Inclusive Early Childhood Education and the role of peer interaction

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Main building, auditorium A1, address: Kalevantie 4.


Doctoral defence of Doctor of Science Juliene Madureira Ferreira

Inclusive Early Childhood Education and the role of peer interaction: Brazil and Finland in Dialogue

The field of science of the dissertation is Education.

The opponent is associate professor Niina Rutanen (University of Jyväskylä). Professor Marita Mäkinen acts as the custos.

The language of the dissertation defence is English.

Inclusive early childhood education and the role of peer interaction: Brazil and Finland in dialogue

Inclusive education is a complex and multi-determined phenomenon, situated by history, culture and social structures. It is located in the core of educational policies and practices, which sustain the improvement of equality and equity in our society. Nevertheless, inclusion is still a challenge for the entire educational community worldwide, from early childhood to higher education, particularly concerning the schooling of children with disabilities in mainstream systems. More than providing access to the school, special support and adaptation of physical environment and materials, the challenge remains in scaffolding the participation and achievement of the child with a disability within the group. This dissertation explored the contextual elements such as the organization of the school space, the political discourses, the theoretical frameworks, and the pedagogical practices of inclusion in the early childhood education (ECE) settings in two distinct realities, in Brazil and in Finland. The first aim was to locate the role of peer interactions within the phenomenon of inclusion, understanding how the school environment constructs possibilities for children with and without an intellectual disability to interact and participate in each other’s development. Second, by establishing a dialogue between Brazilian and Finnish data, the aim was to analyze and discuss what practices can support and enhance children’s participation, and what situations could be considered essential in both countries.   

The research topic was investigated in four separate studies, through a qualitative research approach that incorporated data from interviews with teachers, video recordings of children interacting in diverse situations, and researcher’s reflective process registered by field diary to analyze and create an understanding of the topic.

Based on the research findings it is possible to point out three key elements: First, the interaction among children provided means for the child with intellectual disability to engage in complex symbolic representation mechanisms. The peers’ language, gestures, and features of play affected how the child with intellectual disability could amplify the complexity of his\her own actions. Children provided models for imitation, but also afforded independent action in make-believe situations, providing context, structure and a role in which the child with disability could engage. Second, regardless of cultural or social background children with disability constantly searched for the peers as a reference for the performance of group or individual tasks in school environment. Third, it was not the type of activity, but the organization of space and materials in ECE that most affected the possibilities for children to interact, molding the type, the quantity and the content of children exchanges in both countries. Therefore, peers have a role of support in the overall human development and schooling process in inclusive early childhood education. The present work brings empirical evidence, which I wish invites you to reflect on the idea that within the school context, the relations established with peers legitimize the participation of the child with disability.  Additionally, through the lenses of human development it is possible to think and act towards the implementation of inclusive education in which achievement is not determined solely by standardized comparative-based methods, but by a broader understanding of what development is.


The dissertation is published in the publication series of Acta Universitatis Tamperensis; 2430, Tampere University Press, Tampere 2018. The dissertation is also published in the e-series Acta Electronica Universitatis Tamperensis; 1941, Tampere University Press 2018.

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