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E801: Action 3.10: Considering special interventions

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Norwich, B. & Lewis, A. (2009) 'Mapping a pedagogy for special educational needs' [Reader 2]

What are the authors' doubts on the value of specialist interventions?

  • Effective teaching is the same for all pupils - common pedagogy position (see p173)
  • SEN-specific pedagogies do not account for the individual approach. Learners have complex needs e.g. a learner may be deaf and from a literacy-rich background OR deaf and from a literacy-poor background OR at any point in between and with many other variations such as the student I worked with who was deaf, EFL learner, literacy rich background with dyslexia.
    i.e. more within-group differences than out-group differences
  • Most studies do not examine how carefully the programme is implemented by teachers

What evidence do they cite for their criticisms of process interventions?

Process interventions = interventions focusing on presumed underlying processing difficulties p.177

  • Brooks et al. (1998) - features of effective schemes were that of normal pedagogy [p.174]
  • Wang (1999) - core features of adaptive learning [p. 174]
  • Reading Recovery results
  • Various studies suggest short interventions lose their effect and work is needed throughout learning(pp. 175, 176)
  • Stevens & Slavin (1995) Jenkins et al (1994) special ed. teachers team teaching with class teachers - better results than withdrawing children
  • Various sources such as Vellutino (1987), suggest range of approaches is important.

How convinced are you by the arguments put forward by Norwich & Lewis?

Unique differences position - refers to the need to provide something different for students with SEN i.e. differentiated teaching.

Not totally convinced either way. They suggest common teaching principles and pedagogies but with a realisation that some pupils may require more explicit and/or more extensive teaching in some areas. They also suggest that some pupils with SEN may need common teaching at some times and differentiated teaching at others.

They mention that account needs to be taken of learning styles such as a no-error approach for those with Downs Syndrome. I also find this with those students with Asperger Syndrome and in some cases with those with low self-esteem. Is this just a learning style? I would regard it as a difference of teaching approach.

They discuss a common teaching programme with plenty of examples and more practice so that the pupils can achieve mastery before they move on. Silbert et al. (1990) report that teachers have been shown to move on before low attainers have reached mastery. What about the high attainers/fast learners? When they get bored they find other ways to distract themselves from causing chaos in the classroom and distracting everyone else to doing things wrong on purpose (both examples from a small private school with 5 learners in reception class!). Should you aim this common teaching programme at the lowest end of the class? The private school where I was teaching, decided to let the children go on at their own pace so that they could concentrate on those having difficulties but struggled to cope 12 months later when there was 4 years difference between the English and Maths books that the pupils were working on. At this point there were only 12 pupils in the class and two qualified teachers. How would this work with 30 in the class? My favourite story concerns the three year old who had moved to the reception class early - just before she was 4 years old. The teacher introduced the history topic that they were about to study and set them some work to do. She realised that this pupil was missing and turned around to find she was reading on the other side of the room. She went over to her and the girl explained that she was interested in the topic but thought the teacher had got some things wrong so she was looking them up in the encyclopaedia. How do you cope with this level of differentiation?

Reid (2009) Chapter 15

The Council for the Registration of Schools Teaching Dyslexic students in the UK


Distinct provision for pupils with dyslexia - no category for schools with in-class provision

Centre for studies in inclusive Education:


I was offered a special school for my daughter who is severely deaf. I was also offered a school with a unit and I visited both. My conclusions were that she would do better academically in a special school and better socially in a school with a unit. Eventually we chose home education as she had the advantages at working at her own pace whilst hearing everything and the wide social circle of the many families in the area who home educated.

I am a little cynical about inclusive education as I have seen too many young people who have struggled through inclusive education, whose schools have proudly advertised their inclusiveness but the learners have ended up in basic education classes at college, often with an oral ability far above their written ability. Many report that they have been placed in the lowest streams at school because of their literacy difficulties when their oral academic skills are more suited to top streams.

I must get that Wearmouth (2001) article as I seem to be agreeing with much of what Reid reports! - found book at Keele Uni library so in luck for once as it is £23 at cheapest second hand!


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