04 SES 15 B, Does Locality And Context Matter For Inclusion? A Transnational Perspective
Inclusive Education has developed to become an often-travelled ‘buzzword’ within educational research to reinforce inclusive practices and foster participation. This ‘inclusive turn’ (Ainscow 2007), especially focussing on inclusive education in schools, reaches towards the participation of all pupils. However, pupils as active agents of social processes within schools rarely get involved in research on inclusive education.
Addressing children as active agents of social processes, who constantly produce and construct their spaces within peer and adult interaction, connects with the claim of relational space theory. Applying the concept of space as producing ‘particular forms of activity and sets of relations by configuring the identities and understandings of people who occupy it’ (Lupton, 2009, 112) gives insight into the hidden and situational production of inclusion and exclusion. Moreover, it provides a route to exploring children’s feelings of belonging (Slee 2020). Belonging as a concept can be seen as ‘a symbolic space of familiarity, comfort and security, and emotional attachment’ (Antonsich 2010, 645). It is about feeling safe and purposeful (Strnadová, Johnson and Walmsley 2018).
In order to investigate spaces of inclusion/exclusion and belonging we introduce an inclusive (participatory) research approach (Unger 2014, Nind 2018). This means that children are supported to participate actively in the research process and the decision-making as competent partners. Moreover, the ways of knowing of the children and the adults are brought into dialogue (Nind 2018).
Children’s construction and use of space have received marginal attention in research on spatial practices and inclusion in schools. Yet children’s practices and relations are the key to their production of spaces of belonging in schools. Therefore, we use space as an analytical tool to reveal barriers and open up opportunities for pupils’ participation. According to the relational-spatial model of Soja (1996, 146) the social relations of school are spatially inscribed and ‘concretely represented - in the social production of space.’
Through our participatory project we seek to gain insight into children’s creation and use of space and find out more about their spatial practices. This includes reflecting on social and physical space within schools while examining processes of inclusion and exclusion and, within these, identifying different dimensions of belonging. The study is conducted as a multi-site case study with partner schools in Germany (Baden-Württemberg) and, in time, the UK.
This paper presents data from the first stage of the participatory research project. When the project was launched the COVID-19 pandemic had not yet started. The pandemic is ‘a social event that is disrupting our social order’ (Teti, Schatz and Liebenberg 2020, 1) and therefore disrupting research and how spaces for learning are socially constructed and used by pupils. The data presented in the paper was generated at two inclusion-oriented elementary schools in an urban area in the south of Germany where the project was initiated pre-pandemic through a series of workshops and performed together with pupils (grade 1-4), teachers and researchers. As participatory research brings different stakeholder perspectives into dialogue a ‘third space’ of negotiation and shared power opens up (Seale et al. 2015). Through different methods of qualitative and participatory research, such as photo-elicitation, walking interviews, and group discussions, pupils’ and teachers’ perspectives become visible and are constantly reflected throughout the research process (Köpfer, Lemmer & Rißler 2020). Furthermore, their perspectives are brought into the data analysis, which is led as an iterative and inductive process.
The study fieldwork is at beginning stages of work and addresses the underlying phenomena of inclusion, exclusion and belonging by exploring how children as pupils produce (social) spaces in school. The paper will share vignettes from the case study schools. We will reflect on how pupils develop agency in specific school spaces and how they construct spaces of belonging, which, in times of the pandemic, gain significance. To identify pedagogical and organizational processes and practices of belonging, the use of participatory (inclusive) research brings with it reflections on power relations between adults and children within inclusive schools. As relationships can be enriched in shared, third space (Veck 2009), the ‘in-betweenness’ of pupils needs to be empirically explored. To examine these hidden consequences of physical and social space in school, pupils’ agency and creativity can be traced to build a ‘safe haven’ within the research process. Therefore, the paper can contribute to the discussion on how research in inclusive education can challenge spatially (re-)produced power relations between different agents participating in the research process especially focussing on the perspectives of pupils as agents.
Ainscow, M. (2007). Taking an inclusive turn. Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs 7(1), 3–7. Antonsich, M. 2010. “Searching for Belonging – An Analytical Framework.” Geography Compass 4 (6): 644–659. Lupton, R. (2009). “Area-based Initiatives in English Education: What Place for Space and Place?” In Education and Poverty in Affluent Countries, edited by C. Raffo, C., A. Dyson, A., H. Gunter, D. Hall, L. Jones and A. Afrodit, 111–23. Abingdon: Routledge. Köpfer, A., K. Lemmer, and G. Rißler. 2020. Zwischen Fremd- und Selbstbestimmung – Raumnutzung von Rückzugsräumen durch Schüler*innen in inklusionsorientierten Schulen [Between autonomy and control – the use of retreat areas by students in inclusion-oriented schools.]. In: Gemeinsam Leben. Zeitschrift für Inklusion 28(2), 68-76. Nind, M. (2018). Thinking inclusively, acting inclusively, researching inclusively. REACH Journal of Special Needs Education in Ireland 32(1). Seale, J., R. Chapman, M. Nind and E.K. Tilley. 2015. “Negotiating a Third Space for Participatory Research with People with Learning Disabilities: An Examination of Boundaries and Spatial Practices.” Innovation: The European Journal of Social Science Research 28 (4): 483-497. Slee, R. 2019. “Belonging in an Age of Exclusion.” International Journal of Inclusive Education 23 (9): 909-922. Strnadová, I., K.Johnson and J. Walmsley. 2018. “‘… But if You’re Afraid of Things, How are You Meant to Belong?’ What Belonging Means to People with Intellectual Disabilities.” Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities 31 (6): 1091–1102. Soja, E.W. (1996). Thirdspace: Journeys to Los Angeles and Other Real-and-Imagined Places. Blackwell: Oxford Teti, M., E. Schatz and L. Liebenberg. 2020. “Methods in the Time of COVID-19: The Vital Role of Qualitative Inquiries.” International Journal of Qualitative Methods. Unger, H. v. (2014). Partizipative Forschung [Participative Research]. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag. Veck, W. 2009. “Listening to Include.” International Journal of Inclusive Education 13 (2): 141–55.
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