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Research, Policy and Practice: Current Influences on Special Education

The aim of this symposium is to display and critically reflect on the current development of approaches and methods in specialeducational research, policy and practice.

Symposium November 21-22, 2019

This is the programme (including practical information) for the 2019 international symposium on Special Education in Umeå. The first day of the symposium is open to school-based practitioners. The symposium is also part of a 2.5 credit doctoral course in special education. The second day is research focused and the number of attendees is limited. We encourage all practitioners, researchers, including doctoral students, who wish to participate to register (see the registration form below).

Background and content for the symposium

The aim of the symposium is to critically reflect on the current development of approaches and methods in special educational research, policy and practice, generally and specifically in relation to the development of language, writing and reading, mathematical development, and learning disabilities. The questions we will consider include: How can we produce knowledge that helps us understand the complexities of special education in contemporary society in relation to national and international trends? In what ways can we strengthen networking, cross-national interdisciplinary exchange and collaboration, close to practice research, and stimulate the dissemination of research in the field of special education? How can we understand the relationship between methods and the articulation of special educational knowledge? The invited speakers from Sweden, England and Scotland will help us articulate the traditions, approaches, conditions and differences between research projects conducted in cooperation between universities and schools in Sweden and in other European countries.

For the second day of the symposium, we invite research paper submissions relating to policy and practice in the field of special education. We especially welcome contributions with a close to school practice focus, a focus on the development of language, writing and reading, mathematical development, and/or learning disabilities.

We are in discussion with a major international publisher, and it is possible that the symposium will result in a book publication.

Symposium Program

Day 1
The first day of the symposium will start with coffee. Before lunch, there will be one lecture and in the afternoon there will be three lectures with short breaks between each presentation. We round off the day with a short open discussion picking up on the day’s themes. The day will end with a dinner at Umeå University.

Day 2
The number of participants for the second day of the symposium is severely limited. During the second day of the symposium, there will be a maximum of four parallel seminars that will be thematically or methodologically focused. Contributors will present their paper for about 30 minutes following by a 20-minute discussion of the paper. There will be short breaks between each presentation, and the day will end with a lunch at Umeå University.

Date 21 November
Room: BT102 , Behavioural Sciences Building

09.30-10.00   Registration and coffee/tea
10.00-10.15   Welcoming introduction 
10.15-11.30   Lecture 1: Marjatta Takala, Co-teaching and inclusion - some viewpoints 
11.30-12.30   Lunch
12.30-13.45   Lecture 2: Claes Nilholm, An inclusive school – possibilities, obstacles, dilemmas
13.45-14.00   Coffee/tea break
14.00-15.15   Lecture 3: Sheila Riddell, The rights of children with special and additional support needs in England and Scotland: A cross-border comparative study
15.15-15.45   Coffee/tea break
15.45-17.00   Lecture 4: Julie Allan, Not dead yet? Possibilities for critique and reform of inclusion and special education
17.00-17.15   Summing-up session
18.00            Informal mingelbuffé at the Department of Education

Date 22 November
Room: C304 (Map) and BT214 (Map) in Behavioural Sciences Building 
08.45-09.00   Information
09.00-12.30   Parallel seminars, Coffee/tea break
12.30            Farewell

Keynotes and contributors Day 1

A limited selection of distinguished researchers are invited to the symposium. All of them have been chosen with special concern to reflect different knowledge areas of the research field. The following keynotes will hold presentations during the symposium:


Professor Sheila Riddell is professor Inclusion and Diversity and Director of the Centre for Research in Education Inclusion and Diversity, University of Edinburgh, and was previously Director of the Strathclyde Centre for Disability Research, University of Glasgow. After seven years teaching English in a Dorset secondary school, she undertook a PhD at the University of Bristol on the topic of gender and subject option choice. She moved to Scotland in 1988 and since then has researched and written extensively in the fields of education, employment and social care, focusing on disability, gender and social class. Sheila has served on a number of government committees and is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences. Sheila’s current research focuses on the rights of children with additional support needs.


Claes Nilholm is professor of Education at Uppsala University. He has a wide research interest in inclusive/special needs education, especially as regards theoretical and conceptual issues but also empirical research. He has recently published the book En inkluderande skola - möjligheter, hinder, dilemman (An inclusive school - possibilities, hindrances, dilemmas) He has one blog in Swedish and one in English, both addressing inclusive education as policy and practice.


Julie Allan is Head of the School of Education and professor of Equity and Inclusion at the University of Birmingham. Her work encompasses inclusive education, disability studies and children’s rights and is both empirical and theoretical. She has a particular interest in educational theory and the insights offered through poststructural and social capital analyses. Julie has been advisor to the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the Dutch and Queensland Governments and has worked extensively with the Council of Europe.


Professor Marjatta Takala works in Oulu, Finland as the professor of Special Education. Her research interests focus on comparative special education, on inclusion, dyslexia and hearing impairment. Currently she leads a national project financed by Finnish Ministry of Education. The project involves six universities and is called Supporting together. She is also involved in a NordForsk project called Politics of belonging. In addition, she works in two Swedish projects, one about Internationalizing higher education in Sweden and Equal conditions - success factors for increased inclusion in the field of sport. These two projects are based in Umeå. She is also adjunct professor in Helsinki.

Papers presented Day 2

Guidelines for Contributors
Contributors will present their paper for about 10 minutes following by a 20-minute discussion of the paper. The presentation is within the main thrust of the symposium (e.g. research, policy and practice- current trends on special education).

Guidelines for Paper Submission
The cover page should include:
(a) Name of author(s),
(b) Title and Affiliation(s),
(c) Full address of corresponding author(s) including their phone and e-mail.

The next page should include the title of the submission and a 300 word single-spaced abstract which should be sent via Email to Symposium Convener (kim.wickman@umu.se). Full paper should be limited to 3000 (included references) words. Manuscripts should be typed using Times New Roman Style having the font of 12 in double-spaced with 1.25 of margins. Good-quality illustrations must be submitted with the paper. 

Syllabus Doctoral course in special education

Syllabus: Forskning, Policy och Praktik: Aktuella utvecklingstrender inom Specialpedagogik


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  • You register your attendance by confirming your presentation before 7th November.
  • Notice of participation in the seminar will be received on 8th November.
  • Deadline for paper submission is the 15th November.

Registration as PhD Student

Registration form

Registration as Researcher

Registration form

Registration as School practitioner

Registration form


The symposium is organised by Associate Professor Kim Wickman, coordinator of the cross-disciplinary research network in Special Education, Umeå University, Sweden together with the members of the Special Education Research Council at Umeå University: Kirk Sullivan, professor at Department of Language Studies, Gudrun Svedberg, senior lecturer and associate professor at Department of Applied Educational Science, and Catarina Andersson, senior lecturer and associate professor at Department of Science and Mathematics Education.

Latest update: 2023-02-16