Students with special needs are increasingly placed in inclusive classrooms; however, some inclusive practices continue to marginalize these students. The belief that students with special needs have difficulties in understanding abstract concepts often leads to a watered-down curriculum, with the content significantly reduced in both depth and quantity. As a result they are denied access to a challenging curriculum. This problem is especially common in the subject of Mathematics. Perceiving limitations in conceptual understanding, teachers focus on teaching the operation of the rules (such as memory procedures) rather than the rationale behind these rules. Recent research has explored different ways to foster inclusive practices such as differentiated instructional strategies and teaching arrangements. This paper proposes another approach to catering for students with special needs in inclusive classrooms, based on the learning Theory of Variation (Marton and Booth, 1997). When planning a lesson, teachers first identify the critical features of a particular object of learning that he/she intends the students to learn. The critical features relate to students’ present difficulties in learning this object of learning. The teacher then makes use of variation as a pedagogical tool to help students discern the critical features. The paper discusses the evidence gained from two Mathematics’ Learning Studies conducted in two primary schools; both having inclusive classes. These studies provide some provisional evidence of the effectiveness of Learning Study in catering students with special needs in inclusive classrooms.
|Published - May 2005