04 SES 07 B, Reflecting on Special and Inclusive Education: What we know, where we are?
It is recognised that until comparatively recently most of the research undertaken within the arena of disability was conducted either within the medical profession or by those caring for people with disabilities. This resulted in research which did not generally accurately represent the true experiences of this section of the population (Educable, 2000). There has been a dearth of participation among people with disabilities within all research areas and are either not consulted at all or when included remain on the periphery of the research process (Ali, Fazil, Bywaters, Wallace & Singh, 2001). French and Swain (2006, p. 385) assert that a “paucity of oral history reverberates through the development of disability policy and practice” and this includes the oral history of blind/vision impaired people. Furthermore, they assert that “insider perspectives, from the past and the present, are essential if inclusive educational policy and practice for visually impaired people is to succeed” (French & Swain, 2006, p. 395). Within Ireland until recently there has been an absence of research involving blind/vision impaired people as primary participants (AHEAD, 2008).
Pugach (2001, p. 443) concludes that “one of the primary characteristics of contemporary, postmodern qualitative research is the commitment to bring to the surface stories of those whose voices have not been heard, those who have been oppressed or disenfranchised in schools”. Qualitative research views the individual research participant within the context of their lives. O'Day and Killeen (2002, p. 9) argue that “In the field of disability research, qualitative methodologies have emerged as some of our most important tools in understanding the complexities of disability in its social context”. A salient aspect of a life history approach is its recognition of insider perspectives. Twenty-three blind/vision impaired people located within the Republic of Ireland participated in this study. The researcher herself is vision impaired therefore, all engaged in this research process came from the same minority grouping. The research upon which this presentation is based employed a qualitative methodology namely life history research. A pertinent reason given for researchers using a life history approach is that “they believe that detailed, personal information about how people have perceived and experienced things that have happened in their lives will enable them to better understand whatever it is that they are studying” (Goodson & Sikes, 2001, p. 91). Life history research acknowledges the integrity of the individual and recognises their experiences as valid. The author’s ontological position as a disabled researcher has been instrumental to much of her research and her position as insider could be considered beneficial as it “may enable better in-depth understanding of participants’ perception and interpretation of their lived experience in a way that is impossible in the absence of having been through it” (Berger, 2013, p. 12). Reflexivity has become increasingly important within qualitative research and Elliott (2005, p. 153) acknowledges that “reflexivity might be understood as a heightened awareness of the self, acting in the social world”. Reflexivity can be beneficial within research and when undertaken responsibly can result in “a more reasoned objectivity” (Lohan, 2000, p. 171). While Finlay (2002, p. 214) asserts that self-exploration of one’s own experiences can be the foundation for a more “generalized understanding and interpretation”. Furthermore, Ryan (2006) argued that reflexivity can result in the recognition of the human aspect of the research. The research upon which this presentation is based had a subjectivist ontology and a subjectivist epistemology which for makes reflexivity a salient component of this research.
The author’s interest in this area of research stems from her personal experience of mobility and vision impairment. A large part of her story was dominated by the segregationist and institutional education policies that were the norm in Ireland until the 1990s, and the subsequent adjustment to mainstream society. These experiences led her to question the validity or otherwise of such policies. Consequently, her ontological position as a disabled researcher has been central to much of the research that she has engaged with in recent decades. Her commitment to ensuring that the previously unheard voice is dominant in all aspects of the research process. This presentation wi8ll examine ways in which those how have previously been excluded from the research arena can be included in an authentic manner whereby their experiences are acknowledged as paramount to the research.
Ali, Z., Fazil, Q., Bywaters, P., Wallace, L., & Singh, G. (2001). Disability, ethnicity and childhood: a critical review of research. Disability & Society, 16(7), 949-967. Association for Higher Education Access and Disability. (2008). Seeing ahead: A study of factors affecting blind & vision impaired students going on to higher education. Dublin: AHEAD Education Press. Berger, R. (2013). Now I see it, now I don't: researcher's position and reflexivity in qualitative research. Qualitative Research, 1-17. http://qrj.sagepub.com/content/early/2013/01/03/1468794112468475.abstract doi:10.1177/1468794112468475 Educable, Save the Children Fund (Great Britain), & Disability Action. (2000). No choice: no chance. Belfast: Save the Children. Elliott, J. (2005). Using Narrative in Social Research: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches. London: Sage Publications. Finlay, L. (2002). Negotiating the swamp: the opportunity and challenge of reflexivity in research practice. Qualitative Research, 2(2), 209-230. French, S., & Swain, J. (2006). Telling stories for a politics of hope. Disability & Society, 21(5), 383-396. Goodson, I. F., & Sikes, P. J. (2001). Life history research in educational settings : learning from lives. Buckingham: Open University Press. Lohan, M. (2000). Extending Feminist Methodologies: Researching Masculinities and Technologies. In A. Byrne & R. Lentin (Eds.), (Re)searching women : feminist research methodologies in the social sciences in Ireland. Dublin: Institute of Public Administration. O'Day, B., & Killeen, M. (2002). Research on the Lives of Persons with Disabilities The Emerging Importance of Qualitative Research Methodologies. Journal of Disability Policy Studies, 13(1), 9-15. Pugach, M. C. (2001). The stories we choose to tell: Fulfilling the promise of qualitative research for special education. Exceptional Children, 67(4), 439-453. Ryan, P. (2006). Researching Irish gay male lives: reflections on disclosure and intellectual autobiography in the production of personal narratives. Qualitative Research, 6(2), 151-168. Walmsley, J., & Johnson, K. (2003). Inclusive research with people with learning disabilities : past, present and futures. London: Jessica Kingsley.
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