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New Perspectives in Special Education

Contemporary philosophical debates

By Michael Farrell

Routledge – 2012 – 288 pages

Purchasing Options:

  • Add to CartPaperback: $59.95
    May 3rd 2012
  • Add to CartHardback: $170.00
    April 26th 2012


This book should be read by everyone who wants to understand special education today.

New Perspectives in Special Education opens the door to the fascinating and vitally important world of theory that informs contemporary special education. It examines theoretical and philosophical orientations such as ‘positivism’, ‘poststructuralism’ and ‘hermeneutics’, relating these to contemporary global views of special education.

Offering a refreshingly balanced view across a broad range of debates, this topical text guides the reader through the main theoretical and philosophical positions that may be held with regard to special education, and critically examines positions that often go unrecognised and unquestioned by practitioners and academics alike. It helps the reader to engage with and question the positions taken by themselves and others, by providing thinking points and suggestions for further reading at the end of each chapter.

Perspectives covered include:

  • Positivism and empiricism
  • Phenomenology and hermeneutics
  • Historical materialism and critical theory
  • Holism and constructivism
  • Structuralism and post structuralism
  • Pragmatism and symbolic interactionism
  • Psychoanalysis
  • Postmodernism and historical epistemology

Anyone wishing to gain a fuller understanding of special education should not be without this stimulating and much needed text.


  • 'At last, a book that critically unpacks the theory behind practices in special education…this book complements the ongoing quest for teaching and support strategies that maximize learning and engagement in people with additional support needs of all types. Highly recommended…'

Michael Arthur-Kelly PhD, Associate Professor and Director, Special Education Centre, The University of Newcastle, NSW Australia

  • 'A unique text that challenges special educators to examine critical issues and practices in the field.'

Lyndal M. Bullock, Regents Professor - Special Education, University of North Texas

  • 'New Perspectives in Special Education provides a much-needed analysis of the theoretical and philosophical underpinnings of the current practice of inclusive and special education. Farrell clearly examines positions and practices in the field that typically go unquestioned by practitioners and academics. In so doing he has produced a text that should be essential reading for all teachers, psychologists, other practitioners, administrators and lecturers involved in inclusive and special education.'

Professor Garry Hornby, College of Education, University of Canterbury

  • 'This book should be read by everyone who wants to understand special education today. We need more thoughtful treatments of special education like this one so that more people understand the difficult issues involving the accommodation of wide variation in students’ abilities and performance.'

James M. Kauffman, Ed.D., Professor Emeritus of Education, University of Virginia

  • 'A much awaited book, it offers a balanced and debates view of Special Education and inclusion. Farrell provides the learner with a clear understanding of integration and inclusion and full inclusion. In addition it offers the educator learner an insight into inclusive education and pedagogy. The author carefully presents special education from varying theoretical perspectives, which is uncommon and refreshing. A book that clearly challenges rethinking about how we could be thinking about Special Education and inclusion for the 21st Century.'

Dr Karen P. Nonis, Associate Professor of Early Childhood & Special Needs Education, The National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

  • 'The text builds on a growing interest in applying a more deeply theorised approach to understanding the field of special education … offer[s] a succinct but comprehensive overview.'

Dr Kristine Black-Hawkins, Lecturer, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge

  • 'Dr Michael Farrell succeeds in making the ideas of the various philosophies accessible and understandable, and does so in a vivid and practical manner.'

Dr Gary O’ Reilly, Senior Lecturer and Deputy Director, Doctoral Programme in Clinical Psychology, School of Psychology, University College Dublin


About the author Acknowledgements Preface Chapter outlines 1. Setting the scene 2. Contemporary special education and its critics 3. Positivism and empiricism 4. Phenomenology and hermeneutics 5. Historical materialism and critical theory 6. Holism and constructivism 7. Structuralism and post structuralism 8. Pragmatism and symbolic interactionism 9. Psychoanalysis: Freud and Lacan 10. Postmodernism and historical epistemology 11. Positivist special education and other perspectives 12. Implications for special education of different perspectives Bibliography Index

Author Bio

Michael Farrell is a widely published private special education consultant. He works with children, families, schools, local authorities, voluntary organisations, universities and government ministries. He has published extensively with Routledge, with recent titles including Debating Special Education, Educating Special Children, Second Edition, and second edition titles in the whole Effective Teacher's Guide series.

Name: New Perspectives in Special Education: Contemporary philosophical debates (Paperback)Routledge 
Description: By Michael Farrell. This book should be read by everyone who wants to understand special education today. New Perspectives in Special Education opens the door to the fascinating and vitally important world of theory that informs contemporary special education. It examines...
Categories: Continuing Professional Development, Education Studies, Inclusion and Special Educational Needs