Using Ethnographic Approaches to Co-Construct Strategies for Success With Students With Dyslexia: A Project With Tertiary Students in Aotearoa, New Zealand

Using Ethnographic Approaches to Co-Construct Strategies for Success With Students With Dyslexia: A Project With Tertiary Students in Aotearoa, New Zealand

Barbara Fogarty-Perry (Otago Polytechnic, New Zealand) and Margaret McKenzie (Otago Polytechnic, New Zealand)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2901-0.ch013

Abstract

This chapter takes a dual focus/lens to applying and performing research methods in inclusive and special education in a tertiary/post-secondary setting with a group of students with dyslexia. It links the core ideas of United Nations Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities Article 24, Inclusive Education to describing the development and implementation of a co-constructed, collaborative project to identify success strategies for students with dyslexia, utilizing both student and teacher perspectives and experiences, and examines the fit of utilizing ethnographic approaches in this. As practitioner –researchers, authors provide a narrative case study of a project which was developed/co-constructed to respond to a set of identified needs for a group of students presenting with dyslexia. Authors then examine how the project practices link to research methodology, particularly ethnography, and produce both a set of strategies to work inclusively in the future with students with dyslexia and also construct a methodological approach within the lens of new ethnography. This serves to theories both the project work and guidelines for future use of ethnographic approaches for research in the field of inclusive and special education.
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Ethnography And Inclusive Education And The New Ethnography

Ethnography

Ethnography has been around for a very long time, particularly as practiced by cultural anthropologists, but despite the extensive history there remains disputed understandings and definitions within Social Sciences ranging across “the study of culture”, “understanding another way of life from the native (sic) point of view”, “entering a natural setting to do field research”, to “the written up reporting of such work” (Berg & Lune, 2012, p. 196).

Crouser (2005, p. 122) explicitly raises the difficulties traditional ethnographic methods have posed in disability research suggesting that ethnography is a very useful but underutilized if not largely ignored tool for researchers in disability, perhaps because “while disability communities would seem an ideal site for ethnographic investigation, disabled people, long subjected both to marginalization and objectifying examination, may resent and resist”; the attention involved in traditional informant ethnography and he suggests that, “indeed disability ethnography faces some of the same ethical challenges as ethnography involving populations subjected to classic Western imperialism” (Crouser, 2005, p. 122).

Nevertheless the important point about the concept of ethnography regardless of these disputed territories Berg and Lune go on to identify is “that the practice places researchers in the midst of whatever it is they study” (Berg & Lune 2012, p. 197) and it is this aspect which is relevant for working in the field of inclusive education for tertiary students.

The New Ethnography

More recently, the traditional approaches associated with ethnography have been developed, refined, advanced and stretched in new ways to enable full rich and deep representation from a participant as opposed to informant view and what is known as the new ethnography (Berg & Lune, 2012, p. 198) has emerged. In this new ethnography research strategies comprise a broadening of methods and methodologies of scope and size and complexity, including more micro-ethnographic studies or incisions (Munhall, 2006; Spradley & McCurdy, 1980) set within macro environments. These incisions or detailed specific points are selected to represent particular aspects usually at the everyday, face-to-face community perspective in the lives of participants and can inform understanding for the larger group or institution.

Thus, from detailed examinations of the micro, underlying principles and concepts can be identified, as in this project feeding back and informing the wider macro leaning environment for tertiary students. The research approach used in this project fulfills the following key New Ethnography criteria. It involves the researcher working collaboratively at a micro level within a natural setting, thus the real world, everyday reality of the participants is recorded. It allows both a full representation of the voices of the participant informants and also an explicit positioning of the researcher, so while voice is inevitably re-presented as it is re-told within the constraints of research reporting, authenticity and ownership are made explicit and retained (D’Cruz & Jones, 2004) within the discourse of both students and staff.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Collaborative: Involving two or more people working together for a joint purpose (Cambridge dictionary)

Ethnography: That the practice places researchers in the midst of whatever it is they study

Inclusive Education: The practice of engaging the full participation of exceptional individuals or marginalized groups in educational, social, or civic activities. In educational environments, this generally refers to the integration of students with disabilities or other special needs into regular curricular or noncurricular activities

Tertiary Education: Post-secondary education

Assistive Computer Strategies: Any high- or low-technology device, piece of equipment, or product system acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used by persons with disabilities to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities, assist them in learning, enable them to participate in the workplace, or otherwise improve their quality of life

Success Strategies: Support that assists students succeed on the basis of individual needs for students

New Ethnography: Research strategies comprise a broadening of methods and methodologies of scope and size and complexity, including more micro-ethnographic studies or incisions

Disability Advisor: Polytechnic Advisor supporting students with disabilities in this study

Oral Strategies: Oral Language is the child’s first, most important, and most frequently used structured medium of communication

Visual Strategies: Visual discrimination and visual memory skills

Dyslexia: Range of symptoms associated with dyslexia including working memory issues, poor organizational skills, slower verbal and cognitive processing speed and slower automaticity

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