The Contribution of Support Teachers in Facilitating Children’s Peer Interactions

Abstract

In the Nordic countries, policies for children, who require special educational assistance, emphasize that support should be provided within regular preschool settings. As one measure to facilitate these children’s participation in preschool activities, support teachers may be appointed. The present study explores how support teachers contribute to these children’s interaction with peers. Fieldwork was carried out in three Norwegian preschools that focused on children aged from 1 to 3 years who required special educational assistance. The analyses revealed that support teachers regularly intervened in the children’s activities and took action in various ways in order to facilitate children’s interactions with peers. From the analyses, support teachers’ approaches could be categorized, respectively, as child centred or group based. A child-centred orientation was found to be more likely to constrain peer interactions than a more group-based orientation which had less specific focus on the individual child. In this paper, two episodes from the research data representing these two international patterns are analysed and discussed. Support teachers may be more effective in enhancing peer interactions for children requiring special educational assistance if they become more aware of how their actions may constrain rather than facilitate interactions.

Résumé

Dans les pays nordiques, les politiques pour les enfants qui requièrent un soutien éducatif spécial insistent sur la nécessité d’apporter un tel soutien à l’intérieur des services préscolaires ordinaires. Une mesure favorisant la participation de ces enfants aux activités préscolaires peut être l’embauche d’un enseignant de soutien. La présente étude explore comment les enseignants de soutien contribuent à l’interaction de ces enfants avec leurs pairs. Le travail de terrain a été réalisé dans trois jardins d’enfants norvégiens qui sont axés sur des enfants âgés de un à trois ans ayant besoin d’un soutien éducatif spécial. Les analyses révèlent que les enseignants de soutien intervenaient régulièrement dans les activités des enfants et agissaient de différentes façons pour faciliter les interactions des enfants avec leurs pairs. À partir des analyses, les approches des enseignants de soutien peuvent être classées en deux catégories: centrées sur l’enfant ou basées sur le groupe. Il s’est avéré qu’une orientation centrée sur l’enfant était plus susceptible de contraindre les interactions avec les pairs qu’une orientation basée sur le groupe moins spécifiquement axée sur l’enfant individuellement. Dans cet article, deux épisodes issus des données de recherche représentant ces deux modèles d’interaction sont analysés et discutés. Les enseignants de soutien pourraient être plus efficaces dans l’amélioration des interactions entre pairs chez les enfants nécessitant un soutien éducatif spécial s’ils étaient plus conscients de la façon dont leurs actions peuvent contraindre plutôt que faciliter les interactions.

Resumen

En los países nórdicos, las políticas educativas para niños que requieren un apoyo pedagógico especializado hacen hincapié en la necesidad de que este acompañamiento se realice en establecimientos preescolares regulares. Una medida que facilita la participación de estos niños en las actividades preescolares es la contratación de educadores especializados. El estudio presentado en este artículo explora de qué manera la intervención de educadores especializados influye en la interacción de los niños con sus pares. El trabajo de campo se llevó a cabo en tres jardines infantiles noruegos y se centró en los niños de uno a tres años con necesidad de apoyo educativo especializado. Los análisis revelaron que los educadores de apoyo intervienen en las actividades de manera regular y de diferentes modos con el fin de contribuir a una mejor interacción entre los niños y sus compañeros. Los análisis también muestran que las diferentes intervenciones se pueden categorizar en aquellas centradas en el niño o centradas en el grupo. Se encontró que el enfoque centrado en el niño tiende a limitar más las interacciones entre los niños y sus pares que el enfoque centrado en el grupo, el que no se centra en cada niño de manera individual. En este artículo, se analizan dos episodios de las fases de observación que ilustran estos dos modelos de intervención. Los educadores especializados podrían ser más eficaces en mejorar las interacciones entre los niños que requieren apoyo educativo especializado y sus pares si fueran más conscientes sobre sus propias intervenciones, las que pueden limitar más que facilitar la interacción.

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Correspondence to Siv Hillesøy.

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Hillesøy, S. The Contribution of Support Teachers in Facilitating Children’s Peer Interactions. IJEC 48, 95–109 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13158-016-0157-1

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Keywords

  • Preschool
  • Support teacher
  • Special education
  • Inclusion
  • Peer interaction
  • Cochlear implants