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Reading stories of inclusion: Engaging with different perspectives towards an agenda for inclusion

Andrew Azzopardi, University of Malta

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As a tool for emancipation, participatory research is one way to engage people in a process that aims to challenge oppressive structures that define and control their lives (Bernard, 2000, p. 185). Life history and narratives have often been considered as not being 'academic enough'. 'Participant' inclusivity and emancipation in research has drawn mixed views. A major tension facing academia is that of combining diversity with solidarity in an intelligible way. This work will engage with a number of notions and research questions (Sleeter, 1999);

  1. Is educational research about accommodating differences?
  2. Is research a rejection to the principle of conformity?
  3. Are scholars organised well enough to respond to intolerance?
  4. Is research contributing towards caring and tolerant communities?
  5. Can educational institutions become an appraise of social inclusion (Clark, Dyson & Millward, 1995)?
  6. Will research shed light on the oppressed clusters that will exist in future society?
  7. In what ways can the stories of children at the margins be used to promote critical debates about inclusion?
  8. How can different perspectives of parents, policy-makers, disabled persons, teachers, students and social workers be drawn upon to inform a transformative agenda for inclusion?
  9. Do the students in our schools fit within these social structures that contain them (Barton, 1997)?
  10. Do our schools tend to reproduce paradigms that are oppressive and exclusionary?
  11. Can educational research provide concrete opportunities to increase the confidence of those students who are not content at school?

This work will be looking at the prospect of having academic work featuring not in library shelves but in affecting change in the mentality of educators, pedagological practices and understanding of students. As researchers we need to ask ourselves the following critical question: What responsibilities arise from the privileges I have as a result of my social position as a researcher?

To engage with this discourse I will refer to the research I am doing as part of my Doctoral thesis, where the bias of my research is a combination of short autobiographies and narratives where the protagonists are the people who are emarginated for labels they carry or characteristics that distinguish them.

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