The innovative practitioner : reconceptualising the special needs task
This study has two main themes. The first is concerned with re-examining the relationship between 'ordinary' and 'special' education in the light of developments in thinking and practice over the past decade. A case study approach was used to explore the limits and limitations of the thesis that 'special educational needs' can be most effectively addressed as part of a process of general curriculum critique and development designed to benefit all children. Pursuing questions and concerns arising from my own experience as a support teacher, the aim of the research was to establish if there is still a place for a concept of 'special' education consistent with this interpretation of the task and, if so, on what basis a distinction might now legitimately be made. Individual children's responses to a particular instance of general curriculum development (in the teaching and learning of writing) were observed, and samples of their writing collected, over a period of several months. The analysis of this material highlighted the need for, and the means to articulate, a discourse and interpretive procedure for responding to concerns about individual children's learning which reflect and enact the critique of 'learning difficulties' understood as an individual problem. Having reformulated the original thesis to include an individual dimension, the study concludes that what is needed to resolve the questions raised initially is not, after all, a new distinction between 'ordinary' and 'special' education, but a distinction of a quite different order: one which draws attention to different kinds of professional thinking, and highlights the critical and innovative nature of the thinking required. The second, subsidiary theme is a methodological one. It explores what the study itself may have to contribute to the establishment of a mode of research derived from teaching. Claiming to use no 'methods' other than the interpretive resources and experience of a teacher, the study uses its own processes to explore and establish its methodological status, and in particular to consider the significance of prior experience in the development of new knowledge about education.