Student voice, not student echoes: Increasing inclusive mathematics learning for students experiencing mild to moderate intellectual disabilities

Year: 2021

Author: Barr, Frances

Type of paper: Individual Paper

Engaging students with mild to moderate Intellectual Disability (ID) in conversations about their learning experiences has the potential to provide insightful recommendations on the improvement of teaching and learning mathematics in inclusive classroom settings. Every student, regardless of their formally identified scholastic intelligence, has valuable knowledge of what is effective and ineffective regarding their learning. This paper reports on the pilot study of a broader research project, that focuses on the voice of high school students with mild ID in relation to their mathematics learning. The study aims to analyse students’ experiences and insights concerning how they are taught mathematics, based upon direct input from the students themselves. This research is important because students experiencing ID remain underrepresented in the collection of student voices that have been educationally recognised to date. In this respect the pilot study confirmed that students experiencing ID can engage constructively in discussion about their learning, and are able to contribute unique and insightful recommendations concerning the way they are taught mathematics. Via in-depth phenomenological interviews, two students experiencing ID contributed to the pilot by reflecting on their unique beliefs and perspectives of learning mathematics. Using discourse analysis, and in reference to the relevant curricular and syllabus outcomes, information collected through these interviews was analysed for the purpose of identifying the unique perspectives, insights and recommendations of these students.  A preliminary analysis of the interviews indicates that both participants voiced their need to make greater use of hands-on objects and real-world examples during learning, as well as having their interests integrated into the teaching and learning process. Importantly, both students also referred to a need to be ‘seen’ more, with one student suggesting the teacher could, ‘keep a good eye on me to help me’, and the second student commenting that the teacher could, ‘come around a bit more to help me. Just keeping a little bit of a closer eye.’ These initial findings reinforce the value of including the voice of students experiencing ID to a greater degree, suggesting we may not be seeing these students sufficiently, let alone hearing them adequately. This research is thus necessary, in that it facilitates the opportunity for students experiencing ID to voice their ideas and advice, so that, rather than echoing the expectations of others, they will contribute more directly to their learning environment.