04 SES 06 E, Taking a Step Further: Developing creative approaches to research on inclusive education
Research Context and themes
Drawing on a large AHRC (Connected Communities) project with disabled participants, this paper focuses on the development of appropriate methodologies for research with marginalized groups, particularly for people for whom conventional research methodologies may be inaccessible.
The D4D project explores experiences of disability, community, inclusion and exclusion. The investigation involves work in a range of settings, involving participants of all ages who live with a range of conditions, encompassing physical and sensory impairments, invisible disabilities, mental illness and learning disabilities.
In school contexts, the research team seeks to explore issues such as the risks of exclusion through inclusion. As well as changing attitudes within institutions, the project is committed to the development of more democratic and inclusive research practices that enable the experiences, needs and aspirations of disabled people to be expressed and realized at the level of policy and practice.
The research involves universities in the UK and the US. Leading academics in the Disability Studies field, including Lennard Davis and Rosemary Garland-Thomson, are involved with the project in an advisory capacity.
The projet team is committed to raising awareness around issues of inclusion in schools (and in other contexts) among both disabled and non-disabled people. A central aim is to co-construct research approaches with participants, enabling them to play a shared role in developing understandings and achieving change. We also hope to develop a more rigorous ethical framework for future research.
Methods / Methodology Cultural animation, an innovative research approach, is presented as an alternative to traditional interview approaches, an option for ethnographers as well as for those involved in Participatory Action Research. Cultural animation has been utilized across the D4D project, and in this paper, members of the research team discuss participant responses to this technique in schools and youth zones. Setting off from the premise that community participants are gatekeepers to their own worlds, and that there is an ethical imperative to involve them whatever the difficulties (see e.g. Davis et al, 2010; Nind, 2008; Nierse et al, 2012), the D4D team seeks to develop approaches that allow participants to retain ownership of their experiences and the right to a share in the interpretation of those experiences (Levinson, Moffat & Burke forthcoming). The D4D team seeks to involve participants at all research stages, believing that communities need to be understood in context, as co-constructed and performed. This seems to us to be essential in the investigation of situated, contingent and intuitive ways of knowing that rest outside of University domains of knowledge (Pahl & Pool, 2016). As a consequence, the project utilises a range of participatory, emancipatory and ethnographic approaches, involving methods such as cultural animation, transcription poetry and oral history. In particular, this paper outlines the use of cultural animation in school and youth group settings. Cultural animation seeks to ‘engage in knowledge co-production in an ethical, non-hierarchical and safe environment’, enabling all participants to have ‘a voice in the conversation of research’ (Kelemen at al, 2016). It aims to create a non-hierarchical, informal framework, facilitating situations in which participants can ‘draw on personal aspirations, heritage, culture and experiences’ (Hamilton & Taylor, 2017:141). Cultural animation workshops in schools and youth groups are considered in this presentation. The paper reports on work with groups of people who were disabled and non-disabled, during which time researchers and participants considered evolving attitudes and feelings.
Expected outcomes The paper argues for the need for research that is both more sensitive and more democratic. Our position is that cultural animation needs to be considered as an alternative approach, particularly when exploring feelings or difficult and complex issues that require the gradual growth of understandings on the part of the participant, rather than putting her/him in a situation that invites quick answers. We argue that Cultural Animation is particularly suited to projects that seek change, making it appropriate for both Participatory Action Research approaches and those drawing on Critical Ethnography.
References Hamilton, L. & Taylor, N. (2017). Ethnography after Humanism. London: Palgrave Macmillan Keleman, M., Mangan, A., Phillips, M., Moffat, S. & Jochum, V. (2016). Untold Stories of Volunteering: A cultural animation project. AHRC: Connected Communities Levinson, M.P., Moffat, S. & Burke L. (In preparation). Perspectives of participants and researchers concerning the use of Cultural Animation as an approach in the understanding of experience Nierse, C.J et al (2012). Collaboration and co-ownership in research: dynamics and dialogues between patient research partners and professional researchers in a research team. Health Expectations (15), pp. 242-254. Nind, M. (2008). Conducting qualitative research with people with learning, communication and other disabilities: Methodological challenges. National Centre for Research Methods NCRM/012. Pool, S. & Pahl, K. (2016). The work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Co-production. In After Urban Regeneration: Communities, policy and place, Ed. O’Brien, D. & Matthews, P., (pp. 79-94). Policy Press: Bristol
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