PublicationsSystematic reviewsSEN & teacher/pupil interaction
A systematic review of interactions in pedagogical approaches with reported outcomes for the academic and social inclusion of pupils with special educational needs

What do we want to know?

This is the second year of a three-year project that is focusing upon effective pedagogical approaches in use in mainstream classrooms with children with special educational needs, aged 7–14 years. This second review expands the focus of the previous year to investigate the nature of the interactions between teachers, support staff and pupils.

Who wants to know?

At the heart of all teaching are interactions with students. Professionals, policy-makers, parents and pupils will all benefit from an understanding of how staff can maximise the effectiveness of these interactions.

What did we find?  

  • Positive teacher attitudes towards the inclusion of children with special educational needs (SEN) are reflected in the quality of their interactions with all pupils and in the pupils’ self concept.
  • Teachers who see themselves responsible for the learning of all promote higher order interactions and engage in prolonged interactions with pupils with SEN, while teachers who see others (e.g. support staff) as primarily responsible engage in non-academic and low level nature interactions.
  • Interactions with successful academic and social outcomes are characterised by questions and statements that involve higher order thinking, reasoning, and personal perspective. The teachers who enable students to achieve these outcomes spend most of the available time in these high-quality on-task interactions as opposed to the low-quality off-task interactions.
  • High quality interactions are those in which teachers offer learners the opportunity to problem-solve, to discuss and describe their ideas, and to make connections with their own experiences and prior understandings, while those teacher interactions that are less successful focus on procedural matters, behaviours and general classroom management.
  • Pupils with SEN participate more fully when encouraged to identify their thoughts and assisted to document them, particularly through one-to-one discussion with the teacher. Teachers should elicit prior knowledge and understanding, and use questions and answers to assess the nature of pupil’s thinking rather than as a check on whether they can provide the answer the teacher wants.
  • Successful interactions are commonly based in learners’ experiences, being meaningful to learners in the here and now of their lives, involving direct experiences and realistic problems, offering multiple opportunities to engage with the learning situation and others within it.

What are the implications?

Teachers need to recognise that all pupils are their direct responsibility. They need to draw out pupils understandings, encouraging further questioning and links between new and prior knowledge. These interactions are more likely to be effective if they are situated within activities that are hands-on, personally  relevant and offer a range of opportunities to engage with the concepts, and with others’ understandings of  those concepts.

How did we get these results?

The review considered 2,812 papers before synthesising the results of 7 studies published since 1994.

This report should be cited as: Rix J, Hall K, Nind M, Sheehy K, Wearmouth J (2006) A systematic review of interactions in pedagogical approaches with reported outcomes for the academic and social inclusion of pupils with special educational needs. Technical report. In: Research Evidence in Education Library. London: EPPI Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London.

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