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Creating a supportive learning environment for students with learning difficulties

Jana Grah (2013) Creating a supportive learning environment for students with learning difficulties. PhD thesis.

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    Abstract

    Co-building of supporting learning environment for the learners with learning difficulties is one of the 21st century inclusive school’s elements. Since the physical presence of learners with learning difficulties in the classroom does not self-evidently lead to an effective co-operation and implementation of 21st century inclusive school, I have dedicated my doctor thesis to the establishment of supporting learning environment for the learners with learning difficulties in primary school with the co-building strategy research. The supporting learning environment for the learners with learning difficulties represents an opportunity for all – learners, educators, parents and professional workers, to gain positive experience in education and training process. The table of contents of the theoretical introduction has been organised in a way that it represents a number of elements of inclusive conceptual framework for implementation of the Slovene 5-step model of learning support for learners with learning difficulties. I have represented the legal basis for education and training process of learners with learning difficulties and rights of the child, integration and inclusion, the development of the inclusive practice and partner relationship with parents in an inclusive school. Further on, special education and training needs of learners with learning difficulties have been represented and the types and subgroups of learning difficulties – precisely learners with general and specific learning difficulties have been described. Being aware of them is the key factor for performing help and for the realization of changes in the learning environment according to 5-step model of learning support. We can accomplish the changes in the learning environment in the context of inclusion according to 5-step model of learning support by co-building a supporting physical, social, didactical and curricular learning environment. The introduction itself concludes with the representation of elements of learning environment and important statements regarding these elements. The concept of team co-building defines the professional worker and the learner as co-builders of the supporting process. The project of supporting learners with learning difficulties defines the co-building as a process, in which we have to identify and analyse the student’s knowledge and needs as much as the elements, which have to be secured in the learning environment. Among the most frequent barriers for the successful inclusion of learners with learning difficulties in education and training system of primary school are general beliefs and viewpoints, the conservative school tradition, insufficient qualification of teachers for detecting and treating learners with learning difficulties, small support of team work by school management and special educational system, insufficient willingness of schools and society to accept changes, which are needed for implementation of inclusion with the help of co-building the encouraging learning environment in school. Professional workers’ attitudes towards learners have to be changed and active participation of learners with learning difficulties in the supporting process has to increase. (Mitchell, 2008; Viola, 2006; Čačinovič Vogrinčič, 2011) That is why the sample of the empirical part of my doctor thesis includes professional workers, learners and parents, with whom I have researched and formed a supporting learning environment in a primary school. One goal of the present doctor thesis is a systematic assessment of the learning environment elements. The analysis of the situation represents the starting-point for the change of physical, didactic, curricular and social learning environment with the help of co-building of conditions according to 5-step model of learning support. I wanted to: (1) ascertain how individual groups of professional workers with regard to their role in the primary school (headmasters, teachers of primary schools of 1st-5th grade and 6th-9th grade, counsellors and mobile special-pedagogic service), parents and learners assess the learning environment, (2) to identify and research the latent structures of groups and differences among comprehension and possible stereotypical comprehension of learning environment among individual groups, (3) to identify the differences and connectivity among counsellors̕ perceptions, learners and parents on the basis of criterion variable, while only a common vision and co-building between them can lead to the development of supporting physical, didactic, curricular and social learning environment in the primary school. I have also been looking for the answers to questions and statements regarding which elements of the supporting learning environment can be found in the primary school and which conclusions can be drawn on the basis of results of supporting learning environment’s co-building realization in primary school according to 5-step model of learning support. The research sample presented two groups of people. The first group, included in the quantitative part of the research, consisted of 786 people (323 professional workers, 244 learners and 219 parents), who gave, with the help of survey questionnaire, the assessment of supporting learning environment situation. The second group, included in the qualitative part of the research, consisted of 209 people (99 counsellors, 60 learners with learning difficulties and 50 parents) from 38 primary schools, who studied in their practical work the co-building of the supporting learning environment in the first three steps of 5-step model of learning support. In the research, the quantitative and qualitative have been used for the processing of statistical data, namely: basic parametric statistics for describing the sample and survey of the whole sample of variables; frequency distribution of all variables from particulars to answers and arithmetic mean; standard deviation for numerical answers; factor analysis for determination of questionnaire’s validity and reliability; canonical discriminant analysis of differences among several answers according to the individual group for discovering latent structures; χ2-test; Levene’s test of homogeneity of variance; t-test; variance analysis; a posteriori comparisons with the Hochberg’s GT2 test and Games-Howell’s test. In the empirical part, an evaluation of the learning environment has been prepared for the research, assessment and development of elements of the learning environment, which has shown statistically important differences among the professional workers, learners and parents in the manifest and latent structure of the answers about learning environment and the use of co-building strategy. Professional workers, learners and parents assess elements of the physical learning environment (the organization and equipment of the school and classrooms), didactic and curricular learning environment differently, especially those connected to the field of knowledge examination and assessment. The most obvious differences are in the social learning environment element evaluations, which are reflected in the school relation experiences and in paying respect to abilities of learners with learning difficulties. The characteristics and the course of events with various possible experiences and treatment of professional workers, learners and parents have been discovered. I have formed corresponding descriptions of supporting learning environment co-building for learners with learning difficulties, illustrations and explanations, which describe the path to a different, inclusive school of the 21st century. The results of the variance and discriminant analysis as the value of discriminant functions prove statistically important differences among the answers of the professional workers, learners and parents. The key element regarding the change of self-evidence in the organization, mentality and treatment with the goal of greater connection and understanding among them for the welfare of the learner with learning difficulties is the abolishment of one of the established differences between the groups regarding the statement: “School professional workers respect the learners and trust in their abilities.” (F1=0.681; F2=-0.295) I have ascertained that professional workers, learners and parents are in the process of changing their viewpoints, mentality and treatment, but they differ in their opinion about respecting special education and training needs of learners with learning difficulties. From the comparison of the answers’ latent structure of the individual groups it is clear that professional workers want the realization of changes in the learning environment in the direction of 21st century inclusive school implementation, but they do not have the sufficient knowledge to discover the characteristics and special needs as they do not have the sufficient knowledge to perform strategies of good teaching practice. Professional workers do not include or do not include enough the learners into the process of support. Co-building is a process in which a safe learning environment, promotion and evaluation of professional workers, learners and parents are established, but it is still not optimally developed in school. Professional workers, learners and parents need to be more connected with each other or invited to form a common vision to continue the changing process of the learning environment together and to include the learners in the process and respect them. That is why they a numerous opportunities have to be offered to them which enable them to make an analysis of the present situation and which enable them to develop the co-building process at realization of changes in learning environment in primary school. The research has made it possible to make the analysis of the present learning environment situation, which contributes to a better understanding of the supporting learning environment’s development perspective in primary school with the help of co-building strategy of professional workers, learners and parents. The research itself draws our attention to the barriers and defects in supporting learning environment’s co-building process and it lays stress on the meaning of forming and maintaining the co-creative relations at school. The contribution to the scientific development of special and rehabilitation pedagogy is in research and development of the supporting learning environment for learners with learning difficulties in primary school with the help of co-building strategy. In the empirical part, the doctor thesis contributes to the development of the pedagogical theory and practice with the presentation of examples of supporting learning environment’s co-building good practice and expressing the experience and opinion of professional workers, learners and parents. The applicative contribution of the doctor thesis is in the empirical part of the thesis, expressed by forming of instruments, used for the research, evaluation and development of the learning environment elements and realization of changes in teaching practice. I present a way of supporting learning environment’s co-building for learners with learning difficulties at primary school.

    Item Type: Thesis (PhD thesis)
    Keywords: inclusive education, learners with learning difficulties, 5-step model of learning support the concept of team-based co-building in pedagogical practice, learning environment, learning environment elements, learning environment evaluation
    Number of Pages: 333
    Language of Content: Slovenian
    Mentor / Comentors:
    Mentor / ComentorsIDFunction
    izr. prof. dr. Marija KavklerMentor
    izr. prof. dr. Gabi Čačinovič VogrinčičComentor
    Link to COBISS: http://www.cobiss.si/scripts/cobiss?command=search&base=50126&select=(ID=9898313)
    Institution: University of Ljubljana
    Department: Faculty of Education
    Item ID: 1950
    Date Deposited: 11 Dec 2013 14:19
    Last Modified: 11 Dec 2013 14:19
    URI: http://pefprints.pef.uni-lj.si/id/eprint/1950

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