The engagement of children with learning difficulties within primary classroom interactions
This study aims to further an understanding of the engagement of children with learning difficulties in curricular activities, by focusing on classroom interactions within mainstream primary schools. In the current educational climate, there is a shift towards increasing the participation of children with special needs, alongside recent governmental guidance supporting the implementation of their right to participate. Consequently, there are a growing number of studies offering recognition of children's participation and their potential contribution. They focus on participation being determined by the teacher whereas this research portrays the view of the child in determining their own participation. The research was an exploratory, in-depth study of seven children within two contrasting school settings. The research process entailed the building of a knowledge base upon which to interpret classroom interactions. It drew upon multiple sources and methods of data collection, to identify emerging factors and categories pertaining to children's engagement. The emerging factors fell into three distinct categories; resource engagement, focus of engagement and engagement in the task agenda. Resource engagement is concerned with children's utilisation of social and physical resources whilst focus of engagement considered the subject of children's attention. Lastly, engagement in the task agenda covered the response of the child to the activities set by the teacher. Relevant theories were used to help further an understanding of the identified categories of children's engagement, and focused in particular on three theoretical tenets pertaining to active, subjective and interactive processes. When these three processes were used constitutively, two conclusive themes emerged. Firstly, that engagement is a demonstration of children's autonomy and self-governance and secondly, that engagement is a process by which children become more knowledgeable about their classroom environment and develop autonomous responses to external requirements.