10 SES 04 A, Parallel Paper Session
Parallel Paper Session
The challenge for initial teacher education (ITE) to prepare all teachers to teach a diversity of pupils, including children with special educational needs (SEN) and disabilities, is recognised internationally and given impetus from widespread moves towards inclusive education (European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education, 2011; WHO, 2011). In England, concerns have continued to be expressed about the inadequacy of initial training in this aspect of teaching (OFSTED, 2008), although SEN has an apparent priority focus in recent government ITE proposals (DfE, 2010).
The relatively low priority of special needs aspects in English ITE can be partly attributed to the complexity of the partnership model of initial training in which school based experiences and mentoring have assumed greater importance. Since the introduction of SEN aspects in the initial training standards, the predominant model for these aspects can be described as one of ‘permeation’, whereby SEN elements are supposed to be integrated into subject teaching knowledge and practice on campus and in school. But, such permeation can become invisible to trainees and is not consistently supported in school placements. Trainee teachers spend a significant proportion of their training in schools gaining practical classroom experience with the support of school-based teacher-mentors (18 weeks in a one year primary programme and 24 weeks in a secondary programme). With regard to special educational needs, however, this school-based preparation may not necessarily provide the required coverage and, being dependent on the specific provision within the school, experiences may be very variable (OFSTED, 2008). Through programme input it is generally hoped to provide knowledge, influence attitudes and give some introduction to practice (Lambe, 2007; Mintz, 2007). Teachers' beliefs and attitudes, however, are also influenced by the norms and cultures of a school (Jordan and Stanovich, 2003) and shaped by their interactions with teachers in schools through their school placements (Pearson, 2009), so attention to special educational needs is important in school placements as well as in university programmes.
This paper asks how trainee teachers engage in making decisions about what they ‘do’, their pedagogical decision making, in relation to the teaching of pupils with SEN. This particular focus is drawn from the wider findings of a national project which investigated what and how trainee teachers learn about teaching pupils with SEN in the school-based part of their ITE programme, The project also examined university/school partnership, school organisational and classroom pedagogic processes. The questions examined in this paper are:
- What (sort of) pedagogical decisions do trainees make regarding pupils with SEN?
- How do trainees make these decisions? On what basis?
- Where and how have they learned their pedagogical responses?
- How do these relate to wider pedagogical practice?
Responses to these questions contribute to knowledge about designing and supporting school based activities to enhance initial professional learning to teach pupils with SEN.
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