Education is usually a key aspect in each and every individual as it instills knowledge on various aspects of life, making a person to be well equipped with relevant information and skills necessary for survival in the competitive world for instance efficient and effective communication, decision making and problem solving. Special education entails education meant for students or pupils who need additional support other than the support given to ordinary students for their success in school work. The students in special education programs are usually not able to compete in a standard classroom setting as they need extra care and facilities to enhance a smooth learning process. It is however evident that Increased class sizes to include more special education students while only providing paraprofessional support of special education students for social studies classes has impacted overall student performance. This paper gives an insight on different aspects that are associated with special education and social sciences for instance the factors that influence human behaviors in regard to class size, limitations to the success of special education program and practices related to various aspects of special education.
Seevers (2005) asserts that there has been an increase in class sizes to include more special education students forgetting the emphasis that should be put on the social studies classes in regard to the normal students, much effort being put on the paraprofessional support of special education students and hence affecting the overall student performance. There should however be a balance in teaching of social studies to both normal students and those with special needs even with the fact that social studies is a very wide and complex field. Appropriate techniques and methods of teaching should also be applied in social studies and the teachers involved should be qualified and have adequate management skills (Zevin, 1999).
According to the United Federation of Teachers (2010), although inclusion is a good idea, there exist some instances where special classes are essential so as to serve learners with disabilities whose needs cannot be satisfied within a general classroom setting even with the provision of support aids and services. Restructured programs for the students with disabilities brings about efficiency and effectiveness in learning as they offer a better way for special students to make high academic achievements and compete fairly compared to when they are included in a general setting (Zigmond et al. 1995).
Zarghami, and Schnellert (2004) argues that there have been lots of changes in the education system as the demands for education increases and every person is expected or has a right to acquire quality education. The changes have however not been without their positive impacts and limitations for instance due to economic constrains, the education system has been negatively affected as the need to accommodate more students, both the ordinary and those with special needs, arise and in most cases the interest and performance of the students are not considered especially in terms of the number of students to be included in a class.
This is due to shortage of finances to cater for the various needs. Class size entails the exact number of students that are under the control of a teacher at a particular time. It is basically easy to control a small class size than it is the case when the class is large. This is because the teachers and instructors are able to identify the specific needs of the students in a small class and therefore deal with them appropriately as opposed to a large class where it would take the teacher a lot of time to identify and deal with the student’s specific needs (Borg, 2007). This shows that a small class is likely to perform better in comparison to a large class. The class size affects the efficiency of the learning process and hence the performance of the students in various ways for instance it determines the interaction level among the students and also between the students and the teachers and paraprofessionals. A small class is for example not likely to promote lots of noise making and improper behavior which can distort the efficiency of the learning process and teacher performance. Time is another useful resource in the learning process and should therefore be fully utilized.
A teacher is able to allocate time effectively especially in terms of syllabus coverage among the few students in a class as compared to when the students could be too many. It is also easier to employ different learning and evaluation procedures to a small class for instance open ended assessment and direct feedback which may be difficult or even impossible when dealing with a large number of students. Due to the changes in economic status and the increased demand for education even for people with disabilities, classrooms have been forced to accommodate more students. Inclusion in particular has led to increase of class sizes therefore changing the learning environment that students were previously used to and in the long run, it affects the learning process and performance of the students. Class size alone cannot however be used as an overall determinant for students performance as it affects different students differently at different levels and situations.
For instance, the class size is likely to affect pupils at the early grades when they develop socialization and teamwork skills as opposed to higher school grades where the skills are already developed. Research, STAR project, shows that small classes are usually beneficial for young pupils in the elementary grades up to grade three and after the grade three; the benefits of having a small class size are not the same (Fin, 1998). The class size may also be of importance to those students that need special care than to the naturally bright and motivated students. The qualification of the teachers and the paraprofessionals involved in the provision of social studies and special education is also a determinant of the student’s performance even without the consideration of the class size. The paraprofessionals for example should be well qualified and be able to complement the teacher’s work and work closely together to enhance the performance of the students with special needs. The methods applied in teaching and instruction also affect performance irrespective of the class size.
In a nut shell, it is evident that when a class is small, there is improved teaching state, it enhances student learning behavior, and there are less disciplinary cases and classroom interruptions and generally improved student performance (Ehrenberg, et al. 2001).
There is usually some form of resistance to change in any circumstance and acceptance of special education program is not an exception. In earlier years, the students with special needs were isolated and denied the right to education but there is change in perception as people gradually accept them.
Some of the barriers to the success of education program are the availability of curricula and systems that do not provide for the special needs bringing out the need for changes in the curricula to accommodate the needs of the special students. Lack of facilities needed for students with disabilities is also another constrain. This is because some of them like the blind for example need Braille machines for learning process which could be very expensive especially where there is little external funding apart from the school internal funding. Others may also need other facilities for instance special chairs as their sitting positions are compromised and therefore cannot use ordinary seats. The special education program also calls for additional staff like the paraprofessionals that should work hand in hand with the teachers to ensure that the special needs of the students are catered for to enable the students to compete with the ordinary students. There is usually a problem in identifying and acquiring trained and qualified paraprofessionals as they are very few and most of them are not qualified and therefore may not be efficient in their work.
This has been brought about by bad working conditions in the education system such as excessive paper work as opposed to digitization or use of technology, and ineffective administrative and other support from schools (Giangreco et al 2001). There is also the need for the establishment of an environment that has high expectations for the success of the special education program including meeting the with maximum access to the general curriculum, incorporation of parents participation in the children educational program, adhering to laws that advocate for equal education opportunities for the special students just as the ordinary students and ensuring that the teachers, instructors and paraprofessionals are well trained. There should also be the complementation of the regular curriculum with the special education and other relates services and use of advanced technology to enhance smooth access and assimilation of education. Failure of the above limits the success of special education program (Hultgren 2004).
Special education is usually an extension of regular education including various disciplines. It is a section of education that has been understood differently bringing about a lot of controversies as some people view it as an act of discrimination and elimination of the students that have some form of disabilities or those that require special care and support to facilitate their education. Others however view it as a positive step that recognizes the education needs of those with disabilities as they are aware of the sensitive needs of these people. The realization of the fact that even those with disabilities have rights to education has led to their acceptance in special schools and even inclusion into ordinary schools.
There has also been development of special programs which are appropriate and more objective. Funding has also been considered and different individuals, organizations and unions have come up and are now actively involved in dealing with the challenges facing special education. Inclusion is one of the positive steps taking in consideration for the special students. This involves integration of the students with special needs with the ordinary students eliminating the discrimination aspect where special- needs children would not be included in normal classroom set up. Inclusion helps the special students to feel appreciated and help boost their self esteem due to the realization that they are just like the normal children unlike where they would have been isolated bring the aspect of their inadequacy and limitations. It also prepares them for future life by allowing them to learn in natural setting in the presence of the students without disabilities who in a way act as their role models through the bonds they form out of friendships. Inclusion is also advantageous to the ordinary students as it helps them accept and respect human diversity, equip them with new skills that are meant for those with disabilities, allow them to have access to special aspects of the curricular and other support services that enhance learning and finally have increases access to diverse opportunities and settings that enhance learning and improve performance (Hultgren, 2004). According to Giangreco et al (2001), there has been an increased utilization of paraprofessionals in schools to support and facilitate the learning of students with disabilities.
The number of qualified paraprofessionals is also at an increase due to the fact that there is an increase in special education awareness and service provision. This has led to an expansion of an all-encompassing educational system as many students with disabilities get access to education in normal classroom setting. The act of the paraprofessional working together with other teachers in the general classrooms is also a positive attribute that helps the students with special needs be at per with the rest. The ultimate result of the introduction of the special program is greater acceptance of all children in the education system irrespective of mental or physical disabilities.
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