Special needs: to label or not to label, a dilemma

Special needs: to label or not to label, a dilemma


Spain / Turkey / United Kingdom


This innovative project investigated issues related to assessment, labelling, intervention and remediation in Special Educational Needs (SEN) and brought virtually together students from three different countries: the UK, Turkey and Spain.  There were three groups of 24 postgraduate students from Coventry University, four postgraduate students from Marmara University and three postgraduate researchers from Seville University. All three groups were studying developmental typical and atypical psychology. The in-class and online-delivered workshop explored the effectiveness of this novel teaching and learning procedure and successfully achieved to make students enthusiastically share their ideas with regards to whether children with SEN’s should be identified and labelled as such.

Aims of the Project

  1. Provide students the opportunity to work together and develop arguments supporting either that it is, or that it isn’t beneficial to label a child as having special educational needs
  2. Facilitate the sharing of beliefs that may be determined by culture.
  3. Learn from the sharing of ideas across and between cultures
  4. Develop skills and the ability to construct coherent arguments based on psychological research
  5. Engage the students in the learning process and bring them in the centre of a learning community.
  6. Help students develop learning through interaction and collaboration with others.
  7. Create a positive learning environment which can facilitate and promote deep rather than surface learning styles.


Critical discussion and debate.


Synchronous & asynchronous


Motion for Debate: “It is beneficial to label a child as having special educational needs.”


Students from each institution are allocated in two mixed groups: those arguing in favour and those arguing against the proposed statement.

International peers are enrolled on Open Moodle discussion forums with CU students. Two forums are created for respective sides of the debate.

Students read selected materials and work with peers on the same side of the argument, using the discussion forum to develop a list of points to present and defend their position.

While students are not allowed to establish communication with peers opposing the motion prior to the live debate, all students have access to the two forums to help inform their arguments and develop counter-arguments.

The debate

Students engage in a 2-hour Skype session to finalise arguments and participate in live debate.

  • 30 mins: classes are split into groups of 10 students to finalise arguments and the evidence to support them.
  • 15 mins: students from respective institutions finalise points and nominate two spokespeople to defend and oppose the statement.
  • 40 mins: during the live debate, respective sides summarise their position and present researched points and evidence in turn. Following each point, the opposition is able to scrutinise and ask questions and hear further evidence.
  • 20 mins: lecturers bring the debate to a close and students must vote against or in favour of the motion based on individual opinion only.


This project has been supported by the learning technologies team at Coventry University’s Centre for Excellence in Learning Enhancement (CELE).