Doing research reflexively: The case of disability research Dr Chrissie Rogers, Reader in Education, Anglia Ruskin University [email protected] Doing research reflexively: The case of disability research 1. Beginning to research reflexively from the inside out? 2. Mothering a learning disabled child or adult. 3. Personal narrative in understanding social issues 1. Beginning to research reflexively: thinking about method and theory Researching from the inside out reflexively: a continual process The ‘insider’.... Doing research, not as personal narrative but simply as an ‘insider’ BUT also researcher The mother/researcher: inside out. • As a member of the audience and a presenting delegate, I wait for the conference to begin. This particular one only happens every five years so is a big event for academics and education practitioners. The Inclusive and Supportive Education Conference (ISEC, 2005) is called ‘Inclusive Education: Celebrating Diversity?’ The opening ceremony begins and the room is filled with music and young people on the stage performing their interpretation of ‘inclusive education’. They weave in and out, their bodies supple and mobile, their voices clear and their story profound. They sing and chant ‘seize the day!’ at the end of punctuated exclamations of ‘individuality’, ‘sharing’, ‘creativity’, ‘SUCCESS!’ The mother/researcher: inside out • A lump in my throat and a tear attempts to escape. I pretend I have something in my eye and look around to see if I’m the only one emotionally provoked. Either I was, or like me, everyone else was able to disguise his or her emotionality. This, after all is a serious event. I recall my daughter being on stage desperately trying to remember a line, and me willing her to… whatever… she was great. Back in the audience I’m sad and angry. “I know that the philosophical underpinning of inclusive education is in some way right, but is it not a little premature to celebrate it, when we haven’t got there?” I think. I go back to my room and cry, for myself and for my daughter who will always be different and indeed difficult? (Personal research notes, 2005). A little about the research... MOTHERS AND THEIR VOICES 2. Mothering a learning disabled child • Expectation – the fairy tale • Disappointment – loss of the ‘normal’ • Exclusion –For the mother and for the child Exclusion A FEW FINDINGS Inclusion/Exclusion: the child • If I am unable to play a musical instrument at all, it seems to make little sense to say that I can be included in an orchestra which is to play Beethoven or if I cannot even add up or subtract that I should be in a group learning quadratic equations. Of course, I can just sit there alongside others but this is hardly inclusion in any serious sense. But then, it could be argued, I ought not to be ‘left out’ of these activities, however incompetent I am (Wilson,1999, p. 110). As Warnock (2005, p 36) suggests, • “Inclusion should mean being involved in a common enterprise of learning, rather than being necessarily under the same roof”. It seems there are many children who are ‘included’ in mainstream but are excluded at different levels: Practically - they are often removed from the class for one to one work in an individual teaching unit. Intellectually - they often cannot access the curriculum in the same way their peers do. Emotionally - their difficulties can preclude them from sustaining friendship networks and engaging with others socially. These ‘exclusions’, are caused and compounded by a testing and examination structure, cultural ignorance and misunderstandings about difference and difficulty (Rogers, 2007) 3. Personal narrative in understanding social issues Auto/biography, auto ethnography, personal reflections Hertz (1997) discusses in some depth the need for reflexivity in an attempt to shift our understanding of the data and its collection and therefore • It is important to admit that we study things that trouble us or intrigue us, beginning from our own standpoints. But what makes writing about our lives social science and not a novel? How do we find the parallels in our experiences to make sociological sense of our own routines, or chaos for that matter? (xvi). Sparkes questions those who are critical of autoethnography, and in response asks • What substantive contribution to our understanding of social life does it make? What is its aesthetic merit, impact, and ability to express complex realities? Does it display reflexivity, authenticity, fidelity, and believability? Is it engaging and evocative? Does it promote dialogue and show potential for social action? Does the account work for the reader and is it useful? (2002: 211). Auto/ethnographic voice: from the mother SEXUAL INCLUSION Two Vignettes • Educating sexuality –Who has the right to decide on what can be taught – who is included? • Governing the sexual –Who governs and surveys? I would therefore suggest as social researchers we can focus • ‘outward on the social and cultural aspects of personal experience’ and expose ‘the vulnerable self’ with a view to ‘move through, refract, and resist cultural interpretations’ (Ellis and Bochner 2003, p, 209). And as Sparkes comments, • ‘[m]emories serve particular personal and social functions within the stories we tell ourselves, and others, to explain who we are, what we are, and where we are in life at a particular time and place’ (2002, 157). However, • personal and qualitative narrative alone is not always enough in attempting to understand deeper cultural psychosocial processes. It is therefore also useful to construct knowledges that are aided by theoretical frameworks in attempting to make sense of a disabled social world. Some references from paper • • • • • • • Ellis, C. and Bochner, A. (2003) ‘Autoethnography, Personal narrative, Reflexivity: Researcher as Subject’ in Denzin, N. K. and Lincoln, Y. S. (eds.) Handbook of Qualitative Research [2nd Edition] pp 733-768, London: Sage Publications. Harding, S. (1993) Rethinking standpoint epistemology: What is “Strong Objectivity”? in Alcoff, L. and Potter, E. (Eds) Feminist epistemologies London: Routledge. Hertz, R. (1997) (ed.) Reflexivity and VOICE London: Sage Publications Smith, D. (1988) The Everyday World as Problematic: A Feminist Sociology Milton Keynes: Open University Press. Sparkes, A. C. (2002) ‘Autoethnography: Self-Indulgence or Something More? In Bochner, A. and Ellis, C. [eds.] Ethnographically Speaking: Autoethnography, Literature, and Aesthetics New York: Altamira Press Stanley, L. (1993) On auto/biography in sociology. Sociology, 27(1), 41-52. Warnock, M. (2005) ‘Special educational needs: a new look’ Impact (Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain) Some publications • • • • • • • • Rogers, C. (In Press) ‘Hope as a mechanism in emotional survival: documenting miscarriage’ Auto/Biography Year Book 2010 Nottingham, Russell Press Rogers, C. (2010) ‘But it’s not all about the sex: mothering, normalisation and young learning disabled people’ Disability and Society 25 (1) Rogers, C. (2009) (S)excerpts from a life told: Sex, gender and learning disability in Sexualities 12 (3) 270-288 Rogers, C. (2007) Parenting and Inclusive Education: discovering difference, experiencing difficulty Palgrave Macmillan Rogers, C. (2007) ‘Experiencing an ‘inclusive’ education: Parents and their children with special educational needs (SEN)’ British Journal of Sociology of Education 28: 1. Rogers, C. (2007) ‘‘Disabling’ a family? Emotional dilemmas experienced in becoming a parent of a learning disabled child’ in British Journal of Special Education 34 (3) pp 136-143. Lucey, H. and Rogers, C (2007) ‘Power and the unconscious in doctoral studentsupervisor relationships’’, in, Power, Knowledge and the Academy: The Institutional Is Political Edited by V, Gillies and H, Lucey. Palgrave Macmillan Rogers, C. (2003) ‘The mother/researcher in blurred boundaries of a reflexive research process’, Auto/Biography XI (1&2) pp 47-54.