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Laurier researcher receives funding for conference on how school principals can support students with special education needs

by ahnationtalk on October 10, 201858 Views

Oct. 10, 2018

Waterloo – How can school principals nurture educational environments that are inclusive of children with special education needs? What skills and knowledge do school leaders need to support teachers? How can Indigenous perspectives inform our understanding of inclusive schools?

These are some of the questions that Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty of Education Associate Professor Steve Sider says will be discussed at a conference he will host this spring, thanks to funding he received through a $25,000 Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Connection grant.

SSHRC Connection grants support short-term, focused events and outreach activities in which participants and presenters can exchange knowledge and engage in dialogue on key research issues.

The conference will bring together leading experts on inclusive education and allow them to engage with school system administrators, professional educational associations and Indigenous educators as they consider the needs of school principals in supporting the inclusion of students with special needs.

Canadian educators and policy-makers have long acknowledged that every student – including those with learning disabilities or other special needs such as autism and behavioural challenges – can make a valued contribution to a classroom and school. Sider says there is evidence that supports the social, emotional and academic benefits of inclusive classrooms, as well as research on how best to support teachers who interact with children with special needs.

“Where there’s been a significant gap is in the area of school leadership,” said Sider. “How do school principals nurture or develop school environments that are inclusive of children with special education needs?”

It is that knowledge gap that the “Intersectionalities in Leadership for Supporting Students with Special Education Needs in Canadian Schools” conference will address.

Among the many discussions to be raised at the conference is an examination of how education leaders can integrate Indigenous perspectives, practices, and ways of knowing into scholarship and action on school inclusivity. To that end, the conference will bring together Indigenous knowledge keepers to address recent advances in integrating traditional knowledge inclusively within Canadian education.

Sider, a former school administrator and special education teacher, is a leading expert on the intersection of inclusive education and educational leadership.

From 2016-2018, he led a research team that completed a national study on the ways in which Canadian school principals and vice-principals support students with special education needs in inclusive schools. That research was funded through a SSHRC Insight Development grant, and examined the types of training school leaders have received in this area and their day-to-day experiences in inclusive school settings.

The conference will be held June 1, 2019, at the University of British Columbia, ahead of the 2019 Congress of Humanities and Social Sciences. For more information, visit the Intersectionalities conference page.

It will be supported through the tri-council Research Support Fund.

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