Meget er forskjellig, men noe blir problem. En sosiologisk studie av spesialundervisningens institusjonelle praksis
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- Department of Sociology 
This dissertation consists of five research articles and an introduction. Themain theme in this study is the different ways in which institutional featuresinfluence and shape the way special education is defined and delimited inlocal Norwegian primary and secondary schools. Two main questions areasked: Firstly; how does different local actors define and categorise thelearning related problems that children faces in school? Secondly, how doessuch problem-categories interconnect with other social categories, inparticular gender as a social category? The empirical data consists ofqualitative interviews with parents, headmasters, teachers, schoolpsychologists and school administration representatives in four differentmunicipalities.The introduction presents the methodological and theoretical framework ofthe study. The main theoretical argument is that the local practise of howspecial educational needs are being understood and categorised, isinfluenced to a large extent by different institutional features of specialeducation. Hugh Mehan’s concept of ‘institutional practise’ forms a basisfor outlining how we may analyse the interaction between institutionalforces and local practise.The empirical analyses are presented in five articles. In the first article,‘Resource distribution models and local school practise’, I discuss theconnection between municipal resource models and the school based categorisation practise. Two municipalities are analysed, one with highproportions of students (15 %) receiving special education, the other with arelatively low proportion of students (5 %) in special education. However,the analyses of school practises in how students’ problems are being definedand met with specialised measures show that the schools’ practises are verysimilar across municipalities. Hence, the analyses shows that the differencesin the proportions of students receiving special education in differentmunicipalities and schools, seems to have more to do with resource modelsthan with how actual problems are defined, and which measures are taken todeal with the problems.The second article, ‘Noisy boys and clever girls?’, presents and discussestwo different theoretical perspectives for understanding why far more boysthan girls are receiving special education in Norwegian schools - a feministperspective and a special educational perspective. Examining a number ofstudies on gender and education/special education, I argue that a coreelement in how gender is understood in school, is visability. While feministresearchers tend to focus upon visibility as a crucial condition for girls’success in school, researchers within educational research, who focus uponthe situation of boys, are concerned with the negative aspects of visibility,such as boys being stigmatised and defined as ‘problem students’. Acombination of the two perspectives raises some important questionsregarding the complexity of gender aspects in special education. The third article, ‘The role of parents in special education: The notion ofpartnership revised’, written together with J. Sandvin, focus upon theparticular relationship between teachers and parents regarding children whoare defined as having special educational needs. Our main emphasis is onhow teachers describe and perceive their relation to parents, and howparents experience their relationship to the school. The analysis show thatwhile literature on parent - school relationship in general often talk aboutparents as ‘partners’ and parents as ‘problems’, our data points in thedirection of two quite different roles; parents as ‘implementers’ and parentsas ‘clients’, which we believe better capture the distinctive feature of therole of parents in special education. ‘Implementer’ implies parents beinggiven responsibility for following up aims and measures set by the school,with very limited opportunities to influence on how things are being done.‘Clients’ definitions occur when teachers see parents as part of their child’sproblem. Both roles place parents in a subordinate relationship with theschool, as a result of a strong asymmetry in power between parents andschools. This inequality is caused, among other factors, by the sociallydefined power relationship between the lay and the professional, and thestigma attached to special education which restrains parents from formingany collective resistance.In the fourth article, ‘The gendered category of ‘special needs’: Teacherinterpretations of male and female students’, the point of departure is arecognition of the fact that although boys are overrepresented in specialeducation, and have been for at least 30 years, very few studies have been designed to understand how boys and girls who experience problems inschool are being understood and defined, and whether or not gender bearsany significance in such definitions from a more in-depth perspective. Themain question asked is whether teachers’ understanding of students withdisabilities tends to be dominated by the ‘disability’ itself (or othercategories that students are placed within), consequently making genderaspects invisible, or of it is possible to see gendered patterns in the wayteachers understand the situation of girls and boys with disabilities. In theanalysis I show that gender has an impact on how problems in school arebeing understood by teachers. Gender influences the way in which problemsare being categorized, and also how different causal factors are drawn uponin teachers’ interpretations. Presumably 'gender-neutral' categories such asdiagnoses are actually interpreted quite differently depending on whetherthe student is a boy or a girl. Furthermore, it could be argued that a basicchallenge is the way in which the concept of gender and gender differencesare used when studying such phenomena, and how the concept of gender ingeneral is to be understood and interpreted in late modernity. But even so,just as with concepts of 'disability' and 'problem', 'gender' is in itself now acategory which is imbedded in strong cultural conceptions. The analysispresented here shows how girls and boys are being interpreted in verygender stereotyped ways. Girls, even girls who are experiencing extensiveproblems, are interpreted as kind, simple to understand, good-natured, andhard working. Boys are presented by teachers as troublesome, noisy, andcomplex to understand. In other words, male and female students in schoolnegotiate impressions and perceptions of themselves and others, within the larger societal frames of cultural understandings and conceptions of genderand disability.The fifth article is titled ’Individual rights in a collective context: practisingindividual rights to special education in local schools’. In the article Ipresent three arguments concerning the determination of rights to welfarestate services: a) ensuring access to resources by exposed groups, b) thedesire for equal treatment of groups of persons with a need for help,independent of factors such as place of residence, personal resources andfamily background, and c) the strengthening of citizens’ independence inrelation to discretionary practice by professional experts. The analyses in thearticle provide reasons to raise the question whether individual rights tospecial education contribute to fulfilling these three criteria.Firstly, the logic of rights, and the demands for documentation in specialeducation resulting in allocation of resources, in some instances takes theform of individualised measures, something which is experienced by manyas professionally and socially unfortunate. Secondly, equal treatment,irrespective of place of residence and other structural inequalities is also acomplex principle in special education. ‘Needs’ are defined by others thanthe user himself: parents, teachers, the School psychologists. The help andcontrol aspects of special education attribute it with the function of ensuringresources for the individual pupil, but attaches simultaneously sorting andsocial control mechanisms. In studies of recruitment to special education,gender, social background and ethnicity seem to be strong explanatoryfactors. Thirdly, independence in respect of discretionary practice by professional experts is an impossible criterium in the light of individualrights legislation. The opportunity for discretion is strengthened rather thanweakened in the practice of special education legislation, defining specialpedagogical needs as relative to local school practises. The analysesillustrate that the logic of rights as practised in the welfare state hasparticular effects when applied to special education. First and foremostbecause those services ‘released’ by rights are formulated within a collectivecontext which conceals the rights-logic of individual demands andindividual services. There is reason to ask whether individual rights tospecial education within the school, with inclusion and adjustment as theideological cornerstones, emerge as a ‘cultural lag’, and function as ananchor point of an individual-oriented and biological/medical perspective ofpupils’ problems, amounting to an ideological break with the ideal ofinclusion and fellowship for all.
Består avPaper 1: Spesialpedagodikk nr 6, Fylling, Ingrid, Forvaltningsregime og skolepraksis. Tildeling og bruk av ressurser i grunnskolens spesialundervisning. Copyright 1998 Utdanningsforbundet. Full-text not available due to publisher restrictions.
Paper 2: Nordisk Pedagogikk 18 (3), Fylling, Ingrid, Bråkete gutter og flinke jenter? Kjønnsforskjeller i spesialundervisning i et sosiologisk perspektiv. Copyright 1998 Nordisk förening för pedagogisk forskning. Full-text not available due to publisher restrictions.
Paper 3: European Journal of Special Needs Education 14 (2), The role of parents in special education: the notion of partnership revised, pp. 144-157. Copyright 1999 Taylor & Francis. Full-text not available due to publisher restrictions. The published version is available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0885625990140205
Paper 4: Fylling, Ingrid, 2004, The Gendered Category of "Special Needs": Teacher Interpretations of Male and Female Students. In: Kristiansen, K og R. Traustadottir (red), Gender and Disability Research in the Nordic Countries. Copyright 2004 Studentlitteratur. Full-text not available due to publisher restrictions.
Paper 5: Individuell rett I kollektiv kontekst. Praktisering av elevers individuelle rett til spesialundervisning i grunnskolen. Manuskript. Foreløpig upublisert.