17 SES 06, Paper Session
Decisions about the appropriate education of children with special needs in school are in many countries linked to special education assessment processes. At first glance they seemingly show similarities, especially when it comes to the basic idea they all rely on: during an assessment the individual child with its cognitive and physical abilities is implicitly compared with the nature of the normal child of a certain age. Furthermore the degree of permanency and specialization of the educational recommendation after an assessment process seems to depend on the extent of the examined gap between the nature of a child seen as normal and the characteristics of the individual case. But upon further examination processes associated with these assessments differ enormously between and also within national school systems. They are either based on a less formalized exchange between the child, its parents and the professionals or a more standardized procedure. Also the professionals involved can differ as well as the test instruments used. Another difference is that the methods of documentation vary and the potential outcomes of such an assessment are numerous. With regard to the discussion about inclusion and exclusion in education, these outcomes can be oriented towards an education which is taking place in regular classes and for example under guidance of multidisciplinary teaching teams. They could therefore be described as inclusive approaches of how to deal with children with special needs. Likewise, special education can take place in separated classes or even separated schools. The results of the assessment process would then be interpreted as more exclusive education as the children close to and far away from the stereotype of the average nature of a child would be taught separated from each other – potentially under the charge of different professionals (Armstrong, 2002; Cruickshank et al., 1990; Debeer, 2011; Dworet & Bennett, 2002).
Special education assessment procedures can be seen as depending on many situational factors – often also shaped by cultural specifics – and at the same time as defining for the educational career of the child. The qualitative comparative study being presented in the talk looks at them with regard to their validity and their legitimacy in their local and historical surrounding. It therefore analyzes archival data from two cities in Germany and two cities in Canada from the 1950s to the 1980s (Csapo & Goguen, 1989; Ellis, 2018). The archival sources chosen for the project originate in both countries from a big city (Frankfurt, Toronto) and from a small one (Kitchener-Waterloo, Görlitz) (Bloomfield & Foster, 1995; Donohue, 1985; Jordan, 2001; Winzer, 1990). Furthermore the cities chosen for Germany were in the time of the German partition located in the two German states (Powell, 2015). The sources of relevance contain student files, minutes and other files which document the assessment process as well as files about contextual issues such as decisions regarding educational policies, legislative developments and arguments between different professions about the content and the nature of the assessment. Additionally, published journals, handbooks and other references are used to reconstruct the historical background. Relying on these sources of data, the main questions being asked are the following:
- Which ideas about the normal nature of a child are contained in the documentation of the assessment processes in the different countries?
- How are the assessment processes leading to educational recommendations of a more inclusive or exclusive kind contextually legitimated and connected with historical events in the different countries?
- Which conclusions can be drawn about the assessment processes themselves, the educational recommendations at the end of these processes and the influence of historical events by comparing the different countries?
These questions are answered based on a theoretical framework, which focusses in terms of the theory of objects partially on ideas from Link’s (1997) theory of “normalism”. Link (1997) argues that there are ideas of normality present in every society such as visions of the normal nature of a child (Link, 1997). Variances from the normal or average state can become atypical if they are, due to their great distance from the average, located on the other side of an imaginary border of normality. Special Education assessment procedures implicitly refer to these ideas of the normal nature of the child: they are result of a perceived misfit between the normal and the individual child and construct variations of an atypical child within the assessment process. From the perspective of a philosophy of science, this construction process is seen as a socially driven one, which causes a section of knowledge that is mainly shared between the professions involved in the assessment. These ideas of social constructivism as written down by Berger and Luckmann (1969) can be furthermore combined with ideas of cultural constructivism in a broader sense (Berger & Luckmann, 1966). These culturally based construction processes are especially of importance, when it comes to the comparison between the countries with their specific cultural and linguistic settings. Building on this meta-theoretical framework, the research methods employed in the parallel investigations comprising this study include a historical-contextualizing content analysis (Vogt, 2015). With this analysis the ideals of the normal nature of a child contained in the archive files about the assessment processes can be reconstructed through a category based and at the same time inductive oriented approach (Landwehr, 2009 , Lamnek, 2010). This approach is based on a system of categories, which can be more or less used for the analyzed sources in both states of Germany as well as in Canada and therefore lead to a comparability of the research results in all locations under investigation. Furthermore the research method focusses the historical, social and cultural surroundings of the ideas contained in the assessment documentations. These surroundings are for every location acquired and interpreted in combination with the specific diachronic developments and changes. Basis of a methodological comparison of the research results from the different countries in the project is the idea of deriving a Tertium Comparationis (Gerhardt, 1986; Hilker, 1962).
With regard to the expected outcome of the historical comparative study the answers to the research questions lead to certain patterns of constructing and legitimating special education assessment processes based on ideas of the normal nature of a child at a certain age. As well the study shows different patterns of authenticating more inclusive or exclusive educational recommendations through the results of these assessment processes with reference to the historical background. In parts these patterns seem to be shared ones which are of general relevance in the project, in other parts they seem to be linked to cultural or local specificities of the single countries(Richardson & Powell, 2011). These patterns being analyzed for historical and local specific settings are as well transferred to and compared with present educational developments. They are therefore questioned if they can serve as a reference to evaluate the recent steps of educational systems in several countries, when it comes to the challenge of dealing with the demand for inclusive education(Crook & McCulloch, 2002). The outcome and therefore the content of the talk will be published in a German and an English speaking peer-review journal and serve as basis for a joined book project.
Armstrong, Felicity. (2002). "The historical development of special education: humanitarian rationality or 'wild profusion of entangled events'?", in History of Education, 31(5), 437-456. Bal, Mieke (2002). Kulturanalyse. Suhrkamp. Frankfurt a.M. Berger, Peter L., & Luckmann, Thomas. (1966). The social construction of reality: a treatise in the sociology of knowledge. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday. Bloomfield, Elizabeth, & Foster, Elizabeth. (1995). Waterloo Township Schools, 1840-1972. Guelph, ON: Caribou Imprints. Crook, David, & McCulloch, Gary. (2002). "Comparative approaches to the history of education", in History of Education, 31(5), 397-400. Cruickshank, W.M., Morse, W.C., & Grant, J.O. (1990). The individual education planning committee: a step in the history of special education. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press. Csapo, Marg., & Goguen, Leonard. (1989). Special Education Across Canada: Issues and Concerns for the '90s. Vancouver, BC: Centre for Human Development and Research. Debeer, Yvette. (2011). Ideologically Informed: A Policy Archaeology of Special Education in Ontario, 1965-1980. (Ed.D.), University of Toronto - Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, Toronto. Donohue, Patrick. (1985). You can't rely on dreams: the education of the physically handicapped in Metro Toronto: 1900-1984. Toronto: Learnxs Foundation. Dworet, Don, & Bennett, Sheila. (2002). "A View from the North: Special Education in Canada", in TEACHING Exceptional Children, 34(5), 22-27. Ellis, Jason. (2018). A Class by Themselves?: Children, Youth, and Special Education in a North American City – Toronto, 1910-45. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Gerhardt, Uta. (1986). Pateientenkarrieren. Eine medizinsoziologische Studie. Frankfurt a.M. Hilker, Franz. (1962). Vergleichende Pädagogik. Eine Einführung in ihre Geschichte, Theorie und Praxis. München: Max Hüber Verlag. Jordan, Anne. (2001). "Special education in Ontario, Canada: A case study of market-based reforms", in Cambridge Journal of Education, 31(3), 349-371. Koselleck, R. (2010). Begriffsgeschichten. Studien zur Semantik und Pragmatik der politischen und sozialen Sprache. Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp Lamnek, S. (2010). Qualitative Sozialforschung. Lehrbuch. 5., überarbeitete Aufl. München, Weinheim. Beltz Landwehr, Achim (2009). Historische Diskursanalyse. 2. Aufl. Frankfurt a.M., New York.: Campus Link, Jürgen (1997). Versuch über den Normalismus. Wie Normalität produziert wird. Göttingen. Powell, Justin. (2015): Barriers to Inclusion: Special Education in the United States and Germany: Taylor & Francis. Richardson, John, & Powell, Justin (2011). Comparing Special Education: Origins to Contemporary Paradoxes: Stanford University Press. Vogt, Michaela. (2015). Professionswissen über Unterstufenschüler in der DDR. Bad Heilbrunn: Julius Klinkhardt. Winzer, Margret. (1990). Children with Exceptionalities: A Canadian Perspective. Scarborough, ON: Prentice-Hall Canada.
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