Practice paper

Socio-pedagogical practices towards inclusive education implemented by teachers in their classrooms



Social pedagogy is concerned theoretically with new forms of marginalisation and practically with efforts that aim towards integration and inclusion. This article therefore based on the concepts of inclusion and social pedagogy. Supported by the literature available, it explores how often the teachers in an urban state primary school (with Roma and non-Roma students) located in central Greece use socio-pedagogical strategies to implement class inclusion processes. This article examines three types of relationship – classroom climate; the whole-child approach to learning; and forms of inter-school collaboration – proposed by social pedagogy as key elements for inclusion. Structured classroom observations and the findings pointed out that the teachers do not make use of socio-pedagogical practices related to relationships between teachers and their students, group activities and collaboration practices, whereas they are able to control the disruptive behaviour of students successfully. The inclusion presupposes a stable and safe society that protects all human rights and all the values in fairness and equality.

Keywords: inclusion, socio-pedagogical practices, inclusive education, teachers

How to Cite: Beazidou, E. (2023) “Socio-pedagogical practices towards inclusive education implemented by teachers in their classrooms”, International Journal of Social Pedagogy. 12(1). doi:


The term inclusion education means the process by which all students with or without special needs attend general education schools and follow similar curricula while using a variety of teaching methods that meet the needs and particularities of each student (Loreman, 2014). There are also many interpretations for inclusion, such as fairness, equality, respect, diversity, participation, community, leadership, commitment, shared vision and collaboration (Booth, 2012; McMaster, 2015). According to the definition by the well-known Indian Nobel Prize winner, economist Amartya Sen (2000) (as cited in UNESCO International Bureau of Education, 2008): ‘Inclusion is characterised by widely shared social experience and active participation in society, by widespread equality of opportunities and life chances available to people on the individual level and by all citizens reaching an elementary level of well-being’ (p. 6).

The inclusion presupposes a stable and safe society that protects all human rights, as well as all values in fairness and equality. I understand inclusion as an opportunity to transform not only the education institutes but also societies. The main change is related to the democratisation of education (Solli, 2010).

To further our understanding of the concept of inclusion education, I begin by looking more closely at the concept of inclusion. I also emphasise the social inclusion that occurs in education as a result of social pedagogy. This connection is made up of two parts: on the one hand, social pedagogy is a function of society and reflects how a given society at a given time thinks about education and social welfare for its marginalised members. On the other, inclusion pedagogy places the responsibility of creating a space of equity for all on society, including minorities. Consequently, social pedagogy sets the fundamental principles and the theoretical framework for inclusion. Moreover, through direct observation, this article explores social pedagogical actions relating to inclusion that teachers implement in their classrooms. The results should provide a picture of inclusive education and a basis for identifying all the weaknesses in this direction.

Theoretical background  

As a concept inclusion education is a ubiquitous presence in the world of education and educational policies. Although it was concerned originally with disability and special educational needs (Ainscow et al., 2006; Van Mieghem et al., 2020), the term has evolved to embody valuing diversity among all students, regardless of their circumstances (Carter and Abawi, 2018; Thomas, 2013). Over the years, the meaning of inclusion education has transcended the assumption that inclusion is about students with special needs and it now involves particular emphasis on the educational rights of those groups of learners who may be vulnerable or at risk of exclusion or underachievement. In every circumstance, inclusion education seeks to increase access, presence, participation and success for all students in education (Booth and Ainscow, 2016). Clearly, the idea of inclusion refers not only to diversity in the form of ability, but also to other differences such as gender and cultural background or the ways that school structures address these differences (Sturm, 2019). The basic meaning of inclusion education is, therefore, that education should include everyone, with non-disabled and disabled people (including those with special educational needs) learning together in mainstream schools, colleges and universities.

Another concept of inclusion is the policy in pedagogy and special pedagogy that highlights opportunities for the equal involvement of all children. The decisions relating to education are fundamentally political due to government choices concerning the distribution of resources. The new direction and the new objective of education policy is common education for all children, as far as this is in the best interests of each child. As Emanuelsson et al. (2005) have indicated, the development of special needs education and the subsequent emergence of integrationist and inclusive educational discourses in Greece resemble similar advances in the West and appear to be influenced by English socio-political debate on exclusion and the rights of marginalised social groups in particular. Ely and Thomas (2001) have identified two types of policy: discrimination and fairness; and access and legitimacy. The first aims to reduce discrimination and fosters equality and diversion, while the second promotes cultural pluralism. I searched additional dimensions associated with inclusion education in Child, Youth and Family Policy’s website: First, culture is highlighted as something that is created between people and is always changing. Culture is what we do in our way of organising, interpreting and understanding the world. Second, a human perspective is outlined as all people have an inherent potential for interaction, development and learning. People are motivated, committed and willing to take responsibility when they have positive expectations. People’s needs and skills are constantly changing. Third, community plays a role as the place where we belong. To belong to a community is a basic human need and a prerequisite for the experience of being in an inclusive learning environment.

The key to a successful policy in education is the transformation of learning pedagogical approaches applied to schools. Inclusion education is supported by a suitable curriculum and places the emphasis on the learner as a contributor who carries their own unique and valuable perspective that enriches the learning experience for all (Florian and Linklater, 2010, p. 371). Moreover, in practical terms, the quality of inclusion education involves a differentiated assessment and evaluation of students. This means that the personal abilities and characteristics of students should not be measured simply in terms of the acquisition of learning or competences, but using an inclusive approach based on human rights and equality. Inclusion education must embrace democracy and social justice. Literature has highlighted the connection between inclusion education and democracy (Ballard, 2012). Furthermore, according to Florian (2015), teachers must work towards social justice to help students recognise and respond to societal inequality. The question is, do the schools apply this educational praxis to all cases? Many researchers have pointed out that schools apply traditional pedagogical approaches to learning, emphasising the instructor as the expert because familiar approaches outweigh the new approach (Britzman, 2003). This article opines that students with special needs should be integrated in the mainstream classroom following the regular course of a lesson. Courses are assigned by the curriculum, without support from any other professional, in a class of 15 to 29 other students, for whom one teacher is responsible. Moreover, the education system has an organisational and governance structure, but it could be strengthened in this direction. Teachers can create a nurturing classroom where students feel valued because of their differences and comfortable participating in class.

A successful inclusion education depends on it being viewed as part of a system that extends from the classroom to broader society. Another essential question is, what kind of society do we have? Xenophobic prejudices and attitudes are widely spread in contemporary Greek society (Aldamen, 2023). Papageorgiou and Kalyva (2010) concluded that Greek society’s attitude towards disability remains negative. Greek families and parents often perceive society’s reaction to their child’s disability as stereotypical and negative. It is probable that there is social prejudice and ignorance as a result of the lack of sensitisation and education in Greek society regarding the problems and needs of disabled people. In the end, rectifying such exclusive practices is a matter of social pedagogy that promotes social development and community mobilisation. In fact, the pedagogical activities for preventing social exclusion and promoting active citizenship are closely linked (Hämäläinen, 2012). Inclusion education needs the experience of social pedagogy to provide a helpful framework for inclusion.

Social pedagogy affects the relationship between the individual and society (Jarning, 2006) and aspires to change society by influencing the personal in society: citizens, morals and culture. Several scholars (Blatchford et al., 2003; Eichsteller and Holthoff, 2012; Smith and Whyte, 2008) argue that social pedagogy has a theoretical and practical capability for understanding and handling inclusion and exclusion issues as it emphasises the importance of community in the education process and strives to help disadvantaged individuals through education. ‘The basic idea of social pedagogy is to promote people’s social functioning, inclusion, participation, social identity and social competence as members of society’ (Hämäläinen, 2003, p. 76). The most important role of social pedagogy in inclusion education is the effect in the educational community and consequently the social system. Society does not exist independently without individuals. The aim is to find and execute ways of securing desired consequences, such as social justice and access for all groups that have been marginalised, and to prevent undesirable ones, such as exclusion. In other words, the aim of social pedagogy is to recreate society by producing citizens with a new vision of social justice inclusion – learning to live together and affecting the social policies of the countries. This is a prerequisite for inclusion to be successful, as inclusion is inseparable from the way that society conceives of or desires well-being, and from the way in which living together is viewed.

Teachers play an important role in turning exclusion into inclusion (Gundara, 2006; Vuolasranta, 2006). This role has been restated in the Education 2030 Framework for Action, which aims to ensure that teachers and educators are empowered, adequately recruited, well trained, professionally qualified, motivated and supported, as well as understood, appreciated and able to respond to the variety of learners’ needs, including pedagogical, emotional, developmental and social needs (UNESCO, 2016). Moreover, the empirical evidence suggests that those teachers who hold more positive attitudes towards inclusion education use more inclusive teaching strategies (Kuyini and Desai, 2007). Teachers must have knowledge of other cultures, minorities and inclusion strategies, among other things, to at least be capable of identifying aspects of racism in their schools and understanding their workings.

A historically marginalised ethnic minority in Greece is Roma. The Roma experience marginalisation and stigmatisation in a wide range of areas, from housing and education, to health care and unemployment. According to the European Roma Rights Centre ( and the Greek Helsinki Monitor (, Roma children in Greece continue to be at a great disadvantage when it comes to education. Unfortunately, teachers are often poorly prepared and trained for working with diverse groups (Papachristou, 2014). Papachristou (2014) found that teachers: (a) do not recognise background knowledge of Roma students; (b) do not exploit Roma students’ orality during teaching processes; and (c) are tenacious in maintaining stereotypical beliefs about Roma students’ potential for school learning.

A growing body of research focuses on how to include minorities and how social services, such as education, encourage acculturation and integration (Alba and Foner, 2014; Morales and Giugni, 2016; de Vroome et al., 2014). Morningstar et al. (2015) have focused on facilitating inclusive school environments requires ensuring physical access, the opportunity for optimal learning and social experiences, and providing a caring classroom climate. Researchers have proposed diverse operational definitions of classroom climate. Nevertheless, these definitions all relate to teacher–student interactions (Wang et al., 2020). Recent research has confirmed that both the attitudes and behaviour of teachers, as well as the quality of teacher–student relationships, have a significant impact on school achievement (Fredriksen and Rhodes, 2004).

Moreover, components and characteristics of quality teaching are important to inclusion in the classroom (Fredriksen and Rhodes, 2004). Petrie et al. (2006) established that the indicators of the social pedagogy are included in four dimensions:

Finkelstein et al. (2019) have indicated some teacher practices are related to high-quality inclusion, including collaboration and teamwork. Teachers must be proficient collaborators to successfully perform their job. To this direction, they should promote cooperative relations with the parents of students (Mylonakou-Keke, 2009). In addition, Booth and Ainscow (2016) have developed a number of indicators to support the inclusive development of schools. The indicators cover three dimensions: creating inclusive cultures (building community and establishing inclusive values); producing inclusive policies (developing the school for all and organising support for diversity); and evolving inclusive practice (orchestrating learning and mobilising resources). These sets of indicators and key elements need a clear focus on the policy conditions that may promote or hinder the development of inclusion education within schools supporting the professional line to better deal with social care issues.

To facilitate learning about this issue, the present study chose the inclusive indicators or key elements in order to collect data from a Greek school with Roma school children. This school was chosen because it has achieved good results in education for Roma students where other schools often fail. The scope of this article is to map out educational actions related to whole-student learning and the relationship-centred approach in a primary school aiming at inclusion education for all students. More specifically, the following research questions will be investigated.

As most previews, studies examine the inclusion education by self-assessment and self-reflection tools that teachers complete, the significance of this present study is the direct observation methods for assessing inclusive education. Furthermore, all information generated in the individual, classroom, school, at the local and national levels is useful for inclusive education.



The study population consisted of teachers in different classes. Seven teachers (six women and one man) from one urban public primary school located in central Greece participated in the research. The descriptive statistics of the selected participants showed that the oldest participant was 55 years old, the youngest 28 years old and the average age of all participants was: mean (M) = 42.14; standard deviation (SD) = 8.255. The longest term of professional practice recorded was 33 years, the shortest was three years. The average term of professional practice was M = 13.57 (SD = 10.17). Five teachers have MSc degrees and all the teachers were appointed by the government. Each of the respondents tutor classes 1–6. Primary education in Greece lasts six years and includes grades A to F. Children who have reached the age of five years and six months on 1 October of the year of the enrolment may attend grade A. Age is proved by means of a birth certificate. Education is compulsory. Moreover, school capacity is based on the ratio of 25 students to one teacher.

Instrument and procedure  

To conduct the research, an observation guide was constructed that includes frequency counts and provides a means for collecting data. The observer had a ready-made checklist for conducting a lesson observation. The observation guide was built by some axes of the instruments that were suggested by Kielblock (2018), while we added more axes related to social pedagogical activities for inclusion education for all students. This observation tool was organised in three dimensions of inclusive strategies: (1) a positive classroom climate (eight items); (2) the whole-child approach to learning (nine items), including assessment practices for student work (two items); and (3) collaboration in schools (two items). The observation form consists of 21 items about the inclusion process in the schools on a scale ranging from never (1) to almost always (5). Moreover, the data collection includes fieldnotes. Fieldnotes are the record of what was observed. A well-trained and experienced observer took meaningful and detailed documentation notes. This will help us to remember many of the details about the setting under observation. It is important to note that the observer used a protocol guide. At the beginning of the research procedure, all the teachers were informed in advance and the days agreed for the observations. Moreover, before being observed, the teachers were prepared to discuss what the observer wanted to focus on. The observations were held for each class three times a week. Data collection was carried out in a total of 18 direct time sampling observations (three per class) throughout the school programme. The total observation sessions lasted six weeks. In each class visit, the observer sat at the back of the class and was as unobtrusive a presence as possible, avoiding becoming part of the class. The observer noted each time the inclusive behaviours and events occurred. At the end of each observation session, a follow-up discussion was held to provide meaningful feedback. After collecting the observation sheets and fieldnotes data was available that could offer insight into how often inclusive behaviour or an inclusive event occurs in a given time period of the participating school. In addition, multiple observations in each classroom were suggested as the best practice for the reliability of the research. The procedure and the research instrument were reviewed by the ethics committee responsible for the procedure before data collection. In addition, all teachers participated voluntarily and anonymously. Participating students also provided written consent from their parents.


At the beginning the average rate of convergence for the three observations in all classes was examined. The estimated average rate of convergence was set at 82.14 per cent, indicating high reliability. After that, descriptive statistics such as M, SD, minimum and maximum were used to report the data. The data average means of all classes and all observations is presented in the tables below.

Data in Table 1 show the result for school’s inclusive classroom climate. Findings suggest that teachers can easily manage disruptive behaviour in their classrooms. To achieve this, all teachers readily set rules in their classrooms and the students follow them. Furthermore, teachers find it hard to develop close relationships with their students.

Table 1

Means of inclusive classroom climate 

actions for inclusion
means of all classes
observation means of all classes
observation means of all classes
Regarding the behaviour of the students, how often are the teacher’s expectations clear? 4.80 4.00 3.66 4.15
The teacher can calm a noisy or disruptive student 5.00 3.00 4.16 4.05
The teacher usually prevents disruptive behaviour before it happens 5.00 4.00 4.00 4.33
The teacher manages to get all the students to follow rules in the classroom 4.80 4.00 4.33 4.37
The teacher controls the disruptive behaviour of students successfully 5.00 4.00 4.33 4.44
The teacher handles students who are aggressive 5.00 5.00 4.00 4.66
The teacher is friendly and does not place themselves hierarchically in the classroom 4.00 4.00 3.66 3.88
The teacher attempts to build safe, trusting relationships with their students through everyday simple activities 2.80 3.00 3.16 2.98

Regarding the frequency of social pedagogical actions for the inclusive whole-child approach to learning, the data in Table 2 show that teachers do not use readily collaborative strategies to learning. Our results also show that applying strategies to meet the needs of all students is sometimes very difficult for teachers. However, it is heartening to note that the teachers often know about students’ modifications: ‘who needs what’ for tests, quizzes, classwork and homework. Furthermore, learning support frequently focused on task completion rather than encouraging learner autonomy.

Table 2

Means of inclusive whole-child approach to learning

actions for inclusion
in all classes
observation in all classes
observation in all classes
all classes
The teacher uses group activities and physical exercises to help children’s friendships 2.00 2.00 2.30 2.10
In teaching, the teacher presents alternative explanations and examples for students who are confused 4.00 4.00 2.83 3.61
The teacher guides students to work in pairs or small groups, encouraging learner autonomy 1.80 3.00 2.00 2.26
Learning processes meet the needs of all students 4.00 3.00 3.33 3.44
The teacher can challenge gifted pupils appropriately 3.80 4.00 3.66 3.82
The teacher use flexible practices 3.70 3.00 3.83 3.51
The teacher uses their own personal experiences as examples in their teaching and never misses an opportunity to talk about their feelings 3.80 3.00 3.50 3.43
The teacher connects new knowledge with personal experiences 2.50 4.00 3.66 3.38
In all cases, the teacher teaches empathy, democratic values and respect for others 3.50 4.00 3.66 3.72
The teacher knows exactly what each student has learned 4.70 3.00 3.16 3.62
The teacher uses a variety of assessment strategies (for example, portfolio assessment, modified tests or performance-based assessment) 2.80 4.00 3.33 3.37

Data in Table 3 show that teachers cannot easily create synergies in their schools. We explored how often teachers engage in collaborative activities. More specifically, our results for teachers’ collegiality show a low frequency of interpersonal relationships between colleagues in schools, which provide the basis for a collaborative working environment. Moreover, we did not identify any inclusive classroom practices that help families feel welcome in schools.

Table 3

Means of collaboration 

Social pedagogical actions for synergies First
in all classes
observation in all classes
observation in all classes
all classes
The teacher collaborates with others and works jointly with them 1.00 1.20 3.16 2.45
The teacher particularly assists Roma families to organise various workshops, trainings and meetings etc. 1.20 2.00 2.50 1.56


This article has explored the main research question: how often do teachers apply social pedagogical strategies to achieve the goal of inclusive education for all students? A data set was collected to illustrate how teachers improve classroom climate, holistic learning and synergies, including their personal experiences, behaviours and events for inclusive education. The results indicate that social pedagogical actions (behaviours/events) cannot be easily used efficiently by teachers as a tool to improve inclusive education. The findings show that teachers understand readily the positive climate in their classrooms only as the practices for classroom management. Findings related to approaches to learning suggest that teachers prefer to focus on task completion over promoting learner autonomy and rarely use collaborative approaches. The literature showed that the inclusive education requires collaborative pedagogy and practice and so our research results offer rather disappointing findings (Larcombe et al., 2019). The explanation is the findings of previous research showing that a lack of interpersonal and teamwork skills may not only hinder group interaction but may also stifle individual and collaborative learning (Shimazoe and Aldrich, 2010; Webb et al., 2002). However, cooperation is a challenge for schools. Teachers must create learning situations and processes based on educational participation if they are to be characterised as inclusive (Farrell, 2004). The results show that teachers often have the opportunity, in formal learning activities and peer relationships, among others, to build a sense of emotional connection between people by teaching democracy values, empathy and respect. The democratic values must be reflected in both the formal curricula through explicit teaching and throughout the hidden curriculum codes of conduct, mission statements and classroom interactions that model democracy and respect for the rights of all (Subba, 2014). Moreover, the importance of a teacher’s ability to create synergies is emphasised by collaboration with the staff and parents. In particular the findings with parents show that teachers cannot easily support Roma parents in their upbringing and school activities. Consequently, Roma parents avoid contact with schools. Earlier research is in agreement with this. As an example, Zachos and Panagiotidou (2019) indicated that parents of Roma children believe that their relationship to formal education is affected by a number of factors, such as a fear of losing their culture, negative experiences in schools and the language barrier. Furthermore, they showed that schools can readily avoid organising various workshops, training and meetings with an expert helping them to get involved in school activities. Perhaps there is a degree of luck in their effectiveness in approaching Roma parents. I believe that a closer relationship between the parents of Roma children and the schools is necessary. The literature suggests that teachers must adjust their perceptions, approaches and methodologies according to the needs and perspectives of multicultural societies so that they can improve their effectiveness in approaching Roma parents and involving them in the school life of their children (Georgiadis et al., 2011). Finally, our results are negative (the M number of all observation measures are low) for many of the educational dimensions, such as meaningful communication, differentiation, collaboration, participation and responsibility. Observational socio-pedagogical activities related to classroom inclusion processes that are often doomed to failure. If teachers are expected to meet the challenges associated with cultural diversity, then they will need to acquire new knowledge and attitudes. Additionally, they need to critically examine the role that schools play in the inclusive process. With the education field changing constantly, educators need to be proactive and look for ways to adapt their thinking and teaching to strongly support all students. Within this logic, teachers and pupils become collaborators in the process of knowledge and personal development. I believe that this article will help define inclusion and help guide educators in providing a successful inclusive classroom.

A limitation for this study is that only one school was used to the collect data, therefore only a small pool of information was gathered.

It appears that most professional educators do not have a clear understanding of what inclusion actually is, fundamentally. I recommend conducting additional research that would explore teachers’ experiences and understanding of inclusion.

The author would like to thank the students and staff of the primary school which hosted the study and devoted their time to it.

Declarations and conflicts of interest

Research ethics statement

The author declares that research ethics approval for this article was provided by Research Ethics Committees/Pedagogical Institute of Greece.

Consent for publication statement

The author declares that research participants’ informed consent to publication of findings – including photos, videos and any personal or identifiable information – was secured prior to publication.

Conflicts of interest statement

The author declares no conflicts of interest with this work. All efforts to sufficiently blind the author during peer review of this article have been made. The author declares no further conflicts with this article.


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