Interpretation and Practice of Inclusive Education in a School: Exploration using a Participative Approach

Inclusive Education (IE) is a global reform agenda showing up in policy discourses across nations. It is a contested phenomena/term (Walton, 2016) and research in IE is complex (Hardy & Woodcock). This is because IE is defined in many ways based on how it is characterised. The most common distinction is the narrow and the broad definitions. Narrow definitions are concerned only with inclusion of children with disabilities, whereas broad definitions concern inclusion of all children. Research in IE is mostly informed by the narrow definitions (Messiou, 2017). Literature suggests that from challenges and resistance to IE, the focus of research needs to shift to what is working and how (Taneja-Johansson, 2014); informed by the broad definitions, in varied socio-cultural contexts using collaborative and participative methods (Göransson & Nilholm, 2014). This study visualises the school as a community built on differences with the goal of making it inclusive for all children. The postmodern conception of community, which has “acceptance of otherness and cooperation with difference” (Furman, 2002, p. 57) is at the centre of the construct of ‘School as Community’. The research aims to: (i) study how (the social process) a ‘school as community’ makes meaning of IE; (ii) participate in and study the process of designing a learning environment to foster diversity among students; and (iii) observe and interpret the possible transformative changes through this process. Engagement with the school will be through action research and participant observation, informed by two methodological frameworks: Symbolic Interactionism (SI) and Participatory Action Research (PAR). As empirical theories, the foci of SI and PAR is activity (Duguid, 2014), as a mean of bringing transformative, social change (Creswell, 2014). Thus, allowing a micro perspective in research to identify, plan and implement suitable action decided on by the community/research participants. At the same time situating the micro needs within the macro level of systemic educational reforms within a critical paradigm (Burbank & Martins, 2009). Multi-method data collection is planned, including participant observations, interviews, audio-visuals and documents. As an emergent qualitative design, data analysis will be done both during- and post-data collection. Progressive Focusing (Schutt & Chambliss, 2013) and Constant Comparative Method (Freeman, 2011) will enable ongoing data analysis, and case-oriented data analysis and interpretation will be done of the final data. The findings will be represented in the form of a case study and will have implications for both practice and theory of inclusive education.

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