Date of Award

1-1-1996

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Education

Faculty

Faculty of Education

First Advisor

Professor Max Angus

Abstract

There is a growing acceptance in the social sciences that in the telling and reading of a story a form of truth can be developed. This 'truth' will be dependent on the reader actively constructing knowledge from constant reflection and modification using cultural (bounded) knowledge as a basis for comparison. Typically the narrative form employs the use of evocative, contextualised language to create implicit meaning, a plot based on some form of conflict within a temporal framework, and the use of multiple voices and genres. Generalisation from the sequence of events subsumed in the plot is assisted by the effective depiction of a 'real' culture. The aim of this study was twofold: to explore the use of narrative form as a methodology, and to apply this methodology by writing a research 'story' to study the impact of policy implementation. The proposed story is about the conflict generated by the use of Section 20 of the Education Act (1928) of Western Australia. Section 20 enables the Minister, on the recommendation of an independent panel, to direct that a school aged child with an intellectual disability be educated at a specified Education Support setting, thus effectively negating any parental choice in schooling. The narrative form was considered the most appropriate methodology for a study of the impact of this policy for several reasons. The story addressed an important contemporary issue reflecting the changing attitudes within the community and offered the opportunity to study from various perspectives the impact of the implementation of a policy perceived by parents as negotiable. The open nature of the methodology was expected to generate the freedom for participants to express their perspectives of the situation in a collaborative way. More specifically, the nature of the situation offered the opportunity to explore the use of a polyvocal and multi-genre approach to developing new knowledge, with the story written from within an unfolding situation. The participants became characters within the framework of an over-all story. Five individual stories were collected during extensive interviews and were blended by the narrator (the researcher) into a story of the Section 20 process. These narratives aided the development of cultural knowledge in the dual landscape of the plot, raising consciousness which allowed for generalisation of specific events. The open-ended and public nature of the study required a series of ethical decisions not informed by current codes of ethics. Problems of confidentiality and use of Freedom of Information were inherent in a study of the very public legal battles invoked by the inclusion conflict. Quite significant policy implications emerged from the story, with issues such as twisted policy intent and an increasing awareness of the vulnerability of the Education Department's perceived power highlighted in the personal narratives. The story format also allowed development of a perception of parenting a child with an intellectual disability, as well as a comprehensive knowledge of the frustration engendered by the confrontation implicit in the implementation of Section 20. It quite clearly showed that inclusion was seen as a child's right, and that parents are prepared and have the necessary expert support to push the system for this right.

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