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“The system shows us how bad it feels”: special educational needs assessment in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

Journal article
Authors Thomas Barow
Daniel Östlund
Published in European Journal of Special Needs Education
Volume 34
Issue 5
Pages 678-691
ISSN 0885-6257
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Education and Special Education
Pages 678-691
Language en
Keywords Categorisation, education reform, inclusive education, intelligence tests, SEN assessment, thought style
Subject categories Pedagogy, Pedagogical Work, Sociology


In the context of the North Rhine-Westphalian school reform towards an inclusive education system, this article problematises the practice of categorisation. Our research aims to investigate the assessment of special educational needs (SEN) and thereby enrich the discussion of the relation between inclusion and diagnostics. For this study, we interviewed 14 SEN investigators and five decision-makers. We discuss the results on the basis of a qualitative content analysis and against the background of Fleck’s concept of thought styles. We mainly found inertia in special education traditions, expressed in the use of intelligence tests, the dominance of SEN teachers in the assessment process and the lack of participation of parents and pupils. We conclude that it is necessary to reform the SEN assessment rules. At the same time, we see major challenges in transforming existing thought styles into a more flexible and decategorising approach.

Page Manager: Webmaster|Last update: 9/11/2012

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