25 SES 08, Quality Education for Children with Special Educational Needs - Right to Inclusion and Participation
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities acknowledged the international commitment to promote people with disabilities’ access to "an inclusive, quality and free primary education and secondary education on an equal basis with others in the communities in which they live" (United Nations, 2007). However, much needs to be done on children’s right to quality education, as it is often denied to children with disabilities, greatly due to a lack of resources and to stigma and discrimination attitudes. Indeed, according to the WHO (2011), children with disabilities have lower educational achievements than their peers without disabilities, as well as lower rates of staying and being promoted in schools. They often face low expectations and negative attitudes towards diversity, which becomes a barrier for guaranteeing the right to a quality of education. Moreover, researchers have the responsibility to address issues of equity and justice in order to ensure learning environments in which everybody has the right to participate and benefit from all educational opportunities.
Despite the efforts to guarantee the right to an inclusive education for all, there are still European countries where special schools still exist and fail to provide students with a quality education as compared to mainstream schools (Kocaj, Kuhl, Kroth, Pant & Stanat, 2014). Particularly, in Spain 17% of students with special needs are enrolled in special schools (WHO, 2011). Still, this situation urges researchers committed to children’s rights to advance knowledge in order to ensure the right of quality education for children with disabilities, especially for those with higher risk to be excluded and segregated, as it is the case of those attending special schools. Therefore, it is equally necessary to advance towards identifying which learning environments within these schools and classrooms may contribute to guarantee the right to a quality of education by improving learning, development and relationships of these students.
Grounded on the sociocultural theory of cognitive development (Vygotsky, 1978), empirical research has shown the benefits of Interactive Groups, a small group clasroom organization that fosters equitable participation through egalitarian dialogue involving non-teacher adults volunteering (Valls & Kyriakides, 2013). When implemented in mainstream schools, grouping together students with and without disabilities, Interactive Groups create an academically challenging and emotionally supportive space for all children to succeed (Aubert, Molina, Shubert & Vidu, 2017) and foster the inclusion of students with (and without) disabilities with positive effects (García Carrión, Molina Roldán, Grande López & Buslón Valdez, 2016). In spite of the promising results IGs have showed for providing high quality education in mainstream schools, less is known on how IG could be recreated in special schools and the benefits it could bring for students with disabilities still attending these institutions.
The aim of this paper is to we analyze the process of recreation of IGs in an elementary education special school, particularly in a mathematics classroom. It examines the way in which IGs can be implemented in special schools and identifies the improvements of this interactive learning environment for advancing to the right to quality education for all.
A case study (Stake, 1995) has been conducted on a Primary Education group in a public special school located at the outskirts of a town in Spain. The school has been implementing Interactive Groups for two years. The case study allowed the researchers to achieve a deep understanding of the way in which the IGs are being implemented in this school and how it is contributing to provide children with disabilities their right to quality education. The classroom was comprised by 36 students between the ages of 6 and 14 with different disabilities such as intellectual disability, cerebral palsy and autism. The study was conducted following the Communicative Methodology (Gomez, Puigvert & Flecha, 2011), aimed at overcoming inequalities. This methodology does not simply describe reality, but it goes beyond by making an analysis of the exclusionary and transformative elements which hinder or contribute to overcoming inequalities. It does so by including the voices of the participants through an egalitarian dialogue in which researchers contribute the scientific knowledge and the participants contribute knowledge from their own experience, thus working together in the creation of new knowledge. This methodology is particularly relevant when the issue being studied especially affects vulnerable groups. In this specific study, it contributes to advancing knowledge and scientific evidence on interactive learning environments for the promotion of children’s right to education by raising families’, teachers’ and students’ awareness on the issue and making them participants in the fulfilment of their own right. For the data gathering, an exploratory focus group with the school teachers was conducted in order to identify relevant topics on the development of IGs in the school. Subsequently, an in-depth interview with the school principal, a communicative focus groups with some teachers and another one with students and the assistance of two teachers in order to facilitate communication were conducted. The interviews and focus groups revolved around six topics which were used to create the analysis categories: characteristics of IGs’ development; learning improvements achieved; improvements in students’ relationships and group cohesion; impact of the improvements in different moments, activities and spaces; factors associated to successful operation and results of the IGs; and challenges for the full implementation of IGs and maximize their inclusive potential. Interviews and focus groups were audio recorded and subsequently transcribed verbatim, and notes were taken during the focus groups.
The case study conducted shows that it is possible to recreate in special schools interactive learning environments such as IGs, leading to the advancement of the right to quality education to children at risk of being in contexts of poor interactions and low expectations. Students have improved their learning and behavior, they have increased and improved their interactions with peers, they have got to know better their classmates and created friendship. In particular, the following improvements have been found: competent teacher training on interactive learning environments; heterogeneous composition of IGs to promote the greatest number and diversity of interactions; high expectations of teachers towards all their students; contribution to children’s right to quality education; and permanent monitoring and evaluation meetings. Thanks to the transformation of the school’s language from language of deficit to language of possibility under these conditions, students become more aware of their right to quality education and of their capabilities, which they use to learn and help others learn. The findings show that the improvements achieved through students’ participation in IGs is related to various conditions that teachers created in order for the IGs to be implemented successfully, guaranteeing children’s right to education. The implementation of IGs in this special school has been carefully designed, evaluated and built upon teachers’ knowledge on interactive learning environments. These results are encouraging as they show a positive improvement in the process of recreating IGs in special schools. It is important to highlight that these results do not aim to support a defense of special schools as the best ones to provide students with disabilities their right to education. Rather, they open new possibilities to provide the right to education to students with disabilities in any educational context where they are placed, including in special schools.
Please list the most important references for your abstract Length: up to 400 words Aubert, A., Molina, S., Shubert, T., & Vidu, A. (2017). Learning and inclusivity via Interactive Groups in early childhood education and care in the Hope school, Spain. Learning, Culture and Social Interaction, 13, 90-103. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lcsi.2017.03.002 Bruner, J. (1996). The culture of education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Edwards, D. & Mercer, N. (1987). Common Knowledge: the development of joint understanding in the classroom. Londres: Methuen. Flecha, R. (2000). Sharing Words: Theory and Practice of Dialogic Learning. Lanham, M.D: Rowman & Littlefield. Flecha, R. (2015). Successful Educational Action for Inclusion and Social Cohesion in Europe. Springer Publishing Company. Gomez, A., Puigvert, L., & Flecha, R. (2011). Critical Communicative Methodology: Informing Real Social Transformation Through Research. Qualitative Inquiry, 17(3), 235–245. http://doi.org/10.1177/1077800410397802 Kershner, R. (2016). Including Psychology in Inclusive Pedagogy: Enriching the Dialogue? International Journal of Educational Psychology, 5(2), 112-139. http://doi.org/10.17583/ijep.2016.2109 Kocaj, A., Kuhl, P., Kroth, AJ., Pant, HA. & Stanat, P. (2014). Where do students with special educational needs learn better? A comparison of achievement between regular primary schools and special schools. Kolner Zeitschrift Fur Soziologie Und Sozialpsychologie, 66(2), 165-191. http://doi.org/10.1007/s11577-014-0253-x Stake, R. E. (1995). The art of case study research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. United Nations. (2007). Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. https://www.un.org/development/desa/disabilities/convention-on-the-rights-of-persons-with-disabilities/convention-on-the-rights-of-persons-with-disabilities-2.html World Health Organization. (2011). World report on disability. World Health Organization. Valls, R., & Kyriakides, L. (2013). The power of interactive groups: how diversity of adults volunteering in classroom groups can promote inclusion and success for children of vulnerable minority ethnic populations. Cambridge Journal of Education, 43(1), 17–33. http://doi.org/10.1080/0305764X.2012.749213 Vygotsky, L. S. (1962). Thought and language. (E. Hanfmann & G. Vakar, Eds.) (E. Hanfmann & G. Vakar, Trans.) Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society. The development of higher psychological processes. (M. Cole, V. John-Steiner, S. Scribner & E. Souberman., Eds.) (A. R. Luria, M. Lopez-Morillas & M. Cole [with J. V. Wertsch], Trans.) Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. (Original manuscripts [ca. 1930-1934])
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