04 SES 03 A, Improving Inclusion of Children with Intellectual Disability in School
Many countries have developed educational policies towards inclusion of pupils with special educational needs, following the international standards for the inclusion of children with disabilities that were set in the 1994 Salamanca Declaration by UNESCO. This means that schools are required to be inclusive of children with disabilities, and, that pupils in need of special support should be offered education with their peers in their local environment. The goal of special education is to give pupils with disabilities the chance to achieve at levels similar to peers without disabilities, and, in achieving this, the accommodations within the environment that support pupils with disabilities are of paramount importance (Burkhardt, 2014). This works has been organised in different ways throughout Europe (Ferguson, 2008; Savolainen, 2009).
The Swedish school system consists of several parallel school systems with their own curricula, including Compulsory School for Students with Intellectual Disabilities (CSSID). In other words, the Swedish Education Act offers children who have been diagnosed with intellectual disabilities, to receive their education in a special school form with its own curriculum (SFS 2010: 800). In some cases, pupils with mild intellectual disability (MID) choose to attend regular school in inclusive education, although they still study according to the CSSID curriculum. This means that children diagnosed with MID have the right to choose in which school they want to receive their education. It also means that teachers in both school-forms are expected to offer a multifaceted education based on two different curricula in a learning environment available for pupils with and without special needs.
The theoretical framework for this study was relational pedagogical approach as developed by Aspelin (2013; 2015). This approach is concerned with relational processes in direct educational situations. The relational process is regarded as an inherent aspect of educational life and a foundation for encouraging performance. According to Biesta (2011) it is necessary to acquire a deeper knowledge and understanding for what appears to be an inclusive education, rather than focusing on the efficiency of facts and measurable results. In line with Biesta´s thought, the teaching situation for pupils with MID can be understood using a relational pedagogical approach. The complexity in teaching situations is multifaceted and needs to be explained at different levels, such as individual, group and organizational level. When these levels interact with each other, they create a meaningful balance together.As there are few pupils with MID in inclusive education in the Swedish school system, it is a challenge for teachers to provide pupils with MID a custom learning environment with participation. In order to study and explore teachers’ thoughts about the teaching situation for pupils with MID, Aspelin’s and Biesta’s theories constitute a valuable contribution for this study.
Method With particular concern to ethical considerations and the study’s interest of pupils with MID, the initial contact with the field was established with a gatekeeper to schools in a municipality in the middle of Sweden. All teachers in the municipality who taught pupil with MID and showed interest to participate in the study were contacted for an interview. Twenty teachers, 10 CSSID school teachers and 10 lower compulsory school teachers, were interviewed about their experiences and perceptions about the teaching situation in school of pupils with MID. Particular focus was directed to the teachers’ perceptions of inclusive learning environments for children with MID, as well as strategies and methods described by the teachers to be useful to establish an inclusive classroom. Qualitative data analysis was used to inductively analyse the data (Miles, Huberman & Saldaña, 2014). The interviews were transcribed verbatim and interviews for each teacher group were analysed separately and combined at a final stage. In the analysis, the interviews were read several times and key phrases were noted and extracted for abstraction. Emerging themes were listed in search for connections and themes and categories could be ordered.
Expected Outcomes Result show that special school teachers and lower secondary school teachers had both converging and diverging experiences and perceptions about the teaching situation for pupils with MID. Three master themes that represented the data were found, these were: requirements and expectations, trusting relationships and structure and strategy. The first master theme regarded statements about teachers’ abilities to respond and offer meaningful teaching for pupils with MID. Subthemes for this master theme were: adaptations, meaningfulness, social ability and the perception of education. The second master theme trusting relationships regarded statements about a permissive classroom climate and the conditions for social interaction and participation. Subthemes for the second master theme were: interaction, participation and diversity. Finally, the third master theme structure and strategy regarded the teachers’ perceptions of work and opportunities to establish a challenging and supportive teaching for all pupils, and especially pupils who had made an educational transition between regular compulsory school and special CSSID school. Subthemes for this master theme were: support and assistance, measures and limits. To make it possible to understand the complexity of the teachers’ descriptions of obstacles and opportunities arising in the teaching situation for pupils with MID, all subthemes were analyzed on three levels; individual-, group- and organizational level. Discussion: With the knowledge of Aspelin’s and Biesta’s theories this study has the potential to broaden the understanding horizon regarding opportunities to establish inclusive learning environment and teach pupils with MID, at both individual, group and organization level. For example, teachers in this study all agree that teaching cannot only focus on facts and measurable results. However, teachers in this study agreed that relationships, individual adaptations and flexibility at teacher-pupil level can be keys to positive learning situations in school for pupils with MID.
References Aspelin, J. (2015). Ingen prestation utan relation. Malmö: Gleerups. Aspelin, J. (2012). How do relationships influence student achievement? Understanding student performance from a general, social psychological standpoint. International Studies in Sociology of Education, 22(1), 41-56. Biesta, G. (2011). God utbildning i mätningens tidevarv. Avanderade studier i pedagogik. Stockholm. Liber. Burkhardt, H. (2014). Curriculum design and systemic change. In Mathematics curriculum in school education (pp. 13-34). Springer Netherlands. Ferguson, D.L. (2008). International trends in inclusive education: The continuing challenge to tech each one and everyone. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 23(2), 109-120. Miles, M. B., Huberman, A. M., & Saldana, J. (2014). Qualitative data analysis: A method sourcebook. CA, US: Sage Publications. Savolainen, H. (2009). Responding to diversity and striving for excellence: The case for Finland. Prospect Quarterly Review of Comparative Education, 39(3), 281-292.
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