04 SES 02 E, Students at Risk: Dealing with the social and emotional dimensions of inclusive education
Due to the rising development towards inclusive education, the German school system is facing severe challenges. In the last two decades, inclusive education has become the major subject of a controversial debate, vividly led on one side by a rather politically idealistic point of view of a “Pedagogy of Diversity” (Prengel 1995), on the other side by a hermeneutical scientific perspective, focusing mechanisms of exclusion, and as a result, stigmatized educational losers (cf. Oelkers 2013). Considering the circumstance that the German school system provides different possibilities of systemic education for students with special needs, the fundamental question arises whether these students can benefit either from an inclusive and heterogeneous or an exclusive and homogeneous setting. Taking into account the vast amount of possible reference factors that would have to be considered in order to evaluate the effects of the different educational systems on students with special needs, a final and generalizable empirical answer is not to be expected. It rather requires a focused view on selected manifestations of the special needs spectrum, as well as a specification of key targets of an inclusive education system.
A successful implementation of diversity in education requires special effort to respond to the students` special educational needs. The school system generally tends to prioritize the acquisition of academic knowledge, but rarely provides for classroom activities designed to foster the students´ socio-emotional development (cf. Jordan, Schwartz & McGhie-Richmond 2009). Social and emotional development refers to socialization processes such as the acquisition of values, social rules and the ability of learning to act according to our society´s customs and behaviors. In particular, students with emotional and social disorders tend to struggle with interpreting and managing social interaction processes in the classroom (cf. Kauffman & Landrum 2012: 298). Against this background the factor of “academic achievement” cannot be considered as the primary criteria of reference. Instead, the degree of “social integration” has to be identified as a reliable indicator for evaluating educational success of these students. Several national (cf. Haeberlin, Bless, Moser & Klaghofer 2003; Bless & Mohr 2007; Huber 2008) and international studies (cf. Little & Garber 1995; Wood, Cowan, Baker 2002; McElwain, Olson, Volling 2002) suggest that the social integration of these students seems to be less satisfactory put into practice than initially expected. Based on the social referencing theory, Huber (2011) developed a model of social integration in school that emphasizes both the teachers´ and the peer groups´ relevance for the integration process. In this context, Schuck (1998) points out that personal effects have a higher impact on social integration than systemic effects. Both, the class teacher as the designer and mediator of social group processes as well as the class as the primary group of reference, require consideration as important factors affecting the degree of social integration, especially for students with social and emotional disorders.
The study therefore aims at evaluating the degree of social integration of students with emotional and social disorders, depending on the attended school (mainstream school environment vs. special needs classes) as a possible systemic influential factor and the significant reference persons (class teacher and peers) as possible personal influential factors.
Hereinafter the fundamental theoretical constructs, the resulting hypotheses and the proposed methods of the intended study will be outlined. Often, social integration as a theoretical construct is empirically operationalized through the person´s social self-concept and the social status within a group. The synthesis of self-perception, represented by the social self-concept, and external perception, represented by the social status, allows a comprehensive assessment of the degree of social integration of a person. Two variants have emerged which associate the social self-concept with either social acceptance or social competence (cf. Harter & Pike 1984). The intended study includes both approaches and questions whether the development of social self-concept varies depending on the interaction partner (peers vs. class teacher). Therefore, the social self-concept, evaluate through questionnaire, will be operationalized through three peer and teacher interaction dimensions: acceptance, conflict management and contact. Social status as an expression of peer relations, which manifests itself in contrasting dimensions of acceptance and rejection, functions as an objective measurement of social positioning. Using the method of sociometry, in particular the sociogram, the most rejected, popular, neglected and controversial students in class can be identified. This method aims at elaborating on the question whether the individual characteristics of social and emotional disorders (SED) affect the social status of these students in class. Due to his dual function as a mediator of knowledge and an almost familial person of trust (cf. Struck 1996) the class teacher is to be considered as a highly significant interaction partner. Thus, it is yet another central concern to examine on the teachers` mode of interaction, operationalized through the dimensions of “caring” and “pressure for achievement” and evaluated through the students’ external perception. Therefore the resulting working hypotheses and steps of statistical analysis are: • The degree of social integration of students with SED varies depending on the education form (inclusive vs. exclusive). (Multivariate analysis of variance and determination of effect sizes) • The degree of social integration of students with SED is affected by the teachers` mode of interaction. (Multivariate analysis of variance and determination of effect sizes) • The teachers` mode of interaction varies depending on the education form. (Univariate analysis of variance and determination of effect sizes) • The social self-concept of students with SED varies depending on the interaction partner (class teacher vs. peers). (Determination of correlation coefficient)
Students with special educational needs encounter discriminatory notions of normality and difference in both mainstream schools and special needs classes. The fundamental question is whether these experiences simply relate to the structural forces of the school system or if they refer to social practices of interpersonal interaction. Although interest in social integration of students with special educational needs is by no means a recent development, there is a distinct lack of studies attempting to research the effects of inclusive education on students with social and emotional disorders. The intended study aims at presenting empirical data that support a theoretical model of social integration which consider social interaction processes in class, not only by peers but also by the class teacher as a “significant Other” (cf. Struck 1996: 174) as relevant influential factors. Due to its empirical limitations, the study fails at fully answering the questions raised regarding the comprehensive issue of inclusive education. However, it allows highlighting a specific and selected number of possible conditioning factors that affect important subsections of inclusive education. The intended study can therefore function as a starting point for improving the design and implementation of inclusive practices especially addressed to students with social and emotional disorders. Rather than contributing to the controversial debate on advantages and disadvantages of a certain education form, the study aims at extracting possible influential factors, which support social integration in order to make them usable for educational practice.
Bless, Gérard and Mohr, Kathrin, “Die Effekte Sonderunterricht und gemeinsamem Unterricht auf die Entwicklung von Kindern mit Lernbehinderungen“, in: Walter, Jürgen and Wember, Franz B. (Ed.), Sonderpädagogik des Lernens, Göttingen: 2007, 375-383. Haeberlin, Urs; Bless, Gérard; Moser, Urs and Klaghofer, Richard “Die Integration von Lernbehinderten: Versuche, Theorien, Forschungen, Enttäuschungen, Hoffnungen“, Bern: 2003. Harter, Susan and Pike, Robin, “The Pictorial Scale of Perceived Competence and Social Acceptance for young children”, Child Development, 55, 1984. Huber, Christian, “Jenseits des Modellversuchs: Soziale Integration von Schülern mit sonderpädagogischem Förderbedarf im Gemeinsamem Unterricht – Eine Evaluationsstudie“, in: Heilpädagogische Forschung, 34(1), 2008, 2-14. Jordan, Anne; Schwartz, Eeileen and McGhie-Richmond, Donna, “Preparing teachers for inclusive classrooms”, in: Teaching and Teacher Education, 25, 2009, 535-542. Kauffman, James M. and Landrum, Timothy J., “Characteristics of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders of Children and Youth”, 10th Ed., Pearson, 2012. Little, Stephanie A. and Garber, Judy, “Aggression, depression and stressful life events predicting peer rejection in children”, in: Development and psychopathology 7, 1995, 845-856. McElwain, Nancy L.; Olson, Sheryl L.; Volling, Brenda L., “Concurrent and longitudinal associations among preschool boys? Conflict management, disruptive behavior, and peer rejection.”, in: Early education and development 13, 2002, 245-263. Oelkers, Jürgen, “Inklusion im selektiven System”, in: Archiv für Wissenschaft und Praxis der sozialen Arbeit, 44. Jahrgang, 2013, 38-48. Prengel, Annedore, “Pädagogik der Vielfalt: Verschiedenheit und Gleichberechtigung in Interfultureller, Feministischer und Integrativer Pädagogik“, Opladen: VS Verlag, 1995. Schuck, Karl D., „Die Entwicklung der Kinder in der integrativen Schule“, Hamburg: Hamburger Buchwerkstatt, 1998. Struck, Peter, “Die Schule der Zukunft. Von der Belehranstalt zur Lernwerkstatt“, Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchanstalt, 1996. Wood, Jeffrey J.; Cowan, Philipp A. and Baker, Bruce L., “Behavior problems and peer rejection in preschool boys and girls”, in: Journal of genetic psychology 163, 2009, 72-88.
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