Author(s):Thomas Barow (presenting), Daniel Östlund (presenting)

Conference:ECER 2017

Network:04. Inclusive Education

Format:Symposium Paper

Session Information

04 SES 14, Testing and Inclusive Schooling - International Challenges and Opportunities (Part 3)

Symposiumn continued from 04 SES 13 C



Chair/Discussant:Bjørn Hamre/ Tim Corcoran


The significance of pedagogical investigations, diagnoses and psychometric tests in inclusive education: comparative studies from Sweden and Germany

The similarities and differences between the Swedish and German education systems arguably make a comparison between these two countries in the context of inclusive education a promising field of research. This is even more significant when it comes to the assessment of special educational needs (SEN), where a comparative approach may contribute to a deeper understanding about the relation between inclusive approaches and categorisation processes in education. The concept of SEN in Sweden is based on the student’s risk to miss the learning objectives of regular school. In contrast, Germany applies a multiple concept of SEN, which could be based on the students’ failure in school and/or a disability. While in Sweden, SEN are assessed by a “pupil welfare team” consisting of special educators, headmaster and various experts, in Germany the assessment process is carried out by a special education teacher and the class teacher. The countries also differ in who takes the final decision of a SEN statement for a student. In Sweden it is made by the headmaster, where as in Germany it is the school supervising authority. Being aware of these differences between the two countries, questions about the significance of medical diagnoses and psychometric tests in pedagogical investigations arise. With this background, the contribution to the symposium consolidates and contextualises the results of research studies on the assessment of special educational needs in the Swedish county of Scania and the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. In both countries, five cases with varying geographical and social environment were selected. Study 1 analyses the content of 50 assessments which led to an SEN statement. Study 2 draws on interviews with pedagogical investigators and decision makers from the two countries. The focus is lies on the SEN categorisation processes, the allocation of resources and future education. The findings from this research contribute to the discussion on whether inclusive education can be based on a de-categorised special education, or if it promotes medical diagnoses and psychometrical tests.


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Hjörne, E. & Säljö, R. (2004) “There Is Something About Julia”: Symptoms, Categories, and the Process of Invoking Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in the Swedish School: A Case Study. Journal of Language, Identity & Education, 3(1), 1-24
Hollenweger, J. (2014). Beyond Categories and Labels: Knowledge to Support Assessment for Learning ‘Disability’ – A Problem Well Put? The Sage Handbook of Special Education. Vol. 2. Florian, L. (ed.). London: Sage, 508-521
Isaksson, J., Lindqvist, R. & Bergström, E. (2010). 'Pupils with special educational needs': A study of the assessments and categorising processes regarding pupils' school difficulties in Sweden. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 14(2), 133-151
Isaksson, J., Lindqvist, R. & Bergström, E. (2010). Struggling for recognition and inclusion parents’ and pupils’ experiences of special support measures in school. International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-Being, 5(1), 1-11

Author Information

Thomas Barow (presenting)
University of Gothenburg, Sweden
Daniel Östlund (presenting)
Kristianstad University, Sweden