Diversity as a Norm - a Case Study of a "Special School"



Year of publication 2022
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
Description The “Special school” case study uses the situational analysis framework (Clarke, 2005). Data were collected in 2019-2020. Researchers analyzed data from more than 100 hours of participatory observation, five in-depth semi-structured interviews, and many school documents. Students with special educational needs already attended this school before the Czech Republic passed the inclusive legislation. These institutional experiences are interconnected with experiences on an individual level. Together they create an environment where diversity is the norm. A diverse student population was present at school for more than two decades. The school has gained individual and institutional (historical) experience with diversity. Therefore, it is more resistant to external pressures of social norms. Teachers are used to the presence of diverse pupils. They are able to adjust their teaching practices, so the potential of all students is developed. The possibility to make education differentiated is supported by the fact that the average number of pupils in the classroom is only 19-23 and by the active involvement of teaching assistants. Teaching assistants are in many aspects viewed as partners, and this role is also supported by the conscious work with the spatial arrangement and language tools (in some classes, they are addressed as “teacher”). Importantly, also pupils are used to being around and interacting with diverse schoolmates. The school management strongly supports these elements. It is not only an administrative body. School management personnel are pedagogical leaders who actively reinforce the environment where diversity is the norm. They intentionally set effective and respectful communication processes across school personnel and working cooperation within teacher-teaching assistant dyads (Jardí et al., 2022; Sharma & Salend, 2016). Moreover, school management consciously selects future employees who share their views on inclusive education. They support the further professional development of all educational professionals, which brings positive changes in their abilities and attitudes (Tristani & Bassett-Gunter, 2020). Thanks to all these experiences and conscious efforts of all involved actors, the meritocratic discourse (Batruch et al., 2019; Young, 1958) is not prevailing. This means, among other things, that it is not necessary to meet the norm of constant competition. Instead, all these aspects of the “Special school” environment contribute to the general perception that diversity is an everyday experience and the norm.

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