04 SES 08 B, Inclusive Classes, Inclusive Schools, Inclusive Countries
Serbia is implementing inclusive education from 2009, which encourages education of children with disabilities, learning difficulties and disadvantages in mainstream schools and classes (Kovač Cerović et al, in press). In this context the role of special education schools and classes is also expected to change – downsizing, preparing students for re-entering into regular classes, catering students with more complex needs rather than those who can easily get integrated in mainstream schools based on minor adjustments. Nevertheless, the scope and size of the change of the special education system, as a follow up and response to inclusive education, has not yet been assessed in Serbia, nor is the quality of special education appraised.
Having all this in mind, a comprehensive research, supported by UNICEF Serbia, on the quality of education in special schools and classes in Serbia has been conducted. One of the aims, which will be presented in more details in the paper, was exploring quality of teaching/learning in special school and classes, with the emphasis on social aspect of the process. Namely, literature suggest that the experience of segregation, especially in the early school years, can threaten children’s social development. Students attending special education lack contacts with peers, and therefore may not develop age-appropriate social skills and positive self-concepts (e.g. Cambra & Silvestre, 2003). This has also been recognized as major disadvantage of segregated education by parents. Namely, parents report that their main motive for sending their child with special needs to a regular school and blocking referral to a special school are increased social opportunities for the child (Sloper & Tyler, 1992, cited in Koster et al., 2010). Among other factors, the instructional approach that teacher adopts appear to have an impact on students’ opportunities to make friends (Epstein, 1983). In this regard, researchers have examined effects of learner-centered practices as opposed to teacher-centered practices on students’ interactions and relationships with peers. As expected, learner-centered practices have been related to lower rates of peer rejection, less student anger and more student empathy than other types of instruction (Donohue et al., 2003, cited in Ryan & Ladd, 2012). In line with this, reviews of evidence-based teaching strategies for learners with special educational needs put emphasis on collaborative learning and peer tutoring as some of the most effective strategies, regarding not just academic achievement, but also social and emotional development of students with special needs (Meijer, 2001; Kavale, 2007; Mitchell, 2008). The research evidence is clear that teaching strategies emphasising social aspect of the process, such as peer tutoring and cooperative learning, can yield significant gains in academic achievement in the targeted curriculum area, as well as gains in transferable social and communication skills and in affective functioning (Topping, 2005). Research also shows that social and behavioral skills allow students to better apply their cognitive skills and thereby learn more (Jennings & DiPrete, 2009). As for the long-term social outcomes, findings suggest that context providing more opportunities for contact with peers, such as mainstream class, yield more opportunities for students with special needs to acquire social capital on which they can further build social relations that will be useful in their professional and social life (Ebersold et al, 2011, cited in McCoy et al., 2014).
Cambra, C., & Silvestre, N. (2003). Students with special educational needs in the inclusive classroom: Social integration and self-concept. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 18, 197–208. Epstein, J. L. (1983). The Influence of Friends on Achievement and Affective Outcomes. In, J. L. Epstein and N. Karweit (eds.), Friends in School: Patterns of Selection and Influence in Secondary Schools. New York: Academic Press. Jennings, J.L. & DiPrete, T.A. (2009). Teacher Effects on Social/Behavioral Skills in Early Elementary School. Research report. Kavale, K. A. (2007). Quantitative Research Synthesis: Meta-Analysis of Research on Meeting Special Educational Needs. In: Florian, L. (Ed.), The SAGE Handbook of Special Education, 207-221. Koster, M., Jan Pijl, S., Nakken, H., Van Houten, E. (2010). Social Participation of Students with Special Needs in Regular Primary Education in the Netherlands. International Journal of Disability, Development and Education, Vol. 57, No. 1, 59–75. Kovač Cerović, T., Pavlović Babić, D., Jokić, T., Jovanović, O., Jovanović, V. (in press). First Comprehensive Monitoring of Inclusive Education in Serbia: Selected Findings. In Gutvajn, N. & Vujačić, M. (eds.), Inclusive Education: Challenges and Perspectives. Beograd: Institut za pedagoška istraživanja. McCoy, S., Banks, J., Frawley, D., Watson, D., Shevlin, M., Smyth, F. (2014). Understanding Special Class Provision in Ireland. Ireland: National Council for Special Education. Meijer, C.J.W. (2001). Inclusive Education and Effective Classroom Practices. European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education. Mitchell, D. (2008). What Really Works in Special and Inclusive Education: Using Evidence-Based Teaching Strategies. New York: Routledge. Ryan, A.M. & Ladd, G.W. (2012). Peer Relationships and Adjustment at School. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing, Inc. Topping, K. J. (2005). Trends in Peer Learning. Educational Psychology Vol. 25, No. 6, 631–645.
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