International perspectives on inclusive education research

Year: 2012

Author: Deppeler, Joanne, Moss, Julianne, Slee, Roger

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


Within Inclusive Education (IE) a double bind hovers over the field and 'an examination of equity as a consequence of technical processes and practices…a research paradigm that also documents the very production of inequity” (Artilles, 2011, p. 443) persists. This paper presents an overview of recent research in three countries and asks whether limitations of previous equity research can transcend the boundaries of theories of exclusion and inclusion (Slee, 2011) to sustain a focus on social and educational change (Deppeler & Huggins, 2010; Yates et al, 2010). The paper provides examples from recent research in Australia, China and Singapore grounded in differing methodological approaches but with a shared aim of attempting to understand and transcend the limitations of IE research.

In each research project, university academics collaborated with educational system partners with differing IE research agendas, policies and historical contexts. We worked alongside teachers, students and other school community members to better understand their multiple perspectives and experiences of schooling. We argue that inclusive education (IE) has stalled when its research perspectives are scrutinised. Over the past two decades, IE research can be critiqued as resisting the democratic and participatory approaches that have been occurring in educational research more widely. In the context of IE reform, the privileging of 'outsider' voices has shaped IE research priorities and narrowed research agendas, and has been preoccupied with, for intervention goals and procedures that can disempower voiceless subjects. This, in turn, has influenced what has and has not been discussed and reported. In this form of research “insider” perspectives are rarely given status or centrality. The reality of educational inclusion experienced by those on the inside highlights the gulf, the divide and suggestions of a normalising view that hinders a deeper engagement with issues of research practices, voice and methodological decisions. Our paper makes the case for differing methodological approaches in IE.