All Inclusive? Collaboration between teachers, parents and child support workers for inclusive education in prevocational schools.

Jantien Gerdes

Research output: PhD ThesisPhD-Thesis - Research and graduation internal

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The ideal of inclusive education implies an aspiration that all children, regardless of special educational needs or disabilities, receive quality education in their local communities, in ‘schools for all’. To include all, mainstream educational settings need to be adaptive to this variety of educational needs. This dissertation aims to contribute to knowledge on how collaboration between teachers, parents and child support workers helps to improve student support in inclusive secondary education. The research project concerns a multiple case study conducted in three schools for secondary education in the Netherlands. In order to address the main question, this dissertation will answer to the following sub questions: 1. What interrelated aspects shape collaboration? 2. How does co-location of teachers and child support workers promote transformation of practice? 3. What are the underlying structures and opportunities for improvement in family-school partnership? 4. Which factors affect family-school partnership for migrant background parents? 5. How does interdisciplinary collaboration help to support executive functions in inclusive learning environments? The findings of this dissertation shed light on the processes that underlie collaboration and transformative agency. The Framework for Interdisciplinary Collaboration is the main product of this research project. The framework serves as a heuristic tool to determine the level of co-work in a particular context and to determine what aspects of co-work qualify for enhancement. A first limitation of the research project is that the multiple case study was limited to three secondary schools. Arguably, including schools for primary education or special schools, based on anticipated differences, could have yielded valuable findings in terms of understanding interdisciplinary collaboration for inclusive educational settings. Second, the three schools were followed for three years. Building collaborative relationships inevitably takes time and effort and, for mapping the process and getting a solid idea of collaboration outcomes, three years might simply be too short. A third limitation of this multiple case study is that it is limited to individual interviews and focus group interviews and one questionnaire, whereas case studies may include observations and document analysis. Initially, observations and document analysis were also intended but turned out to be unfeasible within the given time frame. The development of the FIC, itself, turned out to have a more prominent position in the research project. For further research, a longitudinal design with numerically more or qualitatively more diverse cases can provide more insight in the processes. Also, a preliminary diagnosis of the level of co-work in a given case would be advisable. The FIC can be helpful in defining this level. Furthermore, further research can take into account the role of power relations, and the concept of care in interdisciplinary co-work. Further research might also, in line with CHAT, use the theoretical findings of this study, and especially the analytic framework, in participatory research where practitioners are actively involved in intervention design, research design, implementation and analysis. For practice, the findings of this dissertation indicate that when schools foster collaborative practices between teachers, parents and child support workers, actors can shape safe learning environments that support the learners’ basic academic and social skills. Whereas in cooperation and coordination, the emphasis is on smooth exchange and alignment, the emphasis in collaboration is on learning and development. For this, actors need ample space for interaction and reflection. Furthermore, actors need to be granted autonomy and the opportunity to explore new pathways, to fail, succeed and improve, collaboratively. Co-work can be assessed and fostered by looking at dimensions of knowledge sharing, trust, identity, proximity, availability, roles of parents, equality and characteristics of the (learning) environment.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • de Ruyter, Doret, Supervisor
  • Goei, SL, Co-supervisor
  • Huizinga, Mariëtte, Co-supervisor
Award date14 Jun 2021
Place of Publications.l.
Print ISBNs9789464029208
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jun 2021


  • interdisciplinary collaboration
  • inclusive education
  • family-school partnership
  • expansive learning
  • student support


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