Research projects

Towards inclusive education? Teachers’ perceptions of the Finnish national curriculum and inclusive practices of physical education


PhD thesis Christopher Mihajlovic

The main research interest in this article-based PhD thesis is to examine what impact the national reforms associated with the current Finnish core curriculum have had on the push for a greater emphasis on inclusivity in physical education classes. Like other mandated curricula, Finland makes inclusivity (fairness and equity) an explicit dimension of effective educational provision. Despite the expanding international support for the idea of inclusion, this concept encompasses various definitions and has been interpreted differently. In Finland, the national curriculum builds upon a broad understanding of inclusion, capturing any group of students and as a way of responding to diversity among learners and is thus not limited solely on children with disabilities. Recognising and respecting diversity seems to be an important aspect of the underlying values of the Finnish educational policies. At the system level, however, the conceptualisation and implementation of inclusive practices seems not to be in line with the policy documents. Interested in the translation of curriculum rhetoric, this research project focuses on how in-service teachers in Finland explore the ways they implement inclusive practices in their physical education classes. To validate the findings, multiple types of material are gathered through different research methods. First, the current Finnish National Curriculum of PE is qualitatively content analysed to identify how the PE curricula responds to the individual abilities and needs of all children, particularly regarding the objectives of PE, understanding of performance, possible adaptions of physical activities and methods of student assessment. Second, a case study is conducted with the intention of developing understandings about inclusive pedagogies for PE from the perspective of PE teachers and how the curriculum frames the teachers’ possibilities to work inclusive.