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Interaction with the Environment – part of the Education for Pupils with Intellectual Disabilities – or Not?
University of Borås, Faculty of Librarianship, Information, Education and IT. (Jedi)
University of Borås, Faculty of Librarianship, Information, Education and IT. (Jedi)
2023 (English)Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

This presentation gives some insight into ongoing work on the teaching practice regarding interaction and communication for students with intellectual disabilities in Swedish compulsory schools. The study is a partial result of the Interteach project, which is a national Swedish study carried out at the University of Borås, where we ask teachers about the teaching practice (regarding communication and interaction) encountered by pupils with intellectual disabilities. In a study by Frostlund & Nordgren (2022) it is established that there exists a teaching gap among Swedish compulsory schools for children with intellectual disabilities, i.e the evidence-based programs that are used, AAC, PECS, EIBI and TEACCH (Thunberg, 2007, Bondy & Frost, 2011, Klintwall & Eikeseth, 2014, Fletcher-Campbell, 2003, Mesibov, Shea & Schopler, 2004) differ within the country in regard to the teachers’ CPD and previous education. In addition, the established evidence-based teaching strategies do not always promote interaction and learning for pupils. Partial results of a current quantitative census survey will be presented together with some analyses of the presence of interaction in the teaching practice for pupils with intellectual disabilities in Sweden as a whole. The theoretical starting point for this study is that interaction is necessary in teaching and foundational to pupils’ learning in development of intersubjective understanding (Trevarthen, 1979). 

The compulsory school for students with intellectual disabilities, i.e., the special school in Sweden, as well as schools in other Nordic countries are organized according to The Salamanca statement and Framework for Action in Special Needs Education (UNESCO, 1994), which means education should be employed from an inclusive perspective. The Nordic countries as well as many European countries ratified the Salamanca statement in 1994. During recent decades there has been an increasing demand for scientifically validated teaching practices in school due to a general understanding of the school system as problematic and lacking equivalence (Biesta, 2007; Levinsson, 2013; OECD, 2007). There is a lack of studies that focus on specific aspects regarding evidence-based teaching programs regarding communication and interaction för pupils with intellectual disabilities. In the current study the purpose is to investigate the teachers’ experiences regarding in what way interaction is part of their daily teaching of students with intellectual disabilities.

Research questions for the present study were:

  1. To what extent do teachers believe that it is important that students with autism and extensive communication difficulties have the opportunity to interact with their surroundings?
  2. To what extent do teachers believe that it is important to use communication maps for students with autism who have no communication skills?
  3. To what extent do teachers believe that it is important to use talking devices for students with autism without communication skills?
  4. Do teachers claim that students at their school work mainly independently on their work station?
  5. Do teachers claim that students at their school unit are given the opportunity for daily interaction with other students during teacher-led activities?
  6. Do teachers claim that the students at their school unit are given the opportunity for individual interaction in teaching with their teachers every day?
  7. Do teachers claim that the students at their school unit are given the opportunity to interaction with adults during the school day?
  8. Do the students at the teachers’ school unit get the opportunity for targeted language training with for example a speech therapist one to several times a week?
  9. What is the relationship between the attitudes (questions 1-3) and the extent to which the various evidence-based programs are used in Sweden as a whole?
  10. What is the relationship between the attitudes (question 1-3) and the extent as to which the students get the possibility to interact? 

Method

The ongoing project Interteach is carried out at the University of Borås. In this Swedish national quantitative census survey, we ask all teachers in Sweden who are formally qualified and currently employed at Swedish compulsory schools for pupils with intellectual disabilities, questions about the teaching practice regarding interaction and communication. Research questions in the current study regard to what extent and in what way interaction is involved in the teachers’ daily work with the children. For the study a survey was conducted through the university web system Sunet survey and distributed to a total of 418 teachers that are formally qualified and currently employed at compulsory schools in Sweden for students with intellectual disabilities. The response rate, 403 teachers out of 418 teachers, was about 96%. The teachers in the current study teach students who are between 7-15 years old. 56% teach students 7-12 years of age and the remaining teachers work with students grade 7-9 (students between 13-15 years of age). The survey consisted of 19 closed and 1 open-ended question, where one question (question 19) is used for the present study and the other 18 questions are used in a previous study (Frostlund & Nordgren, 2022).   

The ethical principles for Swedish research according to the Swedish Research Council are a ground for the present study. No unauthorized persons are able to process the information. In addition, neither the teachers, the schools or the pupils can be identified because the results are presented anonymously on regional, national levels. Also, we ourselves had no information about the specific individuals in the study. The respondents gave their informed consent when entering the study and filling out the survey.  

Expected Outcomes 

Increased knowledge on evidence-based methods for pupils with intellectual disability in Swedish compulsory schools is expected to lay the ground for further studies, which may lead to development of the education för pupils with intellectual disabilities. This survey makes analyses of teachers’ experiences and views on their teaching practice possible on a national Swedish level, but the study may also have implications for evidence-based teaching in other Nordic countries as well as European countries and contribute to the discussion on evidence-based methods worldwide. Based on a previous study (Frostlund & Nordgren, 2022) this study takes a further scope on the education for pupils with intellectual disabilities in Sweden and directs the attention towards interaction in education. A conclusion of the previous study was that the teaching profession is in need of scientific guidance in order to establish the best possible teaching practice for pupils with intellectual disabilities. The reason for this is that only a small proportion of teachers have received formal teacher training and CPD on evidence-based programs. The present study explores the relationship between to what extent pupils have the possibility to interact during the school day and the teachers attitudes on this matter. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2023.
National Category
Pedagogy
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:hb:diva-30459OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hb-30459DiVA, id: diva2:1795543
Conference
European Conference on Educational Research, ECER, Glasgow, UK, 22-25 August, 2023.
Available from: 2023-09-08 Created: 2023-09-08 Last updated: 2023-09-14Bibliographically approved

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Nordgren, PiaFrostlund, Jörgen

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