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Inclusion at School: Conference enables Exchange Between Research and Practice

With a results conference of the INSIDE project, the Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories (LIfBi) has for the first time implemented a conference format targeted at participants of the INSIDE project ("Inklusion in der Sekundarstufe I in Deutschland") and therefore also at practitioners of inclusion in the school setting. In early May, the INSIDE project teams from Bamberg, Wuppertal, Berlin, and Potsdam presented selected research results from the past four years in a virtual conference and discussed them with the participants. This exchange showed that inclusion is implemented in individual schools under very different framework conditions, but that the experiences of those involved are very similar across regions and federal states.

Focus on Project

In her opening presentation, Dr. Monja Schmitt, INSIDE project manager at LIfBi in Bamberg, introduced the project, the central research questions, and the project phases (partial studies) of the past four years - also against the background of the altered situation due to the Corona pandemic. There are very different approaches in Germany on how to establish inclusion of students with special educational needs in general schools, but no meaningful representation of the actual state of inclusion. To fill this gap in research INSIDE relies on repeated surveys in which different groups of people involved in inclusion are being interviewed: Lower secondary students with and without special educational needs, parents, teachers, school administrators, and school support staff. Across Germany, approximately 280 schools and 4,600 students (13% of whom have special educational needs) are involved in INSIDE.

Focus on Corona

In 2020, further questions about learning and perceptions of school in times of Corona were added to the surveys at short notice. At the results meeting, Dr. Cornelia Gresch, INSIDE project manager at the Institute for Quality Assurance in Education (IQB) in Berlin, presented the results of the Corona survey, which was conducted in the fall of 2020 and prepared jointly with Monja Schmitt (LIfBi). Their conclusion: students with special educational needs require comparatively more support in learning at a distance and in some cases also have less favorable starting conditions, for example concerning access to digital work devices. In the lively discussion that followed, many of the participants confirmed the findings with their own experiences in school practice.

Focus on teachers

INSIDE not only looks at the situation of students with and without special educational needs, but also at the collaboration between special education and general education teachers. To this end, Prof. Dr. Michael Grosche, INSIDE project manager at the University of Wuppertal, presented the "model of cooperative co-construction" and initial findings from INSIDE in this regard. This pedagogical-didactical approach aims at learning through cooperation and social interaction.

Focus on performance assessment

The difficulties of performance assessment in an inclusive context were the topic of the presentation by Prof. Dr. Katrin Böhme, INSIDE project leader at the University of Potsdam. The underlying data were collected in spring 2019 and 2020 as part of the surveys of teachers. Here, it became apparent that differentiated benchmarks for performance assessment are indeed used for students with special educational needs. Nevertheless, performance assessment at schools in Germany is still strongly focused on grades and achievement tests. Böhme put up for discussion that alternative methods of performance assessment, which relate to the individual learning development of all students, should be given greater consideration.

Focus on school support services

A special feature of inclusive learning is school escorts, which - in addition to accessibility and disadvantage compensation - were the topic of a presentation by Lena Külker and Cornelia Gresch (IQB). The role of these persons, who individually accompany children with support needs in everyday school life, varies greatly - especially since there are (still) no uniform training standards and models throughout Germany in this area. 3% of the students who participated in INSIDE are supported by a school companion. The surveys show the different tasks that the school support staff take on in the classes and the different needs of the children they support.

The intensive exchange between research and practice

A results conference with and for the participants of a study was also a non-ordinary but enriching experience for the researchers involved, for which Monja Schmitt and the other project leaders expressed their extraordinary gratitude to all participants in their closing remarks. With the format, the INSIDE team had aimed to convey as comprehensive a picture of the project as possible, to present concrete research results, and to engage in exchange with practitioners. In the discussions, participants repeatedly took the opportunity to describe their own experiences with inclusion. One participating school principal summarized, "Thank you for making our everyday experiences visible with your surveys!"


More information about the INSIDE project.

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