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Two Different Theoretical Approaches on how to Understand the Role of SENCOs and Special Teachers in the Swedish Educational System
Dalarna University, School of Education and Humanities, Education.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-3228-9430
Dalarna University, School of Education and Humanities, Education.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-4793-871X
2012 (English)In: NFPF/NERA's 40th Congress: Everyday life, education and their transformations in a Nordic and globalized context, Department of Education (DPU), Aarhus University, Copenhagen, Denmark, 2012Conference paper, Abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Two Different Theoretical Approaches on how to Understand the Role of SENCOs and Special Teachers in the Swedish Educational System.

The aim of this paper is to investigate the roles of SENCOs and Special Teachers by using the perspectives of Habermas’ linguistic philosophical role theory and Abbott’s system of professions and the division of expert labor.

 

Background

Swedish special needs education has two different but similar professions – Special educational needs coordinators (SENCOs) and special teachers. Special teachers in Swedish schools have traditionally been the occupational group that worked with children in need of special support. They usually taught children individually or in small groups outside the classroom. The introduction of SENCOs, in the early 1990´s, challenged this traditional way of dealing with school difficulties where school problems often have been seen as individual deficiencies (c.f. Ainscow, 1998; Malmgren-Hansen, 2002). In 2008 the Swedish government initiated a restart of the education for special teachers with the aim to focus their work on the individual-level interaction (SFS 2008:132).

    The role of these two professions – SENCOs and the “new” special teachers - are of special interest since SENCOs often have been seen as having a pivotal role in initiating changes towards more inclusive practices (e.g. Abbot, 2007, Malmgren-Hansen, 2002) and special teachers have traditionally been seen primarily as guardians of segregated practices (Malmgren-Hansen, 2002; Ahlefeld Nisser, 2009).  

    Previous studies on the role of SENCOs (Ahlefeld Nisser, 2009; Lindqvist & Nilholm, 2011b) and on the “new” special teachers (Ahlefeld Nisser, 2011) have shown difficulties for the two professions to acquire full jurisdiction and thus challenge traditional ways of dealing with school difficulties, the deficit-perspective and segregated solutions in schools.

Theoretical framework

Abbott (1988) studies relations between different professions and different professions’ development over time. He sheds light on how professions control the fields of e.g. work, knowledge, clientele and actions. Abbott (1988) argues against the traditional way of describing professions as exclusive occupational groups with special, usually abstract skills that develop irrespectively of other professions and external pressure. “Professionalism has been viewed as a matter of individual choices and corporate action taken to protect or extend them” (Abbott, 1988:7). Instead, Abbott sees professionals as interdependent groups with common work. This is a matter of jurisdictional control: “Who has control of what, when and who?”

Habermas' linguistic philosophical role theory (1995/1981, part II; 2007) deals with the relationship between a person’s social world he or she is part of, the outer world of facts and norms and the subjective world to which he/she has privileged access to. 

Findings and relevance

By using Habermas’ perspective the roles of SENCOs and special teachers can be understood as constructed in relation to the context in which they work, in relation to the statutes and their assignments, and in relation to their own expectations and expectations from other groups, e.g. colleagues and parents (Ahlefeld Nisser, 2009). One can assume that interests and discourses among different occupational groups play a major role in the persistence of old special educational structures. As Abbott (1988) suggests, there is a constant struggle and negotiation between different professional groups concerning who should have the control of what and who, e.g. of work, clientele and actions.

Our research show that there are possibilities and obstacles for SENCOs and special teachers to fulfil their commitment in Swedish schools. We found that the theoretical frameworks mentioned above can be useful in understanding the roles of SENCOs and special teachers.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Department of Education (DPU), Aarhus University, Copenhagen, Denmark, 2012.
Keyword [en]
Special education, SENCO, special teacher, Habermas' linguistic philosophical role theory, division of labor, jurisdictional control.
National Category
Pedagogy
Research subject
Utbildning och lärande
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:du-6441OAI: oai:dalea.du.se:6441DiVA: diva2:522529
Conference
NFPF/NERA's 40th Congress: Everyday life, education and their transformations in a Nordic and globalized context. , Department of Education (DPU), Aarhus University, Copenhagen, Denmark, 8-10 March, 2012
Available from: 2012-03-12 Created: 2012-03-12 Last updated: 2015-03-19Bibliographically approved

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