The Edge Effect


At the spot where communities junction an increase in variety of activity can be found – -this is called the edge effect. The interface between different spaces creates fertile ground for new possibilities (like what happens in waterfront regeneration in landscapes (1)). In the ecology of the classroom edge effects could happen when, for instance, students of different age groups or background come to work together, or when students differing in ability join forces. But education is not that prone of creating edge effects. Most of the time some kind of drawback for not having to ‘edge’ will come forward: “ takes too much time, lowers standards, no resources available” , and the like. These voices must not be ignored for sure, but in reality when edge communities are created, for instance like in inclusive education, concerns turn out to be relatively mild and manageable.

An Australian study supports this observation by looking at what happened to concerns of teachers when adopting inclusive education in their classrooms. There were concerns, as one could imagine. But it also showed that concerns decline with a teachers’ level of confidence in their own teaching ability in teaching a mixed class. Since level of confidence was a significant predictor the study also analyzed if training would add to raise confidence. This turns out to be the case – a reassuring outcome indeed.

So, why be afraid of the edge? Concerns may look like walls too high to climb but with a little help one dares to try, the study seems to say. Still, we need to consider that concerns may also warn us for ‘sharp’ edges or boundary objects (3) i.e., markers that stand in between different worlds as objects that are not fully accepted by either community. In that respect considering concerns as boundary objects becomes necessary to negotiate the nature of overlap. The systemic nature of a sustainable learning landscape requires connectedness, next to confidence. Looking for boundary objects then may help to generate edge communities.


Penny N. Round, Pearl K. Subban & Umesh Sharma (2016) ‘I don’t have time to be this busy.’ Exploring the concerns of secondary school teachers towards inclusive education, International Journal of Inclusive Education, 20:2, 185-198,

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