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Centre for Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND)

Regular centre meeting for staff and students (all welcome).

Event details

At our next Centre meeting Danielle McDougall will present her doctoral research on the following topic.

Title: The Teaching Of Pupils Who Experience Difficulties In Learning In A Spanish Classroom in Two Government Secondary Schools In Trinidad, West Indies.

This study investigates the teaching approaches used with pupils who experience difficulties in learning in a Spanish classroom in two secondary schools in Trinidad, West Indies. Much literature focuses on teaching approaches for pupils with clearly defined special educational needs or on teaching approaches in general. Pupils who experience difficulties in learning, however, represent an amorphous category and research regarding teaching approaches for this less defined group of pupils is scarcer.

Spanish is a core subject in most secondary schools in Trinidad and Tobago. As a foreign language, however, Spanish is different to other subjects as it represents the acquisition of another linguistic system. The acquisition of grammatical and communicative competencies may therefore be the goal of teaching approaches but these may be problematic areas for pupils who experience difficulties in learning. The teaching approaches used with these pupils were under investigation in this study.

This study adopts a qualitative approach which incorporates a dual case study design. The cases are represented by one urban and one rural secondary school. The participants are the pupils and Spanish teachers of a selected form two class within each school. Non-participant classroom observations, semi-structured interviews with teachers and pupils, task-based interviews with pupils were used to collect data. The study spanned 12 weeks in the first term of the 2017-2018 academic year. The time in the field was divided into three phases. Phase one represented a Reconnaissance Phase which facilitated acquaintance with the context of each case. During this phase, the practices of each school were observed. Phase two represented a formal data collection phase. At the end of Phase two, the data was preliminarily analysed and data collection methods were adapted for Phase three.

The findings of this study suggest that teaching approaches with pupils who experience difficulties in learning vary according to a number of factors: composition of the class; teacher perceptions of pupil ability and the degree of difficulties pupils face; and teacher perceptions of the most effective methods to acquire competency in a foreign language. Key issues arose from this study: the role of English and vocabulary; learner issues such as interest, engagement and pupil learning responsibility; and impact of lack of school resources on teaching approaches and preparation for national standardized tests.  The findings suggest that teaching approaches with pupils who experience difficulties in learning are hinged on teacher perceptions, learner behaviour and school and Ministry of Education constraints.




Baring Court 201