Teaching students with special educational needs in regular and special primary education: An exploration of need supportive strategies
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Students with special educational needs (SEN) are more at risk for developing a lower level of motivation. To enhance motivation, a need supportive teaching environment, in which students experience autonomy support, structure and involvement, is important. In addition, teacher behaviour is shaped by perceived pressure from either higher authorities or from students’ abilities and background. Research shows that teachers use more controlling than autonomy supportive strategies when they consider their students to be at-risk. It is unknown whether this also applies to SEN students. The question arises which need supportive (i.e., autonomy supportive and structure) strategies teachers use when teaching SEN students. By means of semi-structured interviews, the present explorative, qualitative study aims to gain more insight in the strategies teachers (N =11) use when teaching SEN students in both special and regular primary education and what teachers’ underlying considerations are when deploying these strategies. The data were analyzed to characterize reported teaching strategies and explore the differences between teachers and educational contexts. Teachers mostly report to provide structure when teaching SEN students, combined with autonomy supportive strategies. Students’ perceived abilities and backgrounds seem to play a more important role when deploying these strategies than perceived pressure from higher authorities.