How Inclusive Interactive Learning Environments Benefit Students Without Special Needs

Front Psychol. 2021 Apr 29;12:661427. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.661427. eCollection 2021.


Growing evidence in recent years has led to an agreement on the importance and benefits that inclusive education has for students with special educational needs (SEN). However, the extension and universalization of an inclusive approach will also be enhanced with more evidence on the benefits that inclusion has for all students, including those without SEN. Based on the existing knowledge that learning interactions among diverse students are a key component of educational inclusion, the aim of this study is to identify the impact on students without SEN of being educated with students with SEN in shared, inclusive, interactive learning environments. Data were collected in three schools using a qualitative approach with a communicative orientation. Semistructured interviews were held with teachers as well as community volunteers participating in the schools. Further, focus groups were conducted with students and teachers. The results show that students without SEN benefit from participating in interactive learning activities with peers with SEN in different ways: (1) they learn to respect others, accept differences, and acknowledge different abilities, thereby creating opportunities for new friendships to develop; (2) they learn about abilities related to helping others participate and learn, to be patient and to gain the satisfaction in helping others learn and behave better; and (3) they benefit from the cognitive effort required to explain themselves and from the contributions of peers with SEN from which they can learn.

Keywords: dialogic literary gatherings; inclusive education; interaction; interactive groups; learning; learning environments; students without special needs.