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Member Spotlight

Dr. Joseph Seyram Agbenyega

Dr. Agbenyega is an associate professor of early childhood at Emirates College for Advanced Education in Abu Dhabi UAE. He is originally from Ghana, where he earned his first teaching degree in Math Education at the University of Education. Dr. Agbenyega, earned his Graduate degree at Monash University in Melbourne- Australia in 2005, where he was retained in 2008 as a course leader and rose through the ranks to become an associate professor before moving to Abu Dhabi in 2020.

Dr. Agbenyega’s fierce advocacy for inclusionary practices across the globe has led him to conduct workshops and develop programs for:

- Ghana: as part of promoting early intervention policies and practices by designing workshops and seminars for basic schoolteachers and university faculty.
- Singapore: by designing modules for University faculty and special education teachers in effective teaching practices
- Thailand: through providing service as a consultant for school administrators on the use of inclusive books to serve the needs of students and families.
- Australia: by working with preservice teachers to advance diversity in courses
- China: by working with students in Macau to move the dialogue on the need for early intervention and inclusive practices

Dr. Agbenyega leading a seminar at University of Cape Coast in Ghana

When asked about his experiences in Australia where he has worked the longest, Dr. Agbenyega states “My work at Monash University has been an enjoyable and fulfilling experience. Key achievements include leading the development of course accreditations and inclusion of special education courses and early intervention modules into the early childhood program.

Dr. Agbenyega continued to talk about the difference between provision of special education services in Ghana and Australia, Dr. Agbenyega described special education in Ghana as being in a bud stage and disjointed because of a lack of implementation of existing inclusive policies whereas in Australia, the provision of services is everything to write home about because of family, government and educator collaboration and use of scientific data to inform policy decision making processes.

Dr. Agbenyega said he currently enjoys his new job in Abu Dhabi. “My passion for education is to see all students thrive. Every student’s success is what motivates me to stay on the job” His career goals include assisting sub–Saharan African countries in particular, his home country Ghana, to develop a robust special education system and to develop a new plan for advancing inclusive education in low-income countries.

Hyojong Sohn

Originally from South Korea, Hyojong Sohn is a third-year doctoral student studying special education at the University of Florida after coming to the United States in 2015. Sohn joined DISES to connect with international educators and researchers and also share her unique experience as someone who has taught in South Korea and the United States.

Prior to entering the field of special education, Sohn started her education career as an elementary school teacher in South Korea. The South Korean school system is consistently ranked as one of the top educational systems in the world, particularly in the areas of math and science, yet when Sohn was teaching there, South Korea was just in the beginning stages of appropriately integrating people with disabilities into society. However, the country now has more policies and funding to support students with disabilities and general and special education teachers. [Special Education Learning Commons (e.g.https://sites.google.com/selc.sc.kr/selc)] The Special Education Commons South Korea has caused more appropriate delivery of service and greater inclusion of students with disabilities. Previously the negative stigma toward students with disabilities, especially with general education teachers and administrators who did not feel they had the knowledge and skills to teach and work with students with disabilities, impeded progress towards developing systemic educational systems to support students with disabilities in South Korea. (She reports this is similar to what she has seen in some cases in the U.S.)

Motivated by her experiences as a general education teacher, having students with disabilities in her classes in public school and her lack of knowledge in teaching students with disabilities, Sohn decided to learn more about effective pedagogy for working with students with disabilities. In her undergraduate training Sohn only had to take one course in teaching students with disabilities as is the case with many teacher education programs in the U.S.

Sohn’s research interests include teacher effectiveness, professional development, and literacy intervention in inclusive classrooms. Sohn is currently completing her dissertation titled “Evaluating a Classroom Observation Protocol for General and Special Education Teachers”. Through this research, she hopes to validate her observation tool used for providing performance feedback to ultimately improve general and special education teacher practice and effectiveness.

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