and delineate taken-for-granted, common-sense understandings about EBD, and transforming them into potential objects for discussion, challenge and criticism.
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