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Conference: Inclusion. Educational Challenges and Opportunities at the University of Lower Silesia

On October 4, 2017, the University of Lower Silesia together with the EDiTE partner institution Stanisław Tołpa Primary School no. 90 in Wroclaw and the European Commission Regional Office hosted a conference for teachers and educators on the challenges and opportunities of inclusion in mainstream education. After the welcome addresses by the Dean of the Faculty of Education Prof. DSW dr hab. Pawel Rudnicki and the Dean for Student Affairs Dr. Urszula Dzikiewicz, the  conference was kicked off with an inspirational key note speech by EDiTE supervisor Professor Maria Czerepaniak-Walczak, University of Szczecin, on “School Culture as an Agent and Medium of Respect of the Right to Education”. International guests from Italy, Spain and Romania, participating together with Stanisław Tołpa Primary School no. 90 in the Erasmus+ program Art and Emotions, introduced themselves and presented experiences from their schools with inclusive learning. Throughout the rest of the day, roughly 70 practitioners from schools from all over Wroclaw were able to choose from five different workshops that ran twice for two hours each. The workshops included topics, such as “Counteracting exclusion: Class and school diversity as a challenge” by Ewa Stoecker and The Human Library project introduced by Kamila Prociow. Furthermore, there were workshops dealing with the practice of inclusive education in public schools by Ewa Granat and social inclusion of kids with disabilities as well communication about the topic of disability by Agnieszka Kossowska, author of “Big Issues in Small Heads”. A fifth workshop in English was offered by the Spanish teacher participant, Gracia Sonia Jimenez Vega on the TEI program (peer tutoring) in Spanish education. Translators ensured smooth communication between different language speakers throughout the whole conference day. The event also attracted the interest of the Polish media. In advance, EDiTE supervisor Prof. DSW dr hab. and rector of the University of Lower Silesia, Hana Cervinkova together with the vice-director of primary school No. 90, Malogorzata Gluch, promoted  the conference in an interview and informed about the topic of social and educational inclusion. To find out more about the conference schedule please click here, to read a detailed description of the workshops, please click here, if you are interested in Prof. Czerepaniack-Walczak’s speech, you can check it out here.

Equity and Europeanisation: EDiTE at ÖFEB-Kongress

Inclusion in education is a very important discussion in Austria today and this was also the main topic of this years’ ÖFEB-Kongress in Feldkirch, Austria. The ÖFEB-Kogress is the biggest educational research conference in Austria and it takes place every two years. This year, the conference happened between September 19-22 under the joint organisation of Austrian Association of Research and Development (Die Österreichische Gesellschaft für Forschung und Entwicklung im Bildungswesen) and Pädagogische Hochschule Vorarlberg.

The overarching theme of ÖFEB-Kongress 2017 was Education: Excellence. Equity. Inclusion? (Bildung: Leistungsstark. Chancengerecht. Inklusiv?) and EDiTE community did not miss the chance to join the important discussions. EDiTE was represented by Vasileios Symeonidis who pointed out the perspectives on the topic from his own research on Europeanisation in teacher education, focusing on the case of Hungary.

The central discussion followed the thread of how education systems define success in terms of student performance, thus a comprehensive approach to equity in education that provides best possible development of all learners is a must for both policy-makers and practitioners. In the relevant conversations, Vasilis did point out the importance of European policies and what kinds of quality criteria are translated into national teacher education system.

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“Where do we put the body?!” – Seminar with Rehabilitation Scholar Dr. Magda Lejzerowicz from Warsaw

On February 21, 2017, Dr. Magda Lejzerowicz visited the EDiTE students at ULS to talk about her research concerning inclusion and disability in the Polish context. Magda gave us valuable insights into the Polish educational system and discussed with us (among other research) the results of her recent study on teachers’ opinions about students with disabilities in their classrooms. She explained to us that many teachers do not feel prepared to teach children who learn differently from the majority of their students or are not even interested in acquiring these skills. At the core of our discussions that followed, was the question of whether inclusion is so much more beneficent to children with disabilities than special schools considering the fact that in special facilities, teachers usually want to work with their students and are trained to do so professionally.
In our discussions, our colleague Agnieszka kept pushing the question of:  “Where do we put the body?!” which reflects the dilemma we face when discussing inclusion theoretically. After all, declaring disability as a social construct does not offer many options to a teacher who works with a kicking and spitting child that communicates non-verbally. In our discussions we were torn between the wish to overcome a merely biological assessment of children on the one hand, and doing justice to the complex situation of teaching children whose world is not always accessible to the people around them. The seminar with Magda provided great food for thought and left us in the creative space of seeking complex answers to complex questions.