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Social Sciences

Preparing teachers for more personalised teaching in PGCE programmes: partnership, school based activities and special educational needs.

1 April 2010 - 15 June 2012

PI/s in Exeter: Professor Brahm Norwich

CI/s in Exeter: Dr Hazel Lawson

Funding awarded: £ 70,793

Sponsor(s): Esmée Fairbairn Foundation

About the research


Need for the project:
This project addressed a gap in the initial education and training of teachers as regards special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), which has been source of concern for many years.

Project aims:
The general aim was to examine how and what PGCE trainee teachers learn about teaching pupils with special educational needs in their placement schools. The findings are used to identify practical principles and procedures about how to design and support planned school based activities relevant to learning to teach pupils with SEND.

Specifically the project examined the school based learning and outcomes of PGCE trainees in primary and secondary programmes that use different approaches to preparing teachers for the special needs aspects of their future teaching.

Project design and methods:
The project compared three kinds of school based approaches: one that involves a practical SEND teaching task (the SEND Personalised Learning Task developed at University of Exeter), a second that also involves an SEND pupil-focused task, but does not involve practical teaching (for example, a pupil pursuit activity) and the third where there is no specific SEN task other than class teaching practice.

The study took place in three placement schools in each of three primary and three secondary PGCE programmes,18 schools overall. Interviews, observations and survey questionnaires were used in each of the participating schools relevant to the above project aims. The research orientation was to develop a holistic and intensive analysis in each school based on a 2-3 day visit. The mixed data were analysed at a school level and then across the schools to draw out more general conclusions.

Project outputs:

Final project report and summary dissemination leaflet (available below). 

Article accepted in European Journal of Special Needs Education (eprint).

Lawson, H., Norwich, B., & Nash, P.T. (2013) What trainees in England learn about teaching pupils with special educational needs/disabilities in their school-based work: the contribution of planned activities in one-year initial training courses. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 28 (2).