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Inside the 'Inclusive' Early Childhood Classroom

The Power of the 'Normal'


Karen Watson

Inside the Inclusive Childhood Classroom: The Power of the Normal’ offers a critique of current practices and alternative view of inclusion. The rich data created inside three classrooms will challenge those who work in the field, as the children and their performances, previously overlooked, are foreground. Although at times confronting, it is ultimately invaluable reading for classroom teachers, students, academics, and researchers as well as anyone who desires to deepen their understanding of inclusive processes. The inclusion of children with diagnosed special needs in mainstream early childhood classrooms is a policy and practice that has gained universal support in recent decades. Exploring ways to include the diagnosed child has been of interest to inclusive research. Adopting a poststructural perspective, this book interrupts taken for granted assumptions about inclusive processes in the classroom. Attention is drawn to the role played by the undiagnosed children, those positioned as already included. Researching among children, this ethnography interrogates the production of the classroom ‘normal’. As the children negotiate difference, the operations of the ‘normal’ are made visible in their words and actions. In their encounters with the diagnosed Other, they take up practices of tolerance and silence, effecting fear, separation, and a desire to cure. These performances echo practices, presumed abandoned, from centuries past. As a way forward this book urges a rethink of practice-as-usual, as these effects are problematic for inclusion and not sustainable. A greater scrutiny of the ‘normal’ is needed, as the power it exercises, impacts on all children and how they become subjects in the classroom.

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2 Doing Poststructural Ethnography Inside the ‘Inclusive’ Classroom



Doing Poststructural Ethnography Inside the ‘Inclusive’ Classroom

In order to interrogate the constitution of the ‘normal’ and its operations in the classroom, ethnography was chosen as the research methodology, as it offered me a way to spend more time inside the classroom. Ethnography, as a qualitative research process, aims to study in detail and in-depth, the everyday lives and practices of participants. It requires a long term engagement in the field in order to gain an insider’s point of view, to understand how meanings are constructed (Geertz, 1973).

Ethnography among Children

Over the past decade or more, there has been a consensus in early childhood that researchers should move away from research on or about children and move instead to research with or for children (Christensen & James, 2008; Christensen & Prout, 2002; Mayall, 2002; Punch, 2002). Researchers have pondered different methods, including offering children a participatory role in research (Gallacher & Gallagher, 2008), so that researching with children can be achieved. The child research paradigm (Alderson, 2008; O’Kane, 2008) has tried to redress adult-child power relations in research, by attempting to ‘empower’ children by engaging them with prescribed participatory techniques. However, the notion that power is←23 | 24→ a commodity that can be acquired or relinquished (Gallacher &Gallagher, 2008) is challenged by Foucauldian theorising (1982), as power exists in actions, and in relations. What occurs in research is often beyond the control/power of the researcher. Moreover, children are capable...

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