Critical Analysis of Heward’s Faulty Notions on Special Education Experience
Teaching and learning experiences define the general performances of the teacher and the student in the formal education setting, usually attracting extensive research and academic debate. Despite the interest that the formal education has sparked among many scholars and theorists, there are several points of discord on the generally accepted philosophies that define teaching and learning. In light of the controversy marring the debate on the appropriate practices or perceptions about the established systems, special education must be handled with extra caution due to the delicate nature of the students’ education needs. Clearing the controversy would be deemed necessary by educationists who dedicate their attention to students with special needs, assisting them to formulate the appropriate procedures favouring the special needs thereon.
Researchers such as William E. Heward have devoted a significant contribution of their academic research to the question of the effectiveness of the teaching and learning experience in the classroom. In one of such papers that the researcher has delivered (Heward, 2003), the author identifies ten specific notions that he labels faulty in as far as the classroom experiences of the teacher and the student are concerned. In the paper, a deliberate attempt to unravel the causes of compromised effectiveness education experience is manifested, which strikes an important interest for the following discourse. This discourse critically enumerates the credibility of the author’s position, by analysing three of the identified ten points.
Thesis statement: the effectiveness of special education experience can be defined by analysing the weight of three of Heward’s notions namely; impact of curricula, measuring student performance and impact of internal motivation to learning outcomes.
Firstly, Heward (2003) holds the position that there is a faulty notion among scholars as well as education stakeholders that structured curricula impedes the appropriate learning experience. The author reckons that it is wrong for education theorists and stakeholders to imagine that the standardisation of the curriculum acts as a barrier to explorative learning. In the notion, students and the teachers are confined within the limited predetermined scope, which negatively impacts on the student’s learning experience. According to the author, several points of reference have been made by school system reform campaigners who identify this as a dangerous restriction which turns out to be boring to learners. Advocates of this notion therefore make calls for an open curriculum where children with special needs have unlimited scope of learning content presented to them, to expand chances of the identification of their special capabilities. In the same breath, other supporters of the notion contend that it is wrong for anyone or group of persons to dictate what children with special needs should learn with little freedom of choice. On his verdict, Heward postulates that it is wrong to dispel the importance of a standardised curriculum since it has been documented that its application and strict adherence delivers appropriate results.
Critiquing this position gives two lines of thought regarding the application of a structured syllabus. On one hand, the author mentions that advocates of the notion have been championing for reforms in the school system. This implies that by negating the claims of the notion to the effect that the standard syllabus system is ineffective, the author assumes that there is no need for reforms in the education system. On the other hand, by celebrating its application assumes the ideal situation where the system strictly adheres to the set syllabus. In both scenarios, there are several assumptions held by the author leaving the fate of the children with special needs at the mercy of assumptions. It is my opinion that the element of gambling with the life of a child with special needs is not worth the debate, but a comprehensive solution ought to be sought from an alternative solution. While the positive impact of the structured curricula is taken into consideration, the calls for its overhaul by a section of scholars and education reformists must hold water until we settle for an acceptable formula across the divide. I therefore agree to some level of confidence that structured curricula have their shortcomings, without giving an umbrella position on its overhaul or replacement with other curricula.
To this end, I hold the personal opinion that a hybrid curriculum would complement the positive attributes of each of the two curricula. On one hand, research demonstrates on the impeccable results that the student centred system has for instance in the study conducted by Loten and Schwartz (2004). In this study, the authors reveal that cognitive behaviours of the students using the Problem Based Learning (PBL) recorded plausible results regarding students perceptions on certain complex courses. The authors gave recommendations that the results of the study demonstrate the untapped strength of the curriculum system that Heward clearly disputes. Similar sentiments are recorded in Leung and Wang (2008), by giving a mechanism of testing performance in a hybrid curriculum system which enables grading for attributes where ordinary standardised curricula fail. In such a system, learning would be complemented by the elements of both systems flanked by the appropriate supporting machinery.
Tapping from the benefits of both education systems would facilitate a healthy learning and teaching experience. In a separate computer science research, researchers have found out that merging two curricula designs could pay off than using a single model (Mabis and Mitchell, 1978). This implies that the special needs of children with disabilities could be handled better across the spectrum of their needs by facilitating a variety of curricula packages, with an aim of serving the interests of the students at all levels of their capabilities. Other scholars give a specific account of special-needs dentistry classes by exploring the benefits of PBL which equally point at tremendous results, which confirms that it holds true for special needs students at a an advanced level of education (Bedi, Champion and Davies, 2002). The impact of definition curricula notions is therefore very important in special education
Secondly, Heward identifies that it is a faulty notion to associate teachers input in measuring students’ performance as an impediment to appropriate effectiveness in performance. According to the perspective taken on this notion, there are various performance measurement models which depend on method of measurement and frequency of performance. Due to the definition intricacies for the particular performance measurement in question, there has been debate to the adequacy of the measurement procedure. These arguments arise from the fact that education performance is very complicated to capture i bearing in mind that education is multifaceted discipline that would probably need more complex performance measurement tools that are actually inexistent. The fact that learning is a complex process poses a challenge to many regarding the form of mechanism to employ towards the facilitation of a comprehensive performance assessment and measurement. As such, a school of thought has developed to the effect that what a teacher needs to do in performance assessment should not be a measurement program. This sparks a difference from Heward’s perspective, which holds the opinion that the teacher should facilitate performance measurement which is fairly logical (Heward, 2003).
From the perspective held by Heward, a deep analysis demonstrates that it is wrong to assume that performance measurement is harmful to the learning experience since there would be no other way to introduce review standards of learning progress in a presentable unit. It is clearly manifested that the lack of a method that captures the appropriate learning outcomes could be problematic for either argument if learning has to be reviewed. In a different perspective, arguing that teachers waste a lot of time in administering faulty progress assessment by way of measurable outcomes is incorrect. Whereas it might not be possible for the available performance measurement tools to reveal certain attributes of the learning outcomes, it is agreeable to a certain level of confidence that students feel motivated in the process of being placed under a measurement system. Special education progress would certainly need to be monitored in a manner that would enable the teacher to make the appropriate interventions using the best possible techniques that become available. While making observational assessment may not comprehensively tackle all the learning outcomes, lack of measurement would still be deemed appropriate.
To this end, it is my opinion that the Heward’s position is sustainable due to the effectiveness element in question; bearing in mind that effectiveness is a measurable aspect of the teacher’s performance. In order to create a balance in the experience of the learner and the teacher, it is appropriate that a simplified and standardized technique be applied on both parties. On the same note, Kohn, a major researcher supporting the impracticality of the teacher’s use of students’ performance measurement tools has faced widespread criticism (Heward, 2003). According to the author, education performance measurements representing elements of all learning outputs must be supported. In such an argument, the author confirms that despite the possibility of an assessment inadequacy to cater for certain learning elements in the measurement, special education can still be modified and optimized to relate with the special needs that the students have. I concur with the position that optimization of the system could cater for the various fears that researcher such as Kohn (1998), regarding the impracticality of measuring performance. To dispel such a notion as supported by such education paradigms, I hold the opinion that the inherent conditioning that a classroom with a measurement system acts in a positive way to motivate students to expect certain review of performance based on a quantification standard. In such a perspective, the teacher contributes towards setting standards that quantify performance.
Apparently, the sustainability of such notions as propagated by researchers such as Kohn is based on wrong interpretations of education performance. Kohn (1998) expresses the feeling that presentation or definition of academic engagement as work to be a wrong tenet is perhaps the reason why he makes such inaccurate attack on performance measurement. Kohn is on record for having said that academic terms such as seatwork and homework are misplaced and inappropriate to be applied in academics (Kohn, 1998). In such a notion, it is incorrect to make appear that students in the special education curricula ought to feel like they have not invested their input to deliver work. Education is perhaps the single most engagement that possesses all elements of work than most other work definitions, even outside the academic definitions. As such, it beats logic for measurements to such ideology since all types of work are approached from an interpretation that rewards coincide with level of input and commitment invested at the end of the stipulated time. In the opposite interpretation, I feel that involving measurable assessment techniques, the appropriate interpretation of education input will be captured and the rewards will act as motivational attributes that the students will want to achieve. Separately, by involving such interpretations, the overall intention of nurturing young people into professions, which are all about work, should begin by defining the core importance of holding work seriously. Professional mind set is generally work-oriented, which could be done a great deal of support by ensuring that students develop the winning perception about their professional goals. Student performance measurement is therefore central to the definition of effectiveness in special education experience.
Finally, analysis is made on Heward’s notion that internal motivation is central to learning experience in students with special needs to the effect that it is inaccurate. It is clear that he holds the opinion that internal motivation in students with special needs is not very definitive to their actual learning (Heward, 2003). According to the author’s initial introduction of the notion’s presentation, there is “substantial” supporting documentation that the teacher’s influence through praise and approval is vital in shaping up performance. However, the author opts to make an opposite perspective to the effect that extrinsic attempts to manage a student’s interest in academics usually damage the overall interest in the same. In such a perspective, the author supports major works by Kohn (1993) which illustrate the irrecoverable damage that such motivational attempts have on the performance of the student. Heward concurs with the position held by the author in his works that motivation input such as praise and incentive plans contribute to reverse impacts that lower motivation and interest in academics. It is clear that all the information that the opinion on this notion is based on the side taken by famous education theorists who give an opinion on contentious education issues. In that respect, I find it appropriate to mention that Heward ought to have taken serious considerations regarding the reliance of such information, most of which has little backing from documented practicality.
Critiquing the position held by Heward punches holes in his perceptions about the internal motivation impact, which ironically, he initially agrees has significant evidence regarding its applicability to motivate students. Despite further agreement that Kohn’s position is not empirically sustainable, it follows that making a position based on Kohn’s work is equally not empirically sustainable. This ensues in a debate manifested in the work of Banko, Cameron and Pierce (2001), who on a lenient note argues that intrinsic motivation is not affected by extrinsic input from the teacher. From the opinion of these two theorist perspectives, it is clear that Heward cannot make the appropriate decision that would facilitate an independent judgment on whether it is an accurate notion to dispel extrinsic motivation. In a delicate education system as special education is, it is perhaps for any opinion giver to weigh out the impact of each factor that the student with special needs is subjected to. It is certainly inaccurate to allow an umbrella account of special education without factual support on the misplacement of intrinsic motivation on students with special needs. It follows that
To this end, I hold the personal opinion that learning is a psychological process that heavily relies on the cognitive aspect of the subjects. In line with cognitive development, it is certainly undisputable that the environmental factors play a very central role on the level of positive conditioning that is likely to facilitate learning. According to Factoidz (2010), classical conditioning is perhaps one of the most readily acceptable learning processes that teaching can exploit. It is clear that continued conditioning of the subject in a process of learning is very important in imparting certain desirable attributes or responses. In that case, it follows that by facilitating continued mental support to students can elicit certain desirable interests that supports the learning process. In the case of students with special needs, it can be said that by assuming their capacity is similar to those students who show little impact to extrinsic motivation would be eliminating the benefits of mental conditioning. In my opinion, it is not wrong to imagine that there are students who would severely be demotivated by attempts of the teachers to motivate them extrinsically but it is terribly wrong to allow a blanket notion across all students. Perhaps more studies should be conducted to identify what proportions of students get a negative motivational impact from such input, yet a separate study objective to find out what proportion would be unaffected ought to likewise be conducted. In my own estimation, it follows that if these two study objectives confirm my projection, which holds true in many related cases, it is then sustainable to extrapolate that there would be a significant proportion that will find it helpful to have intrinsic motivation positive in their academic performance.
Tapping from such extrapolation, it is deemed incomplete for any cognition oriented teaching process to exclude mental support for the learner in order to gain the appropriate confidence. A balanced learning process must depict some of the basic learning principles among which is mental involvement and critical problem solving. Within the learning intricacies, it is expected that cognition ranks among the most important elements of the teaching expectations that a teacher imparting the knowledge targets. As such, the training aspects of the cognitive development of the child with special needs must constantly be provoked in order to arouse the necessary learning responses. Creation of perceptions about the learning process in a student’s mind facilitates the motivational responses that the teacher desires in the results. It is therefore very important that motivation triggers the core learning interest in the student with special needs. Resolving controversy around intrinsic motivation factors must therefore enhance definition of the education experience in special education.
In conclusion, special education needs of the students must be approached from a sober analysis of the teaching and learning effectiveness. Improvement of the learning experience must depart from the generalizations that ordinary education systems make, and adopt a more optimised approach for the sake of the special needs that the student has. While debate regarding the opinion on major issues should attract the necessary interest from all quarters of education stakeholders, it is important that the debate considers delivering concrete contributions based on tangible evidence. Consolidation of opinions from various stakeholders might prove to be the solution to the questions raised regarding disagreements in major areas of the debate. While development of special education cannot be conducted in the exclusion of regular education, it is important that the special needs of students with exceptional needs are considered to avoid generalisations that disadvantage some of the students.
Issues of definition and interpretation of the various special needs that students have in the classroom must be resolved adequately in order for the teacher to facilitate learning for the various needy students. Perhaps the most important development in the special education sector is the demystification of the disability aspect that students with special needs have (Sacks, 2001). By defining the actual needs that special education must take care of, it becomes easily manageable for the teachers and education policy makers to decide which notions to fight off, and the appropriate culture to cultivate towards according sufficient support to learners with special needs. By defining the special needs education needs, it is possible to improve effectiveness and education experience. One step to do this can be through analysing the weight Heward’s faulty notions, whose three of the most important include; impact of curricula, measuring student performance and impact of internal motivation to learning outcomes.
Banko, K. M., Cameron, J., & Pierce. W. D. (2001) “Pervasive Negative Effects of Rewards on Intrinsic Motivation: The Myth Continues,” The Behaviour Analyst. 24:1-44.
Bedi, R. Champion, J. A. & Davies, R. (2002) “Introducing Problem Based Learning to Special Needs Dentistry- A Case Study,” Primary Dental Care, 9(1):9-13
Factoidz (2010) “Learning through the Process of Classical Conditioning,” Retrieved from: HYPERLINK “http://factoidz.com/learning-through-the-process-of-classical-conditioning/” http://factoidz.com/learning-through-the-process-of-classical-conditioning/
Heward, W. L. (2003) “Ten Faulty Notions about Teaching and Learning that Hinder the Effectiveness of Special Education,” Journal of Special Education, 36(4):186-205
Kohn, A. (1998). What to look for in a classroom. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers
Koln, A. (1993) “Why Incentive Plans Cannot Work.” Harvard Business Review, 71(5):54-63
Leung, K. & Wang, W. (2008) “Validation of the Tutotest in a Hybrid PBL Curriculum,” Advances in Health Sciences Education, 13(1):469-477 Doi: 10:1007/s10459-007-9059-1
Loten, E. G. & Schwartz P. L. (2004) “Influence of Type of Curricula on Students’ Perceptions of the Medical Course: a Compilation of Results from the Cognitive Behaviour Survey, Attitudes toward Social Issues in Medicine Survey, and Learning Environment Questionnaire,” Teaching and Learning in Medicine, 16(2):123-132
Mabis, B. & Mitchell, W. (1978) “Implementing a Computer Science Curriculum Merging Two Curriculum Models,” ACM SIGCSE Bulletin, 10(3):151-155 Doi: 10.1145/953028.804250
Sacks, A. (2001) Special education: a reference handbook. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, Inc.,