10 SES 08 A, Professional Knowledge & Teacher Identity: Inclusivity
For almost a decade, Sweden provides two postgraduate study programmes for general teachers who continue with their professional career in the field of special education: the special education teacher (SET) and the special educational needs coordinator (SENCO). The degree ordinances state that the SET is focusing on the pupils’ difficulties, e.g. in mathematics, reading and writing, or in conjunction with a specific type of disability; along these threads, six different specialisations are offered. In contrast, the SENCO shall to a greater extent be responsible for counselling, pedagogical assessment, developing of inclusive learning environments and school development. The formal structures of both study programmes are rather similar. To be eligible to enter the programmes, the applicant is required to have at least three years of practical experience in schools or pre-schools. Both programmes comprise 90 ECTS and are usually offered part-time in combination with the students’ teaching posts in educational institutions. To some extent and in different forms, an overlap can be observed between the two programmes.
In the recent past, research has been done on the occupational roles and duties of professionals in special education in Sweden, in particular SET and SENCO. It became obvious, that the fields of practical work are characterised by some overlap (Takala & Ahl 2014; Göransson et al. 2015). In addition, the role of the SENCO is often unclear and questioned when it comes to school development (Lindqvist et al. 2011; Malmqvist 2015). International comparative research was focusing on the special education teacher students’ perspective on inclusive education. Swedish students were more positive on inclusion than their Finnish counterparts (Takala et al. 2015), but to a lesser extent than teacher students in Norway (Takala et al. 2012).
Even though considerable studies have been done, notable research gaps exist. So far little is known about the study motivation, expectation and experience of teacher students in the field of special education in Sweden. Increasing knowledge in this field is relevant not only for teacher education in Sweden, but for other countries as well by opening up for comparative research. Our study aims to map these factors with regard to beginner students of the two postgraduate special education programmes – the SET and the SENCO – at a Swedish university. The following questions will be addressed:
- How can the study motivation of teacher students be described?
- Which expectations do the teacher students have for their studies and their future occupation?
- What perspective do teacher students have in terms of research and development in and for educational practice?
- Which similarities and differences can be observed concerning the motivation, expectation and perspective on research and development of teacher students in the two programmes?
The theoretical foundation that underlies this study is a combination of professional theory and special education theories. Since the 1970’s, research on professions has taken a new focus, namely to study the professional aspirations among occupational groups, or in other words, their professional project (e.g. Larson 1977). Defining professions in order to distinguish them from other occupational groups thereby becomes less significant. Instead, great interest has been directed towards studying the strategies used by different groups to achieve a certain social status as a “profession”. The essentialistic traits have come to be regarded as ambitions held by less established professions, e.g. social workers, rather than manifestations of a professional core. Within such projects, considerable symbolic significance is attributed to the theoretical knowledge of the occupational groups in question (Collins 1979). In our research, we connect this theoretical approach to special education theories, namely the categorical and relational perspective (e.g. Persson 2003).
Collins, Randall (1979). The Credential Society: An Historical Sociology of Education and Stratification. New York: Academic Press. Göransson, K., Lindqvist, G. & Nilholm, C. (2015). Voices of special educators in Sweden: a total-population study. Educational Research, 57:3, 287-304. Larson. M.S. (1977). The Rise of Professionalism. Los Angeles: University of California. Lindqvist, G. & Nilholm, C., Almqvist, L. & Wetso G.M. (2011). Different agendas? The views of different occupational groups on special needs education. European Journal of Special needs education, 26:2, 143-157. Malmqvist, J. (2015). The SENCo as hybrid: Perspectives on transitions related to inclsuion as seen in the Swedish context. D.L. Cameron & R. Thygesen (eds.). Transitions in the field of special education: Theoretical perspectives and implications for practice. Waxmann: Münster, New York, 91-114. Persson, B. (2003). Exclusive and inclusive discourses in special education research and policy in Sweden. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 7:3, 271-280. Takala, M. & Ahl, A. (2014). Special Education in Swedish and Finnish schools: Seeing the forest or the trees? British Journal of Special Education, 41:1, 59-81. Takala, M., Sarromaa Hausstätter, R., Ahl, A. & Head, G. (2012). Inclusion seen by student teachers in special education: differences among Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish students. European Journal of Teacher Education, 35:3, 305-325. Takala, M., Wickman, K., Uusitalo-Malmivaara, L. & Lundström, A. 2015. Becoming a special educator – Finnish and Swedish students’ views of their future profession. Education Inquiry, 6:1, 1-27.
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