Deaf pupils' experiences of inclusion within a mainstream primary school: a case-study

Bower, Sarah (2006). Deaf pupils' experiences of inclusion within a mainstream primary school: a case-study. EdD thesis The Open University.



The aims of the study are:
To research, and document, deaf pupils' experiences of inclusion, their perceptions of the way teachers view deafness, and to observe the effect of using sign language to educate the children within a mainstream setting.

This study has as its focus 5 deaf pupils who are part of a Hearing Impaired Unit of 20 deaf children within the Greenview mainstream primary school for 700 pupils. I focus on three research themes:
1) Inclusion. Firstly: how do deaf pupils describe/feel about their learning experience in an inclusive classroom? Secondly: are deaf pupils a unique group in tenns of their needs?
2) Pedagogy. Firstly: what educational strategies are in place to make inclusion of deaf pupils work? Secondly: how do teachers' perceptions of deafness affect their pedagogy?
3) Communication. How does the presence of a facilitator, and their participation in the classroom, influence the situation?

The philosophy influencing this study stems from a socio-constructivist perspective, and the three themes of inclusion, pedagogy and communication are revisited in each chapter. This study follows an ethnographic case study methodology, using an adaptation of Stake's (1995) 7 step methodology to address pupil issues, and Wood et aI's (1986) Moves Matrix codes to analyse pupl/teacher dialogue. Within its framework, the study uses observation and interview techniques to gain insights, from the child's perspective, as to how one school's 'inclusive' policy is experienced in practice. The study reveals surprising observations, finding that, for example:

Within the theme of inclusion:
Deaf pupils felt they could flourish within a mainstream classroom provided their unique identity and language needs were recognised and valued. They felt comfortable with "deaf aware" mainstream teachers who improved acoustic conditions within the classroom, managed audio equipment to amplify speech and kept background noise low.

Within the theme of pedagogy:
Experienced "deaf aware" teachers actively planned lessons with specialist staff to use a range of strategies suitable for deaf children's' learning. These experienced teachers adapted their communication strategies to use a more flexible approach to talking and listening.

Within the theme of communication:
BSL provides good language learning opportunities for the deaf pupils, but this is not always matched by the attitudes of mainstream staff. The mode of communication does not influence pupils as much as the strategy the teacher uses to introduce lessons. Deaf adults are necessary in the classroom to provide deaf children with mature BSL language experience and adult role models.

A summary emerges of the experiences of deaf pupils at Greenview, and the aspects of inclusion that they find most helpful to learning. Such a multi-faceted glimpse into the children's educational experience will be of interest to teachers, parents and all those involved in the disability/inclusion debate.

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