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Critical-Collaborative Research applied in an inclusive classroom: socially-historically observing the interaction among students with (and without) special needs and those
Following international guidelines, the public policies for inclusive education in Brazil indicate that schools should be prepared to enroll every student, which means, in general terms, providing for the inclusion of students with special educational needs in regular classrooms, along with non-disabled students. From the data collected in the country’s Primary Education Census in 2013, it can be observed that almost 76% of disabled students were enrolled in regular schools. Thus, it can be noticed that the inclusion process is gradually becoming a reality in Brazil, in addition to the perception that disabled students are leaving the few existing special schools to enroll in regular ones. However, simply enrolling is not enough; one needs to look at the dropout rate, which is rather high at the moment (24,3% in 2012)2. Therefore, the enrollment rates do not show the difficulties that disabled students, teachers, families and members of the school staff in general have faced with the emergence of inclusive education, nor display the difficulties faced by non-disabled students. This is possibly the reason why Brazil “displays the third highest school dropout rates among the 100 countries presenting the highest HDI (Human Development Index)” (UNDP, 2012)3.
In my Doctoral Dissertation Thesis, I intend to discuss the means by which and the extent to which inclusive education is beneficial for all students at elementary school, which comprises students from 6 to 11 years of age in Brazil. The UN Program on Severe Disability, published in 1994, indicates that the benefits of Inclusive Education feature: a wider range of models for social roles; developing the understanding of their own diversity, as well as the diversity of others; increasing responsibility and learning through teaching, being better prepared to live in a diverse society in adulthood, among other benefits classroom.
The doctoral research, currently under development, is being carried out in an Elementary School classroom, with 6 to 11 year-old students, in a public school in the underskirts of São Paulo (Brazil), where one disabled student is enrolled. In this study, I investigate how the relations between students and teachers are organized in this inclusive educational context, as well as which are the cognitive and emotional reactions that might develop from this relation, besides observing how the teacher conducts this educational inclusion process, concerning values, morality and respect for differences, and considering that “identity and difference are social and cultural creations” (Silva, 2000).
The chosen methodology is the Critical Research of Collaboration, which aims at “organizing investigations based on a critical praxis as a transforming and creative activity, in which the relations between theory and practice are dialectally understood, in their mutual autonomy and dependence, in other words, as praxis. (Magalhães, 2010)”, and states that the researcher must be an active part in the researching process.
The theoretical basis that guides me through this path is the social-historical-cultural theory, formulated by Vygotsky, who understands that humans are historical, social and cultural beings, given that culture is not finalized, but in constant movement, on the basis of recreation and reinterpretation of information, concepts and meanings by human beings, immersed in such cultural-historical context. For Vygotsky, the human mind is constituted of innate reactions, conditional reflexes and experiences that can be social (when humans are able to profit from the experiences of a collective past to overcome the distance and learn from experiences gathered in other places), as well as historical (overcoming time and learning from the past). Therefore, we are biosocial beings (Van der Veer, 2007). Vygotsky considers that a child internalizes the cultural tools by using language. The means by which children in an inclusive classroom internalize cultural tools and demonstrate affection in this space are the object of the investigation carried out in this study.