04 SES 12 C, Construction of Differences
Parallel Paper Session
According to the Finnish core curricula for vocational education, instruction for students in need of special support should primarily be arranged as a part of mainstream education, at ordinary vocational institutes in teaching groups with other students. Vocational special education institutions should primarily provide training and education for students with severe disabilities (Utbildningsstyrelsen, 2009, 271).
During the past 15 years SEN teachers have found their places in Finnish vocational education. They often work as remedial teachers giving extra individual support to students outside general education whereas vocational education teachers working within general education face a major challenge to meet the often heterogeneous groups. Education for all is guaranteed trough the legislation but in practice it is much up to each teacher to meet the spirit of the law. This thesis is founded on three basic assumptions. The first is that teachers matter. Results from Henriksson´s (2008) thesis shows that when it comes to school failure the crucial thing is not students’ cognitive inadequacy and the student-learning perspective, of greater importance is the student-teacher relationship. According to Salo (2002) the teaching profession is characterized by both a high level of autonomy and by powerlessness. At an organizational level the teacher's possibility to influence is often limited. On the private arena however, working with students in the classroom, the teacher's ability to decision-making is large.
The second basic assumption is a more methodological one: The way we talk about reality has something to say about how we experience it. According to Potter and Wetherell (1992, 62), we always construct objects in one way or another and that type of construction is inevitable. In other words the language that we use to describe something is not a transparent medium and a bridge to the “real reality”. The reality, as we describe it, is a construction made by us in social interaction. However, some versions of reality may be preferable to others. The third basic assumption is closely connected with the second one: Some versions of the school-reality, as teachers construct it, are preferable to gain success in the studies of students in need of special support. Does the teacher construct at reality where educating the heterogeneous group means a challenge or an impossibility?
Aim and questions
The aim of the study is to elucidate the sense making and negotiation about the educational ideals and intentions of “equality in education” (UBS, 2009, 270) among teachers in vocational education in Swedish-speaking parts of Finland.
Central questions are:
What kind of versions of students in need of special support do vocational education teachers construct?
How is the meaning of the mission "The whole educational institution shall promote the learning of students in need of special support" (UBS, 2009, 271) described and negotiated?
What kind of possible development do the teachers talk about concerning their own activity in relation to students in need of special support?
How can the communicated experiences be understood as a starting point for the advancement of "equality in education" (UBS, 2009, 270)?
Henriksson, C. (2004). Living away from blessings: school failure as lived experience. Diss. Växjö : Växjö universitet, 2004. Växjö. Potter, J. (1996) Representing Reality. Discourse, Rhetoric and Social Construction. London: Sage Publications Potter, J & Wetherell, M. (1992). Mapping the language of racism. Discourse and the legitimation of explotation .New York: Columbia University Press. Salo, Petri (2002). Skolan som mikropolitisk organisation: en studie i det som skolan är. Vasa: Åbo Akademi Utbildningsstyrelsen/UBS (2009). Grunder för yrkesinriktad grundexamen. Föreskrift 35/011/2009. Helsingfors:Utbildningsstyrelsen[Online]. Available at http://www.oph.fi/lagar_och_anvisningar/laroplans_och_examensgrunder/yrkesinriktade_grundexamina [Cited 18.1.2012] Wetherell. M. (1998). Positioning and Interpretative Repertoires: Conversation Analysis and Post-Structuralism in Dialogue. I Discourse & Society. 1998 9: 387
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