Project INSIDE        in het Nederlands

INSIDE stands for "INclusive education of children with developmental disabilities through basic Skill Instruction and Developmental Education". It is an initiative of 4 educational institutions from 4 different European countries. INSIDE is supported by Comenius Programme 3.1 of the European Commission.



 Mission statement

 Pedagogical postulates

 Pedagogical Resources
Portsmouth Early Reading
Nyborg's Concept Teaching
Feuerstein's Mediated Learning


 Books & materials



 Target group





End objective = Help learners (children, adolescents and adults) in general, particularly those at risk of educational failure,  to participate better in (mainstream) education by activating their cognitive functions and increasing a teacher’s capacity how to do it

Project’s objective = Develop and test tools ( courses, materials) for teachers and educators, in order to:

*  develop prerequisites of learning-how-to-learn  of all learners

*  prevent school failure of people with learning difficulties (of all degrees in severity) and at risk learners

*  activate cognitive development , i.e. develop basic learning-, studying-, language- as well as social skills

*  increase chances of successful inclusive education

*   become more flexible in differentiating teaching content and basic skills to a variety of pupils with a variety of needs

*  adopt  a more process-oriented teaching style

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*  Design a post-graduate training course in how to boost cognitive, language and social development of at risk and learning disabled children, with a special focus on inclusion into a normal school curriculum

*  Develop a teachers’ guide and teacher training materials

*  test the course and materials in pilot groups of teachers and children

*  Awareness raising activities: conferences, meetings

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Mission statement

Teachers in mainstream schools often lack sufficient means and awareness how to instruct children, who do not seem to learn easily,  in acquiring basic thinking,  reading, writing and arithmetic skills. They may have problems with differentiation of content in the classroom, lack of knowledge of methods and effective approaches, because they usually base their teaching styles on transmitting content, not process.

Therefore these children become educationally “at-risk” and drop out early from the school system. In many countries they are referred to special education and often end up in a separate, protected environment with low stimulation and challenges. In this way they often enlarge the population of unemployed, excluded individuals. If one wants to change or prevent this situation of social exclusion, one needs to start early. 

International organisations recommended Inclusive  Education as a better way to  ensure social integration and prevent  social exclusion.  In  1993 the United Nations  launched an appeal with the Declaration on Equal Opportunities for the Disabled (where an urgent recommendation was made to include special children in ordinary schools) ; the UNESCO Conference in Salamanca (Spain -1994) on Inclusive Education stated that the best environment for special children to develop is the mainstream school; and the European Commission’s Treaties of Maastricht and Amsterdam, contained a non-discrimination clause towards the disabled.

But inclusion is not enough. Teachers, rather than merely transferring content and instructing skills, need to be made aware and be trained to enhance and develop the child's cognitive learning processes.  The whole school system and teaching style need to be transformed.  The European  Commission's D.G.V. White Paper "Teaching and Learning; towards a cognitive society"  explicitly stated that societies should make more effort to transform the school system towards a more cognitive approach, with a focus on teaching thinking skills and flexibility for everyone, if Europe wants to adapt to ever-changing economical and social circumstances and demands. This is particularly difficult for educationally at-risk pupils, of which there are so many in the Community.

Project INSIDE wants to give a partial answer to these challenges, by combining the idea and practice of inclusion, with the idea of cognitive education.

The partners knew each other from meetings at international conferences in Israel (1994), Madrid (1995), and Bordeaux (1996) on the subject of preventing social exclusion via cognitive education. All partners have acquired, each in their field, a lot of experience through research and practice in the area of special needs education for children with developmental and learning difficulties.

All partners have been using or have developed innovative methods which have proven their effectiveness in instructing children basic conceptual skills, reading , writing and arithmetic, and in understanding the process of learning itself.

Through national and international work, the partners have access to a large network of professionals working in education throughout Europe. However, this knowledge seldom reaches mainstream teachers, and stays too much confined to one country due to language and other practical barriers. Combining these methods yields a powerful blend which has a potential to help transforming the school system and the teacher's didactic skills towards better learning and inclusion of all children.

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Pedagogical basic postulates

*  Orientation towards process-oriented learning: because many children have serious difficulties with the acquisition of knowledge and skills, it is needed to teach them how they can learn. Teaching must be mainly concerned with activating cognitive functions. This is a necessary condition for realising a full inclusion of the child.

*  Cognitive approach as an entry to more effective learning; to learn how to learn, transversal cognitive skills must be stimulated. They are the prerequisites for all learning. Cognitive functions are used in most aspects of learning, not only in academic subjects but also in relationships, social life and skill learning. Cognition is not the same as mere intellectual stimulation. Aspects of motivation are an inherent part of it. This approach is based on the socio-cultural theory of intelligence of Vygotsky, Piaget, Feuerstein &  Nyborg. Language development is an essential prerequisite for cognitive development

*  Inclusive education, if well organised,  is the best way to realize cognitive and social development for all children, including those with a developmental disability. It is considered a social value, as well as a developmental advantage, to have a heterogeneous class population. It is not enough to diversify  contents & level of difficulty, but also  evaluation standards and methods. There should be assistance by support teachers & volunteers (parents) , composing flexible age groups; peer tutoring, promotion of small group work.

*  Modifiability: every individual is considered to be modifiable, there are no a priori limits to learning.  Modifiability depends, as Feuerstein  shows, on the quality of interaction between children and the adults surrounding and educating him, quality which can be characterised by the criteria of mediated learning

*  Whole-person approach (cognitive- emotional - social) with a focus on the cognitive domain as an entry towards realizing modifiability. It is equally important to stimulate personality and motivational factors - as the ability to follow a goal, commitment, courage, co-operation, curiosity, motivation, cognitive learning strategies, social and coping skills etc. – because all will influence performance

*  Ecological approach towards intelligence: cognitive development is considered to be mainly influenced by culture, this means by people from the whole environment of the child: parents, neighbours, teachers, peers, parents of peers. Therefore, in order to increase educational success of disadvantaged children at risk of failure ( i.e. those  disadvantaged by birth or socio-economic origin) intervention should aim at influencing all these domains


Pedagogical resources

Project INSIDE brings together three pioneering approaches on the domain of cognitive enhancement of learning potential:


1.     The Portsmouth system for early language and reading acquisition   

Professor Sue Buckley founded the Sarah Duffen Centre for Developmental Disabilities and the Down Syndrome Educational Trust.  Touched by the positive experience early reading had on cognitive development of children with Down's syndrome and other developmental  delays,  she developed an approach, which systematically teaches global word reading at an early age (kindergarten). Later other basic skills as writing and arithmetic are also taught. Teachers are taught how to differentiate curricula towards individual needs. It has enabled many developmentally delayed children to be included in mainstream schools.

2.     The Concept Teaching Model of Nyborg 

 Magne Nyborg (1929-1996), pedagogist and professor at Oslo University did extensive research on learning difficulties. He founded the Institutt for Anvendt Pedagogikk (Institute for Applied Pedagogy). His postulate is that basic concepts (e.g. size, shape, number, position, time, etc.) are prerequisites for effective learning in academic and whatever other social situations. Nyborg's Concept Teaching Model systematically teaches basic cognitive concepts and conceptual systems to children, from kindergarten onwards. This has enabled many children with light to severe retardation to be included in the mainstream.

3.      Structural Cognitive Modifiability and Mediated Learning Experience of Reuven Feuerstein

Reuven Feuerstein (International Centre for the Enhancement of Learning Potential, Jerusalem) developped the theory of Structural Cognitive Modifiability (SCM) as a result of his work with deprived refugee children after the World War. He postulates that the limits to learning are as a matter of principle not known a priori. He stresses the social and cultural origin of cognitive development.

Differences in cognitive development cannot be explained exclusively by hereditary, congenital conditions or by environmental determinants such as socio-economic status of parents, cultural differences or familial background, but rather are the result of adequate Mediated Learning Experience (MLE). MLE is defined as the quality of the interaction in which human beings, such as parents, teachers, caregivers as well as peers, who interpose themselves between a stimulus in the environment and an individual, in order to ensure that the stimulus is perceived, grasped and integrated in a meaningful way. It is through MLE that an individual builds up his cognitive functions, prerequisites for independent learning afterwards. Feuerstein distinguishes 12 criteria of MLE.

From this theory, a practical cognitive intervention method (Instrumental Enrichment), dynamic assessment method (LPAD or Learning Propensity Assessment Device) and a set of didactic tools in order to create strong learning environments, have been elaborated


Target groups


Direct target group

*  kindergarten school, primary and secondary school teachers of "educationally at risk children"

*  educational helping staff (educational psychologists, special needs staff, speech therapists or other)

End-target group:

*  Focus on children with special needs: with learning disability or at risk of developing educational failure, due to various reasons: unfavourable socio-economic circumstances, lack of educational stimuli, family disrupture, organic brain damage, congenital developmental disabilities such as Down's syndrome or other genetic abnormalities

*  Typically learning children: since learning to think carefully is relevant for everyone, the approaches taught by Project INSIDE are in fact relevant for the whole of the class


Feuerstein's Mediation: is relevant for everyone working in education and rehabilitation, covers the entire age range
Portsmouth Language System: more focused on children with developmental disabilities such as Down’s syndrome or other early interventionists, speech therapists, physiotherapists, remedial teachers
Concept Teaching Model: teachers of kindergarten and primary school age, speech therapists, remedial teachers

Scope:         during the project preparation: Norway, UK, Belgium, Romania.

Eventually all countries in Europe

Languages:    English, Norwegian, Dutch, Romanian, Hungarian

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INSIDE courses

INSIDE try-out courses have been run in the four partners’ countries so far: Romania ( Cluj), Belgium, UK and Norway.

*  INSIDE try-out course August 2000, Cluj, Romania

*  INSIDE try-out course April 2001 Antwerp, Belgium (in Dutch)

*  INSIDE introduction July 2001, Cluj

*  INSIDE try-out course August 2001, Voss, Norway  

*  Workshop Concept Teaching Model Antwerp Belgium 8-10 February 2003


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Try-Out Course Voss, Norway August 6-10 2001

Location: Voss ( Norway) a beautiful small town at a lakeside in the mountains between Bergen and Oslo, in the middle of Norway's superb Fjord region



 profile of participants

 expected outcome




 Course objectives

The objective of this course was to introduce teachers and special needs helping staff to the approach of the INSIDE project, i.e. how to help children in general, particularly children at risk of educational failure,  to really fruitfully participate in (mainstream) education by activating their cognitive functions and increasing a teacher’s capacity how to do it.

 Course programme

The course provided an introduction to three important pioneering approaches in cognitive education:

  • On the first day, Prof. Sue Buckley (Portsmouth University, UK) presented  the Portsmouth-DownsEd approach to cognitive development, called “ Litteracy, Language and Learning”. She started from  scientific investigations with a group of youngsters with Down syndrome, who appear to have benefitted significantly from early language and reading programmes and from having been included in a mainstream school. They seem to be 5 years ahead of their peers in special education. This one day conference brought a lot of information, mainly focussed on problems and intervention for children with Down syndrome ( but easily transferrable to children developmental disabilities due to other causes): how to stimulate language development, how to organise an inclusive educational programme


  • On Day 2 and 3, experts from the Norwegian INAP ( the Institute for Applied Pedagogy) presented Nyborg’s theory of learning and its corresponding strategy of Concept Teaching with emphasis on the application of a Concept Teaching Model. These sessions were highly practical and interactive. Teachers learned how to teach concepts like shape, colour, number, size, etc. in a systematic way.





  • In-between there was little, but essential time to visit some of the beautiful Norwegian countryside and cultural heritage:







Reindeers at a Lapp Camp                A concert in the oldest house in Norway                    A Canyon in Voss


  • On Day 4, Dr. Jo Lebeer (Antwerp, Belgium) introduced basic concepts of Reuven Feuerstein’s theory of Structural Cognitive Modifiability and Mediated Learning Experience and its applied systems.





  • Dr. Maria Roth showed how Feuerstein’s theory has been put into practice with various target groups in Romania, including projects for Roma children and for ADHD children.






  • On Day 5 participants presented their projects and work. The group was split in small working groups to work on an assignment: how to integrate the three  presented systems in their project.




The course was recognized by Comenius Action 3.2.This meant that every participant was able to obtain funding from their local Socrates Agency.


 Profiles of the participants

  • Pre-school and primary school-teachers, secondary school teachers working with at risk children , educational minority children, special educational needs (S.E.N.) children,
  • educational psychologists,
  • special needs teachers and SENCO’s,
  • speech and other developmental therapists,
  • Principals of inclusive schools or special needs departments


 Expected outcomes of the course

What can participants expect to be able to do after the course?

  1. To be able to understand a little more of cognitive learning processes, how and in which way children with difficulties are modifiable, they learn and can be taught
  2. To be able to facilitate better the learning processes of children on different developmental levels
  3. To understand better the link between language learning and cognitive development
  4. To be able to understand better causes, specific difficulties and possibilities of children with severe learning difficulties such as Down syndrome
  5. To be able to teach children with developmental disabilities the principles of reading
  6. To be able to understand more of the role and meaning of basic concepts and basic conceptual systems as prequisites of learning
  7. To be able to use some of the principles from the Concept Teaching Model (Nyborg) for teaching
  8. To recognize better the cognitive difficulties of children and need for intervention
  9. To become more aware of the role of the teacher as a mediator in enhancing cognitive and thus social development
  10. To learn to integrate how cognitive modifiability, teaching prerequisites of learning and mediational attitudes are interlinked and facilitate the realisation of inclusive education

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Follow up

  • In 5 days, only an overview and introduction in the three systems can be given. In-dept understanding of the three systems needs further in-depth training. This is being continuously organised in the various training centres by the partners

It is the partners’ intention to organize an advanced professional training leading to a Master’s Degree in Cognitive Education and Inclusion

Pedagogical materials

The INSIDE partners developped a series of pedagogical materials for use in and out of the classroom, aimed at promoting cognitive development and promoting differentiated teaching:

*  INSIDE, a teachers' guide  a binder with 5 booklets on activating cognitive development of children with or at risk of developmental & learning difficulties, totalling 157 pages. Theoretical as well as practical aspects. Table of contents and summary.  Order   


*  Down Syndrome issues and information ( comprehensive and practical guides for assisting development and inclusive education of children with Down syndrome, but also relevant for children with other developmental disabilities)

*   Grunnlaget ( a teachers' guide for practising Nyborg's Concept Teaching Model)

*   The Concept Teaching Suitcase ( a suitcase containing 150 daily objects to teach basic concepts)





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Sue Buckley           prof. Em. in educational and developmental psychology, Faculty of Psychology, University of Portsmouth, UK; founder and director of the Sarah Duffen Centre

Andreas Hansen    pedagogist, Educational Psychological Services at Harstad (Norway) and CTM trainer at the Institutt for Anvendt Pedagogikk (Norway)


From left to right: Jo Lebeer, Sue Buckley, Andreas Hansen, Gunvor Sonnesyn & Maria Roth


Morten Hem           pedagogist, Educational Psychological Services at Voss (Norway), and CTM trainer t the Institutt for Anvendt Pedagogikk, Skulestadmo, (Norway)

Jo Lebeer    dr. in medicine and a phD in human development. Certified Feuerstein's Instrumental Enrichment trainer. Coordinator project of Learning Enhancment and Inclusion at Universitaire Instelling Antwerpen

Maria Roth  psychologist, senior lecturer in Social Work at the Babes Bolyai University in Cluj (Romania); trainer in Feuerstein's Instrumental Enrichment

Gunvor Sønnesyn, primary school teacher, coordinator at Institutt for Anvendt Pedagogikk (Norway)

Stefan Szamoskozi           vice-dean of the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences and director of the Centre for Distance Learning at the Babes Bolyai University in Cluj (Romania)

Jarl Formo, psychologist, Sørlandet Kompetansesenter, Kristiansand, Norway

From left to right: Jo Lebeer, Morten Hem, Andreas Hansen, Jarl Formo, Maria Roth




Institute for Applied Pedagogy


Universiteit Antwerpen UA


Inst. for Applied Pedagogy,
Uttrågata 12, Postboks 115, N-5701 Voss
Gunvor Sønnesyn
+47 56521820 Fax. +47 56521821
E-mail Website


Project Learning Enhancement & Inclusion
Universiteitsplein 1, building R, 3rd floor, B- 2610 Wilrijk
Contactperson: J. Lebeer
Tel +32 3 820 25 29 Fax +32 3 820 25 26

United Kingdom

Sarah Duffen Centre of Developmental Disabilities
DownsEd, Down Syndrome Educational Trust,
Belmont St, Southsea PO5 1NA, Hamps.,
Contactperson: Sue Buckley
+44 2392 82 42 61
Fax +44 2392 82 42 65



University of Babes Bolyai
Dept. of Psychology and Educational Sciences
Str.Kogalniceanu 1-3 3400 Cluj-Napoca,
Contactperson: Maria Roth and Istvan Szamoskozi
 Tel +40 6 419 43 15
Fax +40 6 419 19 06




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