Research Topic

Interactive Learning Environments: Fostering Learning, Development, and Relationships for Children with Special Needs

About this Research Topic

Theoretical and research developments in learning sciences emphasize the capital role that interactions have for learning; these include interactions with diverse peers in heterogeneous learning contexts, as well as with other people in the community. Although this perspective is increasingly present in the education of typically developing children, it is much less present in the education of children with special needs. Students with special needs have traditionally been educated based on individual and separated attention implemented by specialized professionals that, focusing on students’ difficulties, often reduced learning objectives and expectations, favored stigmatization, and hindered positive group cohesion. This approach is still persisting through individualized programs that address the specificities of these students’ learning difficulties but, in doing so, disregard the potential of rich interactions to enhance their cognitive and emotional development.

However, research has demonstrated the benefits that multiple and diverse learning interactions have for students with special needs, showing positive impacts on development, learning achievement, and social skills. The “peer effect” exemplifies the cognitive gain that learning in interaction with peers with more advanced levels of learning or development entails for these children. The focus of teachers’ and other professionals’ interventions can be transformed when the role of interactions is acknowledged in the education of students with special needs. Indeed, the focus can shift from an individualistic remedial education focused on the deficit to a more contextual and interactive perspective, which is more consistent with the social model of disability and with a more inclusive perspective.

This Research Topic aims to respond to the following and other related questions:

- What do we know so far about the positive impacts that interactive learning environments have on the education of students with special needs and which research lines are open?
- Which are the characteristics of interactive learning environments that enhance learning, development, and relationships of students with special needs?
- How are particular projects, actions, or interventions creating interactive learning environments with positive impacts on students with special needs?
- Which are the benefits of interactive learning environments shared between students with and without special needs for the students without special needs?
- Which are the specific impacts of creating interactive learning environments in different learning contexts (mainstream or special educational settings, within and outside school in formal and non-formal contexts, etc.)
- How the role of teachers and other professionals can be transformed with the creation of interactive learning environments?
- How the creation of interactive learning environments can prevent or overcome violence or bullying towards students with special needs?

We welcome the following article types:

- Original research on interactive learning environments and students with special needs;
- Systematic reviews of previous research on the topic;
- Practice reports based on empirical data.


Keywords: Interaction, Learning Environments, Special Educational Needs, Inclusive Education


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Theoretical and research developments in learning sciences emphasize the capital role that interactions have for learning; these include interactions with diverse peers in heterogeneous learning contexts, as well as with other people in the community. Although this perspective is increasingly present in the education of typically developing children, it is much less present in the education of children with special needs. Students with special needs have traditionally been educated based on individual and separated attention implemented by specialized professionals that, focusing on students’ difficulties, often reduced learning objectives and expectations, favored stigmatization, and hindered positive group cohesion. This approach is still persisting through individualized programs that address the specificities of these students’ learning difficulties but, in doing so, disregard the potential of rich interactions to enhance their cognitive and emotional development.

However, research has demonstrated the benefits that multiple and diverse learning interactions have for students with special needs, showing positive impacts on development, learning achievement, and social skills. The “peer effect” exemplifies the cognitive gain that learning in interaction with peers with more advanced levels of learning or development entails for these children. The focus of teachers’ and other professionals’ interventions can be transformed when the role of interactions is acknowledged in the education of students with special needs. Indeed, the focus can shift from an individualistic remedial education focused on the deficit to a more contextual and interactive perspective, which is more consistent with the social model of disability and with a more inclusive perspective.

This Research Topic aims to respond to the following and other related questions:

- What do we know so far about the positive impacts that interactive learning environments have on the education of students with special needs and which research lines are open?
- Which are the characteristics of interactive learning environments that enhance learning, development, and relationships of students with special needs?
- How are particular projects, actions, or interventions creating interactive learning environments with positive impacts on students with special needs?
- Which are the benefits of interactive learning environments shared between students with and without special needs for the students without special needs?
- Which are the specific impacts of creating interactive learning environments in different learning contexts (mainstream or special educational settings, within and outside school in formal and non-formal contexts, etc.)
- How the role of teachers and other professionals can be transformed with the creation of interactive learning environments?
- How the creation of interactive learning environments can prevent or overcome violence or bullying towards students with special needs?

We welcome the following article types:

- Original research on interactive learning environments and students with special needs;
- Systematic reviews of previous research on the topic;
- Practice reports based on empirical data.


Keywords: Interaction, Learning Environments, Special Educational Needs, Inclusive Education


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

12 August 2020 Abstract
15 December 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

12 August 2020 Abstract
15 December 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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