Evidence LibrarySystematic reviewsSEN & peer group
A systematic review of pedagogical approaches that can effectively include children with special educational needs in mainstream classrooms with a particular focus on peer group interactive approaches

What do we want to know?

There is a statutory requirement on mainstream schools to provide effective learning opportunities for all pupils by setting suitable learning challenges, responding to pupils' diverse learning needs and overcoming potential barriers to learning and assessment. While research has sought to establish the effectiveness of particular pedagogies or the impact of school actions on pupil participation, there has been no prior systematic review that can answer the question of which pedagogical approaches can effectively include children with SEN aged 7-14 in mainstream classrooms.  This review focuses specifically on peer group interactions.

Who wants to know?

Policy makers; practitioners; those involved in teacher education.

What did we find?  

  • There is some evidence of the effectiveness of co-operative learning, particularly in literacy.  There is also evidence of effectiveness for guided enquiry and Circle of Friends.
  • There is evidence of impact on both academic learning and community participation, as well as on children's views of their own competence, acceptance and self-worth.
  • Teachers used the model of pupil as learner and having active agency; they made use of organisational support for peer-group interactive approaches; and they applied a holistic approach to skill development.

What are the implications?

  • There is some evidence that peer group interactive approaches can be effective and policy should not deter teachers from adopting such approaches.

  • Teachers should recognise that effective teaching for inclusion is complex, often combining attention to (subject-specific) adaptation of teaching or curriculum with attention to community participation, social grouping and roles within the group. Teaching approaches that effectively include children with special educational needs cannot be reduced to simplistic formulae but rather bring together teacher skills alongside a willingness and ability to utilise pupil skills.

  • Given the complex nature of inclusive and peer group interactive pedagogy, teachers in training would need opportunities to reflect on their practices in the light of the existing research base.

How did we get these results?

Ten studies were included in the in-depth review; nine of these were conducted in the USA.  Six focused on literacy and six were conducted in primary school settings.

This summary was prepared by the EPPI-Centre

This report should be cited as: Nind M, Wearmouth J with Collins J, Hall K, Rix J, Sheehy K (2004) A systematic review of pedagogical approaches that can effectively include children with special educational needs in mainstream classrooms with a particular focus on peer group interactive approaches. In: Research Evidence in Education Library. London: EPPI-Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London. 

  
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