This doctoral dissertation studies the role of a teacher in the placement process of children with special needs. The central theme of my research deals with the opinion of teachers in regard to already existing treatments of children in the process of placement with the focus on cooperation and the role of a teacher and child’s parents.
In the theoretical part I present some theories of postmodernism as the starting points of inclusion. I present the key factors in the concept of education of children with special needs, I describe various discourses and define the importance of the transition from medical to pedagogical discourse in the placement process of children with special needs. Furthermore, I focus on the importance of the teacher’s viewpoints, his role and competences in integrating students with special needs in mainstream schools. I also present the role of parents in including their children in the educational process and their cooperation in the placement process.
Guidance of children with special needs is lawfully regulated; therefore I also focus on the core international documents and laws regarding the process of placement, children’s rights and equal possibilities. I describe the systems of the placement process of children with special needs in some countries in the world and the practice of some in the European Union. Inclusion of children with special needs depends on their educational needs, therefore I describe and define the population of children with special educational needs and their basic educational needs. At the end of the theoretical part I focus on the description of the placement process in Slovenia, with the emphasis on the role and involvement of the teacher and the parents’ role in it.
The principal purpose of this dissertation was to research and analyse already existing ways of placement of children with special needs and the teacher’s role in that process, to recognise and analyse the teacher’s competences and knowledge about the child with special needs and if their active cooperation in the process influences the quality of the placement process. Because cooperation of the teacher and the parents in the child’s educational process is a key factor, which is also detailed in the goals and principles of education of children with special needs, I also wanted to know the parents’ opinions about the placement process and about the teachers’ and their own role in it.
The empirical part of my research is based on a qualitative methodological approach. I gathered the data by analysing documentation and half-structured interviews with 37 teachers and 29 parents of the children with special needs, all together there were 66 persons. The analysis of the documentation and the qualitative analysis of the discussions with teachers and parents explained the importance of the teacher’s role in the placement process, in regard to his competences and active approach.
The teachers and parents of the children with special needs emphasised the importance of a teacher’s active approach in the placement process, especially because of their knowledge about the child in everyday learning situations. Since early recognition and proper response to a child’s educational needs are crucial, that was also highlighted in the responses. My research showed that the realisation of a teacher’s role in the placement process is still normatively inadequately regulated, since it does not encourage pedagogical discourse, but rather maintains the medical model and professionalism, at least in the sense of the mandatory structure of Commission, in which the teacher does not participate and only provides a written or oral opinion. The research also found that the already existing ways of placement do not encourage implementation of inclusive practice in an everyday school environment, since an inactive and marginal role of the teachers can lead to a reflection about their incompetence in working with children with special needs. Parents of the children with special needs expressed that with a more active approach from the teacher, who is well acquainted with the learning curriculum and goals, the contents of the professional opinion could be better targeted towards ways of working with the child. The teacher could, in a case of having an active role in Commission, transfer the knowledge and findings to an everyday class situation.
Findings of this research promote further reflection and shaping of new suggestions for creating systemic solutions concerning a complete inclusion of teachers in the work of Commission, understanding the responsibility of their role and with that indirectly increasing the quality of the placement process and achieving inclusive education.