Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2012-2013 (archived)


Department: Education


Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2012/13 Module Cap 18 Location Durham


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To study conceptualisations of special educational needs and the attendant forms of support,understanding and intervention.
  • To develop an interactive perspective of special needs based on the study of educational, historical, social, psychological, pedagogical, cultural andindividual perspectives.
  • To develop a critical approach to analysing special needs policy and practice.


  • This module takes the perspective that special education is neither a place nor is it a particular group of students. Rather, special education refers to specialized interventions or environmental modifications, differentiated pedagogies, adapted curricula or other accommodations and supports, provided to students who are considered ‘special’. This module will encourage a view that all individuals have varying degrees of skills and untapped potential for living lives of quality, meaning and purpose within society. We will however debate this view critically through a variety of lenses. Finally, it is important to point out that the field of Special Educational Needs is vast, and as a result, as the module progresses, you will be encouraged to develop and narrow your own particular areas of interest by focusing on a few key issues and ‘special’ learners.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • By the end of this module, the students should be able to demonstrate:
  • A critical understanding of current research and inquiry in the field of special educational needs.
  • An understanding of how special needs are characterised and identified
  • An understanding of how and why students’ educational experiences are altered because of the law relating to special educational needs
  • An insightful and empathic approach to individuals’ experiences as ‘special’ learners
  • A critical understanding of inclusive education policies and practices
  • A critical understanding of current pedagogical strategies that are applied to special education
  • Specific interest and expertise in an issue or special need that will inform the final, summative assessment
  • An informed, reflective and reflexive approach to the field of special education, whether as a teacher, educational professional, policy maker or citizen.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • The ability to critically evaluate how special needs are conceptualized and characterized and the ways in which these judgments affect the educational experiences of individuals
  • The ability to critically evaluate research relating to special educational needs
  • The ability to identify the practical and theoretical implications of research relating to the inclusion of learners considered ‘special’
Key Skills:
  • The ability to participate in debates/discussions
  • The ability to research specific topics of interest and communicate the research to others
  • The ability to undertake an independent critique of current research

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • This module will be taught through interactive lectures, seminars, digital video material and tutorials. Special Education is such a vast and complex area that it is almost impossible to recommend one book or one journal that would adequately cover the content of the module. As a result, Statutory Codes of Practice and Guidance will be put on DUO, as will particular readings and other papers. But throughout the module you will also be expected to read and research your own particular areas of interest that you will develop, as well as actively pursuing other material to which you will be directed through DUO. Each seminar will be centred upon two pieces of published research whose substantive foci will be a preparation for the final assessment, either through the coursework or examination. The seminars will have the same basic structure unless otherwise advised (and any changes will be communicated through DUO). Their structure is based on asking and answering three fundamental questions:
  • What is the nature of the ‘problem’?
  • What does the paper contribute to the field?
  • What is your perspective on the ‘problem’?

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 22 1 hour 22
Seminars 11 1 hour 11
Fieldwork - School Visits 2 Two up to 6 hour 12
Preparation and Reading 155
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Assignment Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
One piece of critial analysis 2000 word50 % YES
Component: Examination Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Examination - 2 questions from 5 2 hours 50% YES

Formative Assessment:

In this part, you will be given a research paper on a topic closely related to the module content, and asked to critique it, according to the following questions: • What is the substantive content of the paper in terms of major theories, conceptual frameworks, methodology? • What is the paper’s significance and importance within the field? • What are the implications of this paper, for research, practice, policy and individuals? Your critique will be 1000 words (maximum – not including references). The module lecturer will grade it and return it to you within 2 weeks with your grade as a percentage written on it with some feedback.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University