Analysing the assessment of special education needs: views of investigators and decision makers

Daniel Östlund, Thomas Barow

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


Research topic/aim:

As stated by the Swedish Education Act students that who are at risk to miss the objectives of the education is recommended to undergo a special educational needs (SEN) assessment. The SEN assessment is conducted by the student health team (SHT), a multiprofessional group involving staff with medical, psychological, psychosocial and special education competences and assessment should give the school guidance in what kind of support the student should receive. Hjörne and Säljö (2014) points at risks in SHT´s work when adopting an individual focus. This is contradictory in relation to the policy documents, which pinpoint the need of a focus on both the individual and the learning environment. With this background, we have a particular interest in perspectives of SEN investigators in the SHT (special needs teacher) and decision-makers (principals), deepening an earlier study (Barow & Östlund, 2018).

The aim is to gain knowledge about views on SHT`s procedure, assessing and analyzing SEN and what kind of interventions or support that are suggested.

The overall research question is: How is the SEN assessment procedure organised and conducted from the investigators’ and the decision makers’ point of view?

Theoretical framework:

The study draws on concept on thought styles (Fleck, 1979). Thought styles occur in scientific context as well as in professional communities and in this study, we assume that the SHT´s form thought collectives that are characterized by specific thought styles.

Methodological design:

The data originates from 14 semi-structured interviews with SHT staff and principals in southern Sweden. The interview transcriptions were analyzed based on a qualitative content.

Expected conclusions:

The findings shows that there are varying thought styles in the data, which relates to both holistic and more individual approaches. Both investigators and decision makers strives toward a focus on the learning environment. However, the structures and systems within the schools and the municipalities is constructed with from an individual/categorical view. Relevance to Nordic educational researchIn the Nordic countries, there are policies that states that all students should be given the support they need. Findings from our research can contribute to further discussion on procedures for securing that students with SEN are investigated with reliable methods and is given adequate support based on the SEN assessment.


Barow, T., and Östlund, D. (2018). “The Significance of SEN Assessment, Diagnoses, and Psychometric Tests in Inclusive Education: Studies from Sweden and Germany.” In Testing and Inclusive Schooling: International Challenges and Opportunities, edited by B. Hamre, 231–247. 362 Abingdon: Routledge.

Hjörne, E. & Säljö, R. (2014). Analysing and preventing school failure: Exploring the role of multiprofessionality in pupil health team meetings. International Journal of Educational Research 63, 5-15

Fleck, L. (1979). Genesis and development of a scientific fact. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2019
EventNERA 2019: Education in a globalized world -
Duration: 1980-Jan-01 → …


ConferenceNERA 2019: Education in a globalized world
Period80-01-01 → …

Swedish Standard Keywords

  • Pedagogy (50301)


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