Special education aims to provide the beneficiary with as much education as his/her counterpart who has disabilities. Many nations have passed laws requiring learners with disabilities to learn in a less restrictive environment (Mowat, 2010). This is informed by the desire to enable children with disabilities to receive as much education as other children. Educators and other stakeholders have to come up with models that allow students with disabilities to learn in the “normal” classroom. The strategies, however, need to be reviewed so that they raise the achievements of disabled learners. In the provision of special education, it is very important to incorporate specialists’ knowledge (Mowat, 2010). The authors of the article claim that mainstream teachers show little concern for learners with disabilities who are integrated into their classrooms. The lack of concern is apparent in their lack of planning, allocation of time, and appropriation of resources to special learners.
In cognizance of the need to provide high-quality education to learners with disabilities, educationists and policymakers have endeavored to empower teachers to deliver the same. The purpose of the article is “to map out and assess the effectiveness of the different approaches and strategies used to teach pupils with the full range of SEN” (Davis & Florian, pp. 9, 2004). The authors state that there is a need to identify the best teaching methodologies so that special children are empowered. The research seeks to answer several questions. The first question is to identify the teaching strategies for learners with SEN (special education needs). The second question is to ascertain if the strategies identified helped improve performance. The third and last question is to come up with the best strategies and approaches that can improve the intellectual and behavioral achievement of learners with disabilities.
To answer the questions, the authors employ a two-phased approach. The first phase is a literature review in which the authors delve into the theoretical perspectives and principles behind the education of SEN. The phase lasted for one month in 2003. The results of the literature review are analyzed vis-à-vis the second and third research questions because the two last questions are futuristic. Given the broad nature of publications on SEN, the authors map the discipline to focus on approaches and strategies only.
The research used four criteria, labeled as strands, to categorize the children with special needs. Practitioners in the area of disabilities had to certify them as disabled. The following are the four areas as propounded by Davis and Florian (2004): “communication and interaction, cognition and learning, behavior, emotional and social development, and sensory/physical” (10). Heads of faculties from Manchester and the University of Cambridge led individual teams. Each head had an assistant who also served as the link between the two universities. Based in the UK and US, the researchers took one year to complete their studies. The authors use several publications for the literature review. A total of 30 SEN learners were involved in the study. Davis and Florian (2004) admit that they never applied specific approaches for their reviews.
The data shows the presence of many teaching approaches in the teaching of learners with disabilities. The most common one is the use of individualized education plans. Each learner’s plan is drawn according to his/her own needs in this approach. The learners are in a mainstream setting with their colleagues who have no disabilities. Out of all the schools under study, only a third were purely special education centers, most of which were designed for severe physical and behavioral disabilities. Teachers lacked the requisite skills to handle learners with special needs, especially where their number exceeded ten per class. Additionally, half of the teachers interviewed reported dissatisfaction with their teaching techniques. They reported the lack of resources as the main hindrance in their pursuit to impact knowledge.
A majority of the teachers used the traditional chalk and board method for presentation. Schools with more resources had a co-teacher in addition to the main teacher. However, most of the co-teachers were either interns or untrained teachers. The assistant teachers did not have professional training and drive to deliver educational services to special learners. Learners’ feelings were factored in the study. Students co-taught for a year and above were satisfied because they performed better in literacy and numeracy than their counterparts who lacked co-teachers.
Teachers were inadequately prepared to handle behavioral problems in class. Most of them relied on discussions and group activities to enhance the social skills of learners. In most cases, however, they lacked the skills to manage the groups so that they gained quantifiable social skills. Educators rarely follow individualized education plans. IEP is well written and stacked on shelves to gather dust as classes unfold naturally. In mainstream integrated classes, learners are hardly given the time required to make sure they catch up. The gifted and talented are merely dissuaded from doing further work or given different activities all together.
The authors suggest several implications for teaching learners with SEN. Schools should constantly be reviewing their teaching methods so that they meet the evolving needs of learners. Before handling learners, co-teachers should undergo rigorous training. Additionally, special schools should incorporate new technologies to avoid overreliance on traditional presentation techniques.
The article is succinct and informative to all education stakeholders because of the way it delves into the matters of special education. It makes it clear that schools should demand more from teachers, not just present in class and a well-written IEP. It lays bare the cause of poor performance as the lack of adequate preparation for teachers. Many co-teachers and assistants are ill-trained and ill-prepared to handle learners in a special class. It is imperative that policymakers re-think inclusive classes for learners with specific disabilities. For instance, students with behavioral disabilities may not achieve a lot if they study along with non-disabled students unless the environment is supportive.
I have particularly found the article helpful because I am training to be a teacher. The implications given by the authors speak directly to me. I will avoid the pitfalls that teachers fall into when handling an inclusive class. I will show more concern, prepare adequately, and strike a working rapport with my co-teacher and assistants. By reading the article, I will become more useful in my profession and get more satisfaction. I recommend the study to all practicing and aspiring teachers.
The strength of the article is its ability to dissect the various learning disabilities vis-à-vis teaching strategies. It also extrapolates and relates teaching approaches to different levels of studies. For those reasons, I find the article beneficial to me as an education student and to the entire teaching fraternity.
Davis, P. & Florian, L. (2004).Teaching Strategies and Approaches for Pupils with Special Educational Needs: A scoping Study. Journal of social sciences, 1 (1) 3-90.
Mowat, J. (2010). Inclusion of pupils perceived as experiencing social and emotional behavioural difficulties (SEBD): Affordances and constraints. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 14(6), 631-648.