04 SES 14 A, Impacts of Labelling Students with Special Educational Needs – Theory and Empirical Evidence
This presentation will review some of the key arguments about labelling that have been raised for several decades. It will build on and extend the perspectives introduced by the. author several years ago (Norwich, 2013). One of key aspects of this field is that research and theorising about labelling as a phenomenon is itself a kind of second order labelling of labelling practices. In the labelling of students with difficulties in learning, the actual labels, their meaning and the context and purpose for their use are important considerations; so with research and theorising about labelling as a practice. Research and theorising can be done with a more neutral investigatory stance or with a more critical emancipatory stance. Much of the research and theorising about labelling of students with categories such as SEN or disability has been done from a critical perspective. In some instances, labelling categories have been seen as negative not so much to avoid any use of general categories, but to replace categories seen to reflect power-based impositions of language with harmful consequences. Labelling is clearly from this perspective not a unitary phenomenon, but in addition to depending on the meaning of the terms, their purposes for their use, their relationship to other terms and the context of their use, also depends on who uses them. This paper will address the following key issues: i. The reality of learner difficulties associated with claims that categories like SEN are socially constructed; ii. The coherence of a clear distinction between social and medical models; iii. Whether the functions of labelling (e.g. a basis for communicating and understanding difficulties of learning and for allocating additional resources and informing teaching) can lead to negative consequences (e.g. separation, devaluation and stigma); resulting in tensions and dilemmas; iv. The significance of different approaches to addressing identification tensions: for instance in replacing deficit terms by more positive terms, e.g. ASC (condition) for ASD (disorder), learning differences for learning difficulties. The paper will adopt an ethical-value perspective that takes account of emancipatory values, but also other values (epistemic, self-determination and practicality values). In so doing it will recognise the value pluralism that underlies labelling in this field.
Norwich, B. (2013). Addressing tensions and dilemmas in inclusive education; living with uncertainty. London: Routledge.
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