20 SES 07 B, Making It Matter: Educational research's transformative potential - moving beyond ambivalence by reframing the production of ourselves and “The Other”'
Drawing on over two decades of research, this paper examines the marginalisation of different types of communities, based on ethnicity, dis/ability and social ‘deviance’. Covering research with diverse groups (Gypsy Travellers, migrant workers, Sami communities in northern Norway, disabled people and youngsters excluded from school), it explores both internal and external constructions of ‘otherness’, as well as diversity within communities and change over time. In the education sector, cascading reforms, a research/policy disjuncture and increasing privatisation all contribute to inadequately framed (and low-cost) inclusion policies. This paper problematises policy initiatives targeting diverse groups to show how centralised and homogeneous representations fuel false assumptions about their needs. In practice, such initiatives compromise these groups at personal, family and social levels. As these stakeholders fade from view in policy, they must take to the streets in protest. Ambivalence can enter the research process in various ways, weakening it and often protecting the system. Employment/funding constraints can inhibit investigations or their publication. Another way, more under the researcher’s control, is via the use of obfuscated, arcane terminology, accessible only to those in the know. In this anti-expertise era, this severely limits our capacity to achieve our aims—to inform, challenge or inspire, at policy and popular levels. Grounded, accessible research is an effective transformative tool for people seeking an inclusive future for themselves, in wider society and its education system. Linguistic analysis of examples from policy texts and stakeholders’ evaluations show that such data offer insight into the forces at work, and the issues to be confronted. Transformative research findings must register within the system also. Educators need to be critical thinkers, and to have the skills to promote inclusive practice. To ensure equity and inclusion, that questioning perspective and those creative skills must be embedded in initial and ongoing professional education programmes at all levels in the education system. We need to find ways to make our work accessible, especially to those most at risk from system failures. It must register the voices of experience and analysis, in ongoing dialogue between community and academic knowledge. This paper argues for emancipatory conceptions of research, drawing on the work of Freire (2000) and Boal (1993). Such research contributes to change within communities, which only increases the complexity around research and the need to develop more imaginative and sensitive ethical boundaries than those adhered to in standard research projects.
Boal, A. (1993). Theater of the oppressed. New York, NY: Theater Communications Group. Freire, P. (?). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York, NY: Continuum.
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