10 SES 11 B, Education for All: Developing an inclusive classroom
In Sweden, Finland and England, inclusive education is advocated in school legislation. Subsequently, support for children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is generally provided within the mainstream classroom. It is likely that student teachers will encounter pupils with ASD during their practical placement, and in their profession, as ASD prevalence has risen markedly worldwide, and currently stands at approximately 1 in 100 (Autism Europe, 2016).
Teachers require knowledge about ASD to ensure inclusion and the adequate delivery of support and intervention methods. Such knowledge could be about representations of ASD regarding social interaction and communication, which can offer challenges for the pupil in the mainstream context (Shereen & Geuts, 2015). However, previous research has mainly examined teachers’ and student teachers’ attitudes towards inclusion of pupils with ASD (e.g. McGregor & Campbell, 2001; Ross-Hill, 2009), and not investigated teachers’ in-depth understanding of ASD interactions and communications. This study aims to fill the gap through the application of an empathy-based story-writing method with student teachers.
The project represents a collaboration between researchers in Psychology and Special Education at three European universities across Sweden, Finland and England. The purpose of this presentation is to present preliminary findings of this ongoing interdisciplinary research project and obtain feedback and comments from the scientific community.
The research questions posed in this phase of the project are:
- How do student teachers describe imagined interactions with pupils diagnosed with ASD?
- How do student teachers describe the success or failure of interaction with pupils with ASD?
- Are there differences in student teachers’ stories between Sweden, Finland, and England?
The project involved a survey with a quantitative section and qualitative sections. This paper presentation will focus on introducing results from the qualitative data, which consisted of a task where student teachers were asked to write about an imagined teaching situation. The student teachers were asked to write about a positive and a negative teaching situation with a new pupil diagnosed with ASD, a method referred to as empathy-based stories. Empathy-based stories are writings that are created by participants according to an introductory script provided by a researcher (Eskola, 1998). This method is also called a passive role-play method and it is used for gathering information on the experiences and ideas embedded in narratives produced by research participants. It was originally developed in social psychology and it is a modification of active role-playing method for studying the participant’s interpretations of situations (Ginsburg, 1979; Eskola, 1997). In our study, the student teachers were first asked to write about what happened in the classroom, and then how they felt about it. Next, they were asked to write about the interaction with the pupil, and lastly, what they felt the pupil thought about them. This exercise was planned to be short, approximately 5 minutes per story. The final sample comprised 704 student teachers (Swedish N = 262, Finnish N =251, English N = 191). A coding scheme was made by the Finnish researchers, and before coding in Sweden and England, 10 negative and 10 positive stories were co-rated by the research team to ensure adequate inter-rater reliability.
The coding and analysis process is ongoing, but we plan to have some preliminary results to report from the three countries at the ECER conference.
Autism Europe. Prevalence rate of autism. (2016). Available from: http://www.autismeurope.org/about-autism/prevalence-rate-of-autism/ Eskola, J. (1997). Eläytymismenetelmäopas [A guide to method of empathy-based stories].Tampere: Tampereen yliopisto. Eskola, J. (1998). Eläytymismenetelmä sosiaalitutkimuksen tiedonhankintamenetelmänä. [The method of empathy-based stories as a method of acquiring data in social research]. Tampere: Tampereen yliopisto. Ginsburg, G.P. (1979). The effective use of role-playing in social psychological research. In G.P. Ginsburg (ed.). Emerging strategies in social psychological research, Chichester: Wiley. 117–54. McGregor, E. & Campbell, E. (2001). The attitudes of teachers in Scotland to the integration of children with autism into mainstream schools. Autism : The International Journal of Research and Practice, 5(2), 189–207. Ross-Hill, R. (2009). Teacher attitude towards inclusion practices and special needs students. Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs, 9(3), 188–198. Scheeren, A.M., & Geuts, H.M. (2015). Research on community intergration in autism spectrum disorder: Recommendations from research on psychosis. Research in Autims Spectrum Disorders, 17, 1-12. Talib.T.L., & Paulson, S. (2015). Differences in competence and beliefs about autism among teacher education students. The Teacher Educator (50)4, 240-256.
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