Nothing special – the everyday pedagogy of teaching

Rix, Jonathan and Sheehy, Kieron (2014). Nothing special – the everyday pedagogy of teaching. In: Florian, Lani ed. Sage Handbook of Special Education, Volume 2. London: Sage, pp. 459–474.



This chapter examines the question of whether there are special pedagogies which involve special practices and produce special outcomes. Certainly, there are a plethora of teaching approaches found within Special Education settings, which may also be associated with specific groups of children, and that can have a long tradition arising from the ways in which educational systems have responded to the diversity of children in society . Meijer (2003), for example, suggested that roughly 2.1% of European students were in segregated provision even though countries were developing a continuum of services, with special schools increasingly seen as resources for mainstream.

In general, outcome reviews do not find advantages for specialist settings (Presidents Commission on Excellence in Special Education, 2002). However, this does not necessarily indicate strong evidence for inclusive settings either. As Lindsay points out the results from 1300 studies published between 2000 and 2005 suggest a marginally positive effect overall (Lindsay, 2007). There have been many studies that have tried to demonstrate the impact of inclusive provision. Inevitably these have had to use segregated provision as the comparison. Most studies and reviews find that mainstream does not disadvantage students (Meijer 2001; Farrell et al 2007; Canadian Council on Learning, 2009;) whilst some find positive correlations between mainstream placement and a variety of outcome measures (Curcic, 2009). There are also mixed results for specific groups of pupils in specific curriculum areas. For example significant gains in language and numeracy skills for children labelled as having Down syndrome (Buckley, Bird, Sacks & Archer, 2006; Appleton, Buckley & MacDonald, 2002; Laws, Byrne & Buckley, 2000) and in maths for children with a broad range of SEN characteristics (Vanlaar & Van Damme, 2012) can be juxtaposed with a review of 30 years of studies into the education of children facing speech and language difficulties, which concluded that in-class support was no more effective than ‘pull out’ models (Cirrin et al, 2010).

Given the focus of this chapter however a key factor identified across these studies are the wide variations between individual settings and approaches to teaching and learning. Regardless of whether there is a shift in the site of provision, and regardless of the range of issues which the notions of special and mainstream bring with them, the fundamental question remains about whether effective pedagogy reflects underpinning practices common to any learning context. It is this question which will be our focus here.

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