Supporting Students with Special Needs in Secondary Schools: A Study of Perspectives, Practices and Support Structures

Project Number
OER 25/09 KP

Project Duration
April 2010 - September 2012


Background: Whilst the strategy for supporting students with special needs in primary and secondary schools was articulated in 2005 as the support for special needs initiative, there has been relatively little research informing both the training of teachers, particularly teachers trained in special needs (TSNs) and allied educators in learning and behavior (AED [LBS]) at teacher preparation and professional development level. Prior Research: This proposed study is proposed against a backdrop of research in Singapore, both funded by OER and unfunded. Whilst previous research has highlighted the perspectives of AED (LBS) (e.g., Chen & Poon, 2008) and that of teachers involved in school support (Poon, Cohen, Khaw, & Li, 2008), they have focused on specific groups of individuals and have highlighted, amongst others, the importance of the broader school context as factors influencing the inclusion of students with special needs. Study Aims: This seeks to build on previous research by examining perceptions and practices of how students with special needs are supported in Singapore secondary schools as well as to examine the extent to which school organization and leadership impacts upon the support process. Method: This study will involve an in-depth study of two schools that have been identified as effectively supporting secondary-aged students with special needs. Data collection will consist of interviews of different stakeholders in the school. These would include but are not restricted to the following: (a) students with special needs, (b) their families, (c) educational psychologists at MOE's Psychological Services Branch (if available), (d) teachers (including TSNs), (e) school leaders, (f) AED (LBS) (if available), and (g) AED (counseling). In addition, observation sessions of school practices will be conducted of within structured settings and also during unstructured settings. Further, documentation would be made of procedures, both formal and informal, decision making processes as well as the structures for the support of students with special needs in the school. Contributions: This study serves to contribute across several levels. First, it will inform NIE in the preparation of AEDs and teachers. Effective practices in the support of students with special needs can be identified via interviews and observations. These will directly assist in the development of teaching materials for the preparation of these professionals. At another level, this research will also shed light on how schools can more effectively support students with special needs. In particular, the role of school leaders and the extent to which organizational processes facilitate the support of students with special needs will be identified. Thirdly, this information can in turn inform policy and practice within schools. The interview with stakeholders over their perception of inclusion can also develop an understanding of similarities and differences and hence be utilized to facilitate further collaboration. Finally, this study of inclusion in an Asian context will contribute to international research on how students with special needs may be supported in different policy and resource environments.

Research Themes
Children at Risk (Disability/Disorder)

Funding Source

Related Links
ReEd Vol 7: Special Needs in Mainstream Secondary Schools
SingTeach Issue 56 (Mar 2016): Inclusive Education for All Students

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