Inclusive education in school reality: A Finnish case

Lead Author Suvi, Lakkala
Institution Contact University of Lapland, Faculty of Education, PO Box 122, 96101 Rovaniemi, Finland
Co-Authors Outi Kyrö-Ämmälä, University of Lapland, Rovaniemi, Finland Tuija Turunen, University of Lapland, Rovaniemi, Finland
Theme Theme 4: Building Long-term Human Capacity
Session Name 4.3 Teacher Education in the Arctic, sustainable schools, and relevant learning: Towards Social Justice and Inclusion
Presentation Type Poster
Abstract text This paper reports some preliminary research findings from the Finnish arm of an Erasmus+ project that aims to promote equality among students with diverse socio-psychological, cognitive or social needs. The SPESA project (Inclusive Education: Socio-psychologic, Educational and Social Aspects) runs between 2014 and 2017 and includes four European countries: Finland, Lithuania, Austria and Poland. The theoretical framework is based on changes in the inclusive paradigm, from segregation to integration and inclusion. In Finland, the research focuses on inclusive practices in everyday school life. The study employed an ethnographic approach: the researchers visited two primary school classrooms, in which they observed lessons and interviewed students, parents and teachers. The classroom teachers kept pedagogical journals to record their reflections on the main elements of inclusive practices in classroom. The research question was: What are the main elements of inclusive practices in classroom? The findings indicate that the relationship between teachers and students is the cornerstone of inclusive education. The teachers displayed aspects of respect for individuality through encouragement, social engagement, sensitivity and approachability. They also emphasised the sense of community by organising social activities, enhancing social skills, promoting dialogue on ethical matters in their classrooms, appreciating diversity and empowering their students. These findings exemplify, that to be successful, inclusive pedagogy does not necessarily require large investments in the student/teacher ratio, study materials, equipment, etc. Rather, the key factor is that teachers are willing to support their students based on individual needs, and promote a sense of belonging to the school community.