Challenges in Education – Policies, Practice and Research

by Otilia Clipa (Volume editor)
©2021 Conference proceedings 198 Pages


This book contains ten state-of-the-art articles about current challenges in education. They go back to the international conference "Teacher Education for Promoting Well-Being in Schools" (S‚tefan cel Mare University of Suceava / Romania, July 2020), organized by the Association for Teacher Education in Europe. The articles are concerned with the following: diversity in special education; research through photovoice; sentiments, attitudes and concerns about inclusive education of pre-primary education students; teacher education; new trends in education; influence of the COVID 19 pandemic on education; digital competences of teachers.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editor
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Chapter 1 Exploring Diversity in Special Education: A Participatory Action Research with Photovoice (Laura Nicoleta Bochiș, Carmen Alina Popa, Gianina-Estera Petre, Simona Laurian Fitzgerald, Adina Vesa)
  • Chapter 2 Sentiments, Attitudes and Concerns about Inclusive Education of Pre-Primary Education Students (Mariana Cabanová, Marián Trnka)
  • Chapter 3 Leadership and Learning Style in Educational Management (Otilia Clipa, Ancuța Vieriu (Gontariu))
  • Chapter 4 Efficiency of the Use of ICT in Teaching Activities (Clapona-Simona Anton, Otilia Clipa, Liliana Mâță)
  • Chapter 5 Teachers’ Lived Experience of Official Employee Workplace Well-Being Support and Programmes (Erika Kruger, Lynette Jacobs)
  • Chapter 6 The Relationship between Test Anxiety and Math Anxiety in Primary School Children (Andreea Petruț, Lavinia Cheie, Laura Visu-Petra)
  • Chapter 7 Engaging Pupils in Assessment Processes: A Peer Review Model (Emilia Restiglian)
  • Chapter 8 Pilot Study on Enhancing Collaborative Learning of Teachers for Professional Development in Myanmar Schools (Myo Sandar)
  • Chapter 9 Improving Teacher Motivation – A “What If” Insight (Maria-Doina Schipor)
  • Chapter 10 The importance of teacher training from the perspective of digital skills (Adrian Hatos, Mirela Lăcrămioara Cosma, Otilia Clipa)
  • List of contributors
  • Series index

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Laura Nicoleta Bochiș, Carmen Alina Popa, Gianina-Estera Petre, Simona Laurian Fitzgerald, Adina Vesa

University of Oradea, Oradea, Romania, totlaura@yahoo.com; carmen_berce@yahoo.com

Chapter 1 Exploring Diversity in Special Education: A Participatory Action Research with Photovoice

Abstract Organizing learning activities wherein students could be actively involved in education through investigation can have benefits for professional life in inclusive education. This chapter shows the results of research conducted to help first MEd students develop a deeper understanding of the benefits of diversity in special education. The study is based upon the Empowerment Education framework of Freire (1970) and it used a mixed intra-paradigm research design of Participatory Action Research and Photovoice. A class of 37 MEd students trained in using Photovoice accepted to participate in this study. They were organized into ten groups, each group receiving a specific theme under the main topic: Diversity in Inclusive Education. Data were collected through photos, observations, and interviews. Data were analyzed based on participants’ photo essay activity. The results of Group 3, consisting of four MEd student, are presented in this study under eight themes identified by the participants as (1) relationships, (2) fun school activities, (3) moments of relaxation, (4) behavioral stereotypes in controlled environments, (5) didactic strategies adapted to the needs of children with disabilities, (6) the educational climate based on support in socio-emotional and personal development, (7) educational projects carried out with students with special education needs, and (8) practical activities. By having MEd students participate in this Participatory Action Research, the authors aimed to generate a positive change in MEd students’ attitudes towards diverse classrooms. The Photovoice research design helped to disseminate the results to raise awareness of the local community and decision-making entities.

Keywords: qualitative data analysis Photovoice interview special educational requirements student voice.

1.1. Introduction

Diversity is defined as “differences between individuals on any attribute that may lead to the perception that another person is different from self” (van Knippenberg, De Dreu, & Homan, 2004, p. 1008). In most specialized fields, the ←7 | 8→elements by which diversity is addressed include concepts such as race, language, culture, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, and geographical location (Flavey, Givner, & Kimm, 1995; Schoenfeld, 2014).

In the context of learning, Ashman and Elkins (2005) attaches a broader meaning to the concept of diversity incorporating talent, gender, social environment, different learning rhythms and styles, behavioral manifestations, as well as cultural differences, linguistic differences, and disability. Graham (2007, as cited in Petriwskyj, 2010) believes that diversity in children’s groups has changed in approach, building on the varied meanings of the concept of inclusion. That is why it is not yet known how teachers understand diversity and inclusion or how they act on the basis of emerging ideas (Petriwskyj, 2010). Schuelka, Johnstone, Thomas, and Artiles (2019) emphasize the idea that inclusive education must take into account the diversity of students, disciplines, and the learning context.

The diverse needs of growth, development, or support of students with intellectual disabilities in special and/or inclusive education classes require a differentiated and individualized approach to teaching and, at the same time, a good ability to work together in case teams to identify the best solutions in learning activities to achieve school progress. The importance of studying diversity in the classes of pupils with CES in special education is apparent in the applicative nature of the research aims of the master’s students to display presence of diversity classes that include students with special education needs.

In Romania, in accordance with the provisions of Article 51 (1) (a) and (b) of Regulation (EEC) No 2081/92 (2) of the Law on National Education No. 1/2011 and in accordance with Judgment No. 564 of August 4, 2017, on how to grant the rights of children with special educational requirements in the pre-university education system, students with CES are oriented in mainstream or special education, depending on the diagnosis/deficiency and its degree as follows:

a) children with CES integrated into mainstream education, who follow the curriculum of mainstream education.

b) children with CES integrated into special classes/groups organized in mainstream education;

c) children with SPECIAL Education CES;

(d) children with CES requiring hospital stays of more than four weeks for which groups or classes are organized, as appropriate, within the health facility in which they are admitted;

(e) children with CES who, for medical reasons or because of a disability, are non-displaceable, for whom home schooling is organized for a specified period.

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The report posted on the Bihor County Inspectorate’s website for the 2017–2018 school year states that 1,399 pupils with special educational requirements are enrolled in the Bihor special education, 53 more than in the previous school year, which highlights a slight increase in the number of pupils with schooled CES, the tendency to increase the number of pupils with CES being in line with the data illustrated in the national reports, from several countries. Thus, one of the challenges that education specialists should respond to is to be consistently involved in solving the diverse difficulties faced by teachers in pre-university education in the classroom (Popa & Bochiş, 2016).

From Jelas’s point of view (2010), regardless of whether future teachers will practice in traditional or special education, they must be formed together at the level of university studies in such a way that they can achieve the integration and inclusion of pupils with special educational requirements in classes. In Romania, the training at the level of undergraduate studies of future teachers who will work with pre-school or primary school students from traditional, inclusive, and special education, is carried out within the framework of two separate curricula: Primary and Pre-school Education Pedagogy and Special Psychopedagogy, respectively. Sales (2006) emphasizes the need to prepare students enrolled in education science programs for a fair and positive approach to school diversity and inclusion. This, from Arnaiz’s point of view (2003), means not only assimilating a volume of expertise but also training skills necessary to achieve inclusive education. Given that students are aware of the importance of values such as equality, compassion, collaboration, and respect for cultural diversity and respect for human rights, they would be more likely to apply them later in the classroom (Morris, 2005; Noddings, 2006; Thomazet, 2009).

At the University of Oradea, at the Faculty of Education Sciences, at the level of the master’s studies, the educational offer is part of the integrated education study program for primary and pre-school education, in order to meet the training needs of graduates and teachers working in classes in inclusive or special schools. In this program, in the discipline of Teaching Strategies in support of the integration of children with CES, we have fostered the framework of collaboration by groups of master students, on aspects related to identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the educational process in educational institutions, with students or preschoolers with special educational requirements, using the Photovoice method. The Photovoice method is a participatory research method that combines photography and group activity giving participants the opportunity to record and reflect on the surrounding reality (Lal et al., 2012).

In the literature, the role of participatory research methods is presented by different authors. Thus, after Catalani and Minkler (2010), participant projects are ←9 | 10→associated with (a) long-standing relationships between researchers and community, (b) intensive training to build community capacity, (c) an iterative cycle of community documentation and critical dialogue, and (d) multilevel outcomes including engaging community members in action and advocacy, enhancing understanding of community needs and assets, and facilities individual empowerment. As regards the use of the Photovoice method, Wang and Burris (1997) point out that it enables the following three types of objectives to be achieved: (a) recording and reflecting on community strengths and concerns, (b) promoting critical dialogue and knowledge, and (c) reaching policymakers.

These skills we consider to be necessary to be developed by students or master’s students, but despite new trends in education reform, teaching and learning in universities remains teacher-centered, curriculum-centered, or both, and students are rarely actively involved in courses (Popa et al., 2018). In the process of carrying out this research, we created the context in which the master students engaged in efforts to know the reality of the state of education, reflect personally, and dialogue with others regarding the identification of the strengths and weaknesses of the way of organizing the education system, the conduct of the educational process, the policies and legislative provisions in force, etc., on the basis of an own investigative and documentation approach, plus the ability to group with other colleagues and engage in actions that produce qualitative changes in education.

1.2. Literature review

With regard to the use of the Photovoice method in order to contribute to the production of a change in education, we have identified few studies in the literature. Meyer and Kroeger (2005) outline aspects of how Photovoice can serve teachers in creating a critical approach in educational institutions/classes, which can bring about a change or transformation conducive to both teacher and students. Kroeger et al. (2012) believe that at the level of university studies, future teachers must be prepared to successfully achieve the inclusion of students with CES in classrooms, proposing an applicative approach that involves having students from different study programs and different specialists work together. Co-teaching and Photovoice methods were used in this process, without providing much further details on how the Photovoice method was implemented.

In the meta-analysis carried out by Lal et al. (2012), taking into account 351 publications, the authors revealed, according to the study’s purpose, that the majority of research conducted and published in the literature used the ←10 | 11→Photovoice method to promote health, highlighting in few of these the potential implications of using the method among people with disabilities. The authors identify that only 24 % of all research under analysis is studies that consider the aspects of promoting health in people with chronic diseases, intellectual, physical, or mental health disabilities, thus stressing that it remains an open area for future research. Stanley (2003, as cited in Jurkowski, 2008) states that photography was used to improve the level of employment and self-determination of people with disabilities in the fields of art and design. Photography has previously been used for engagement and self-empowerment among people with disabilities in the field of art and design.

Referring to the beginnings of the use of the Photovoice method, Wass et al. (2020) stated that it was introduced for research in areas such as palliative care (healthcare contexts) and early education and was subsequently used in various contexts and for different purposes, such as exploring the impact of domestic violence or homelessness.

The study by Wass et al. (2020) involved 33 students to explore their beliefs about effective teaching-learning methods in the university, using several research methods, including Photovoice. Most student participants gave high ratings for the use of the Photovoice method in the study, while some described the method as restrictive and sometimes challenging.

Our research can arouse the interest of other researchers in using an active participatory method such as Photovoice in investigating aspects of diversity and the success of integrating students with intellectual disabilities into special education classes. In this study, the modality of the exposure of information in the research methodology part may provide other interested researchers with a model on how to utilize the Photovoice method in practice in the field of education and special education, but less data related to highlighting the impact of the results achieved on the community, due to the impossibility of completing the final stages of the study in the context given of the pandemic in 2020. The study highlights the strengths identified in the process of integrating students with intellectual disabilities into special education, pointing out eight broad categories of topics in which the photos taken were framed. In the results of the study, from the analysis of photographs, student reports, and the interview, a positive picture was illustrated on how master’s students captured diversity in classes of pupils in special education, as well as the possibilities of recovery and intervention in school or extracurricular activities.

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1.3. Research questions/aims of the research

Two research questions guided this study:

1. What are the MEd students’ experiences regarding the strengths of inclusive education?

2. What are the MEd students’ recommendations regarding the weaknesses of inclusive education?

1.4. Research methods

The present chapter used qualitative research methodology as the aim was to understand the phenomenon of inclusive education through the participants’ perspective and experiences (Clark & Creswell, 2015; Glasser, 2006; Merriam & Tisdell, 2016, , by following specific stages and patterns in research (Saldaña, 2015), and exploring the topic of inclusive education in an in-depth way (Yin, 2016).

An intra-paradigm mixed research design was applied (O’Reilly & Kiyimba, 2015), of action research and Photovoice. The type of action research was Participatory Action Research (PAR) goals of which are (a) to improve the quality of people’s organizations, communities, and family lives; and (b) to empower individuals in schools, systems of education, and school communities (Creswell, 2012). By using PAR, the study aimed to empower MEd students in their experiences and practices regarding special education. The second research design was Photovoice. The aims of Photovoice are (a) to record and reflect on positive/negative aspects of a community, (b) to promote dialog on important issues, and (c) to reach policymakers (Wang & Burris, 1997). The three goals of Photovoice were followed in this study, together with the goals of PAR.

1.4.1. Procedure

The study took place from October 2019 to February 2020. Data collection was conducted by following the Photovoice steps used by Wang et al. (1998). We describe how each step was applied in this study, the sampling procedure, data collection, and data analysis.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2021 (December)
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2021. 198 pp., 33 fig. b/w, 43 tables.

Biographical notes

Otilia Clipa (Volume editor)

Otilia Clipa is an assistant professor at the Faculty of Science of Education, Stefan cel Mare University of Suceava, Romania. Her qualifications include grades in education and psychology as well as integrated pedagogy. Her PhD thesis dealt with evaluation in higher education. She published or coordinated more than 15 books and beyond 60 articles in international journals. Her areas of interest include early childhood education, preschool and primary education, assessment in education, teacher education and didactics for university teachers.


Title: Challenges in Education – Policies, Practice and Research