Learning facilitators’ perspectives of supporting learners with disabilities in mainstream classrooms

Bergstedt, Jo-Ann (2015-03)

Thesis (MEd)--Stellenbosch University, 2015.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Learning facilitation is a growing phenomenon in mainstream schools in South Africa, as learning facilitators are increasingly being employed by parents as a conduit in providing individual support for learners with disabilities. An in-depth examination of available knowledge and theory about the phenomenon of learning facilitation revealed that associated research is lacking in the South African education context. Consequently, learning facilitators’ roles lack definition, status and regulation in both policy documents and the practical setting of mainstream education. This study aimed to gain insight from the perspectives of learning facilitators to form a clearer description of what learning facilitation entails. As support structures are still evolving in inclusive education contexts, it is considered important to acknowledge, explore and identify the role learning facilitators play in the implementation of integrated education for learners with disabilities. In order to optimally support the effective development of the learner, consideration must be shown to the individual needs of the learner and the processes within the environment that foster or hinder learning potential. Bronfenbrenner's bioecological theory of human development linked this understanding of the influences on learning and development. The learning support provided by a learning facilitator in the mainstream classroom is prefaced as an aspect of the learner’s environment that ‘fosters’ in contrast with those that ‘interfere’ with the development of proximal processes. This study adopts a basic interpretive design. Qualitative data collection and data analysis research strategies were employed to derive in-depth insights. Verbal accounts and descriptions from learning facilitators were gleaned, both through individual semi-structured interviews and a focus group interview. Research into the daily experiences of learning facilitators revealed that they fulfil important and varied support roles. These roles incorporate academic needs as well as providing care and support for the learner with disabilities. Findings showed that the relational aspect of the learning facilitator’s role is crucial in the collaborative effort of various role players (professionals, therapists, teachers, parents, etc.) to help learners with disabilities achieve engagement and integration into mainstream education as far as possible. It relieves the negative focus on the learner being perceived as “different” and eases the pressure on them to overcome challenges on their own. Thus, recognition and definition of their role – what they are and what they are not, their interaction with teachers and other role players, their responsibilities, training and required skills - in regulations and policy statements will add much significance and clarity to a fairly new resource (in the South African context) of supporting learners with disabilities along with their parents and teachers and the learning facilitators themselves.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Leerderfasilitering is ʼn groeiende verskynsel in hoofstroomskole in Suid-Afrika, aangesien al hoe meer leerderfasiliteerders deur ouers aangestel word om ekstra individuele ondersteuning aan veral leerders met gestremdhede te bied. ʼn In-diepte studie van beskikbare kennis en teorie oor die verskynsel van leerderfasilitering het ʼn tekort aan relevante navorsing in die Suid-Afrikaanse konteks aangedui. Duidelike omskrywings van die leerderfasiliteerders se rol en status ontbreek in beleidsdokumente en hul werksomgewings. Die doel van hierdie studie was om insig te verkry uit die perspektiewe van leerderfasiliteerders om sodoende ʼn duideliker beskrywing te vorm van wat leerderfasilitering behels. Aangesien ondersteunende strukture nog in die ontwikkelingsfase is in inklusiewe onderwyskontekste, word die erkenning, verkenning en identifisering van die rol wat leerderfasiliteers in die insluiting en ondersteuning van leerders met gestremdhede kan speel, as belangrik geag. Die individuele behoeftes van leerders en die prosesse in hul omgewing wat leerpotensiaal bevorder of verhinder moet in ag geneem word om die effektiewe ontwikkeling van die leerder so ver as moontlik te kan ondersteun. Bronfenbrenner se bio-ekologiese teorie van menslike ontwikkeling het hierdie begrip van die verbande tussen leer en ontwikkeling getrek. Die ondersteuning wat ʼn leerderfasiliteerder bied in die hoofstroomklaskamer word voorgestel as ʼn beskermende faktor in teenstelling met hindernisse wat “inmeng” met die ontwikkeling van proksimale prosesse. Hierdie interpretatiewe studie het kwalitatiewe datagenerering en -verwerkingstrategieë gebruik om betekenisvolle insigte te verkry. Verbale data en beskrywings van leerderfasiliteerders is gegeneer deur individuele, semi-gestruktureerde onderhoude asook ʼn fokusgroeponderhoud. Navorsing oor die daaglikse ervarings van leerderfasiliteerders het onthul dat hul belangrike, maar ʼn verskeidenheid ondersteuningsrolle vervul. Hierdie rolle spreek die akademiese behoeftes sowel as die voorsiening van sorg en ondersteuning vir leerders met gestremdhede aan Bevindinge het getoon dat die leerfasiliteerder se verhoudinge met verskeie rolspelers (medici, terapeute, onderwysers, ouers, ens.) deurslaggewend is in die gesamentlike poging om leerders met gestremdhede se insluiting en betrokkenheid in hoofstroomskole sover as moontlik te verwerklik. Dit kan die persepsie dat die leerder moet verander om aan te pas by die sisteem ondervang en ook ondersteuningsgeleenthede skep om uitdagings te oorkom. Erkenning en definiëring van leerderfasiliteerders se rol, hul interaksie met onderwysers en ander rolspelers, hul verantwoordelikhede, opleidingsvereistes en vaardighede in regulasies en beleidsdokumente sal meer betekenis en duidelikheid verleen aan ʼn taamlik nuwe werkswyse (in die Suid-Afrikaanse konteks) om leerders met gestremdhede, in samewerking met hul ouers en onderwysers, te ondersteun.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/96807
This item appears in the following collections: