25 SES 06, Special Call Session A – Inclusive Education as a Means of Guaranteeing the Right to Non-discrimination?
Most students in regular schools are offered a learning environment where they can participate, interact and communicate with classmates and teachers. Students and teachers collaborate, reflect and discuss throughout the school years. In so doing, the students’ diversity concerning interests, abilities, and learning strategies may serve as a basis for shared academic and social learning. Such learning opportunities are also beneficial for students with limited speech – using augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) (Finke, McNaughton & Drager, 2009).
Although participation in a regular school for students using AAC is possible, beneficial, and desired by the students using AAC, classmates, staff and parents – the barriers to participation in school dominate the findings of previous research (Kent-Walsh & Light, 2003; Raghavendra, Olsson, Sampson, McInerney & Connel, 2012). In Norway, students using AAC are eligible for special education and tend to be excluded from the regular classroom, or they stay passive within the classroom (Skogdal, 2017; Østvik, Balandin & Ytterhus, 2017). Both international and Norwegian research reveal that barriers to participation are not primarily related to the individual characteristics of the students using AAC, but are rather connected to perspectives and practices within school contexts (Carter, Bottema-Beutel & Brock, 2014; Skogdal, 2017).
Inclusive education and adapted education constitute the key strategies in Norwegian education to obtain full participation in school for all students (Norwegian Education Act, 1998, 2015). A broad perspective on inclusion focuses on recognising differences and diversity, and promoting participation and learning in a school for all (Ainscow & Miles, 2008; Florian & Spratt, 2013). Adapted education focuses on a collaborative school culture, where teachers’ special education competence and general education competence can be combined to enhance all students’ learning potential. Special and general education will merge within the frame of the regular classroom, instead of treating them as separate educational approaches (Hausstätter, 2012; Nordahl, 2009).
However, the exclusion from the regular classroom for students using AAC and their passivity when they attend the regular class illustrate that there is a sharp contrast between the inclusive educational principles in legislation and the excluding practice within the school.
This paper presents a qualitative study that has investigated enablers and barriers to participation in academic and social activities for students using AAC, within their regular school context. The study is based on data containing observations from 42 lessons in six regular classrooms where one of the students in each class uses AAC. In this study, the content of the term participation is operationalised as seating, activity, communication and support. The Analysis of the observations from the classroom situation for the students using AAC is presented in line with these dimensions. The findings can contribute to better understanding and improvement of the gap between principles and practice on this issue. The research question is:
How does participation in the regular classroom appear for students using AAC, and how does their participation relate to the vision of inclusive education?
The current study is anchored in sociocultural theory. Here, institutional and historical cultures and contexts are described as essential to understand how individual and social actions appear (Wertch, 1998). In this perspective, learning is understood as a relational and social activity, where participation, interaction and communication are highlighted as the most fundamental and important educational tools used in schools for jointly constructing knowledge (Dewey, 2011; Mercer & Hodgkinson, 2008). Thus, inclusion in the regular class requires that the students who use AAC must have access and opportunities to academic and social activities within the learning community of classmates in the regular class.
An ethnographic research method approach based on sociocultural theory was chosen because it supports the investigation of schools’ cultural and contextual aspects as well as the interactions between participants (Spradley, 1980). The sample was school classes in lower secondary school with at least one registered student who use AAC (the focus student). Participants in this study were students who use AAC and who were enrolled/registered in regular classes, their classmates, teachers and assistants, in total 228 individuals: 6 focus students, 179 peers, 22 class teachers, 9 special education teachers, and 12 assistants. The focus students aged between 13 and 16 years old with a mean age of 14.1 years. According to information given by the schools, these students had severe speech impairment and used AAC as their primary mode of communication. One week of observation from each of the six classes, amounted to 53 sessions during 42 lessons where a focus student was present. This represents in average 30.4 % of the lessons per week for secondary school students in Norway. Transcripts from a coding manual, field notes, and a “two-video-camera” approach constituted the observational data in this paper. The coding manual had columns that made it possible to compare the focus students to “most students”. The coding categories for seating was: (a) individual/on rows, (b) pair, (c) groups (3-5), (d) circle, (e) not seated (this category was used when the students did not sit by a desk, e.g., as in sport). The categories coded for activity was: (a) same activity (as most students), (b) same activity but different material or method, (c) different activity. Further, there were categories registering if the focus students were (a) active, or (b) passive/listening/watching. Communication was registered when an AAC system was available, and/or in use, and if the focus student communicated (a) as most students, (b) more than most students, and (c) less than most students. Support was marked when/if the focus student got support. Who gave the support was also marked; the SET (s), the assistant (a), the class teacher (c) or a peer (p)/classmate. The results from the coding were expanded into qualitative descriptions and analysis from field notes and repeated watching of video observation recordings. The analyses were based on hermeneutic principles, and a thematic analysis was undertaken with both pre-defined and data-derived codes.
During the 53 observed sessions, the focus students’ seating, activity, communication and support appeared as follows: Seating The focus students were seated differently from classmates in 33 sessions. Five of these students were usually seated in a corner in the front or in the back of the classroom, close to the door, near their SET/assistant. This seating functioned almost as a “glass wall” between the focus student and classmates, and made it difficult for mutual interest and interaction. Activity The focus students were passive, just listening in 30 sessions. In the 23 sessions where the focus students were active, they were most often doing a different activity than their classmates. The focus students were never involved in the same activities as classmates using specifically adapted materials or tools. To use the same material is likely to be positive only if the students could use the materials. Communication The focus students’ AAC system was available for 29 sessions, and were in use in 9. In four of the nine sessions, the focus students communicated with, their classmates. The AAC tools were primarily used for written assignments or communication with the SET or assistant, rather with classmates or class teachers. Support Even though there was always a SET or an assistant available for the focus students, s/he did not always support the focus student. This indicates that support was not needed, or staff and students did not know how to support the focus student. Support was primarily given by the SET/assistant. The class teacher, being in charge of the teaching, was involved in support one time during the observed sessions. This indicates an isolation of the focus student and the SET/assistant, and served as a barrier for the focus student’s participation. The discussion will focus on how these observed barriers may be reduced, and thus strengthen inclusive processes.
Ainscow, M. & Miles, S. (2008). Making education for all inclusive: where next? Prospects, DOI 10.1007/s11125-008-9055-0. Carter, E., Bottema-Beutel, K. & Brock (2014). Social interaction and friendships. In M. Dewey, J. (2011). Democracy and education. New York: Simon & Brown. Finke, McNaughton & Drager, 2009. All Children Can and Should Have the Opportunity to Learn”: General Education Teachers' Perspectives on Including Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder who Require AAC. Augmentative and alternative communication. 25:2, 110-122, DOI: 10.1080/07434610902886206 Florian, L.& Spratt,J. (2013). Enacting inclusion: a framework for interrogating inclusive practice. European Journal of special education. Vol. 28, no. 2, (119-135). Hausstätter, R.S. (2012). Inkluderende spesialundervisning. Bergen: Fagbokforlaget. Kent-Walsh, J. & Light, J.C. (2003). General education teachers’ experiences with inclusion of students who use augmentative and alternative communication. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 19, 104–124. DOI:10.1080/0743461031 000112043. Mercer, N., & Hodgkinson, S. (2008). Exploring Talk in School: Inspired by the Work of Douglas Barnes. London: SAGE Publications. Nordahl, T. (2009). Realisering og resultater av tilpasset opplæring i grunnskolen (pp. 193-211). Vallset. Norwegian Education Act/Opplæringslova med forskrifter. Lov 17. juli 1998 nr. 61 om grunnskolen og den videregående opplæringa (opplæringslova). Sist endret ved lov 21juni 2013 nr. 98 fra 1 august 2013.Hentet dato fra https://lovdata.no/dokument/NL/lov/1998-07-17-61 Raghavendra, P., Olsson, C., Sampson, J., McInerney, R. & Connell, T. (2012). School participation and social networks of children with complex communication needs, physical disabilities, and typically developing peers. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 28(1), 33–43. DOI:10.3109/07434618.2011.653604. Skogdal, S. (2017). Participation in school for students who use augmentative and alternative communication. A qualitative study of enablers and barriers to participation in regular lower secondary school. Universitetet i Stavanger. Thesis UiS No. 362. Spradley, J. (1980). Participant observation. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston Wertsch, J.V. (1998). Voices of the mind. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Østvik, J. Balandin, S. & Ytterhus, B. (2017). A «visitor in the class»: marginalization of students using AAC in Mainstream Education Classes. Published online: 18 January 2017. Springer
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