Teaching and supporting students with special educational needs at a distance during the COVID-19 school closures in Finland: special needs teachers’ experiences

Riikka Aarnos, Christel Sundqvist, Kristina Ström, Education in the North

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Abstract

This study aimed to increase knowledge of how special needs education (SNE) in Finnish comprehensive schools was arranged at a distance during the COVID-19 school closures in the spring of 2020 and to clarify what types of challenges special needs teachers (SNTs) faced when teaching and supporting students with special educational needs (SEN). Data were collected through semi- structured interviews with 12 SNTs and the analysis was based on a thematic analytical approach. The results revealed that SNTs’ experiences during the COVID-19 distance education period varied greatly. Still, it is possible to distinguish some general features across the dataset. Teaching and support arrangements for students included the use of educational technology and distance learning materials, implementation of SNE via exceptional arrangements and flexible solutions and providing SNE through differentiation, interaction, and technology. In addition, the results revealed, the SNTs faced a multitude of challenges during the COVID-19 distance education period; this included changes in their daily work life, increased stress, challenges in remote communication and collaboration and structural and organisational issues affecting SNE.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-24
Number of pages21
JournalEducation in the North
Volume28
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021

Keywords

  • distance education
  • COVID-19
  • Finnish school closures
  • special needs teacher
  • special needs education

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