Students negotiating the borders between general and special education classes: an ethnographic and participatory research study

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Although Finnish basic education is based on inclusion, 37% of students receiving special support still study in either separate schools or separate classes in comprehensive schools. In this study we explore how policies of inclusion are implemented in a school with separated special educational needs (SEN) and general education (GE) classes. More specifically we conducted a two-year ethnographic study focusing particularly on exclusion and the sense of belonging in a lower secondary school (students aged 13–16) in the capital region of Finland. During the fieldwork, several students attending the SEN-class expressed an interest in changing from the SEN-class to a GE-class, or in breaking the borders between SEN and GE classes in other ways. As part of the negotiations with the school, students who criticised the GE- and SEN-class division were offered an opportunity to transfer to GE-classes but in the end, all of them wanted to stay in the SEN-class. In this investigation, we focus on the students’ reasoning and the teachers’ reactions when students negotiate the borders between SEN and GE-classes. In this study we found a clash between integration and inclusive thinking.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Special Needs Education
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)586-600
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 20 Oct 2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 516 Educational sciences
  • Special educational needs
  • exclusion
  • inclusion
  • integration
  • ethnography
  • collaborative research

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