Educating With Special Intent

Bob Osgood (center right) with teachers and students in Indonesia this summer.
Bob Osgood (center right) with teachers and students in Indonesia this summer.

Bob Osgood (Teacher Education) has been on the road for special education, throughout a scholarly summer that has taken him to Indonesia, Latvia – and Dayton, Ohio. 

Since 2005 he has studied how autism is viewed and addressed in Indonesia, in partnership with the psychology department at Gadjah Mada University at Yogyakarta. A faculty development summer research grant enabled him to return to Indonesia in May. 

Although inclusive schools (where children with disabilities learn alongside children not considered disabled) are the law in Indonesia, limited resources along with training and preference for another model have made the policy a struggle, Osgood says. “[Indonesian educators] believe that a child with autism learns best in an environment that resembles the home and the family as much as possible. As a result, a lot of children with autism in Yogyakarta attend a very small private school that is basically run by parents who have more training in working with children with autism than many teachers do in Indonesia.”

Osgood, now in his third year as chair of teacher education at St. Norbert, presented a paper on the team’s findings at the Ohio Philosophy of Education Society in September.

A month earlier, he had traveled to Latvia to join a four-person panel at the International Standing Conference on the History of Education. He presented with the same panel last year in Geneva. 

“This is important not only for my own research agenda, but it is also very important for the teaching that I do here. What I’m learning overseas, what I’m learning from my research on history, is very easily incorporated into my classes,” Osgood says. “It’s critical that the research you do is integrated with good teaching because good teaching creates good research. Good research creates better teaching, and it’s a lovely circle.”

Osgood was first introduced to special education as an undergraduate at Antioch College, where he and his fellows were able to work intensively with children with autism and behavioral disorders. He went on to receive a Ph.D. in education from the Claremont Graduate School. His dissertation was a history of special education in Boston Public Schools, starting with the opening in 1838 of the School for Special Instruction for immigrant children who could not read or write English.

Nov. 19, 2013