Deconstructing disability and (special) education: a rhizoanalysis
Bowles, Steffanie Noreen
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This study, a poststructural ethnography, used rhizoanalysis to deconstruct the literacy practices of four students in an urban middle school self-contained classroom for students with specific learning disabilities (SLD) in order to understand how a constructivist learning environment contributes to the positioning of students as abled and literate.|This poststructural Ethnography includes textual experimentation, a focus on the research process itself, and obliteration of the customary and mannerly distinction between researcher and researched. A poststructural ethnography puts the interlocutor into the account and makes the tension that comes with interaction and negotiation between researcher and participant explicit.|Data was collected in the form of narratives written from participant observation, documents including work samples and student records, and videotapes of class sessions and member checks. Data was analyzed using rhizoanalysis.|The results of the study indicate that the focal informants were able to get it right as students in the SLD classroom. Helping others, engaging in research, and working hard were practices that the students and teachers came to see as useful in the struggle to reposition themselves as literate/able. The tasks and curriculum worked to position students and shape their literate practices. Using technology also helped the participants "get it right" as students. Students were agentic in that they were sometimes able to recognize the constitutive force of the discourses of regular and special education and in some ways were able to change/resist those discourses.|While the focal informants were agentic in some ways, they were not always able to eclipse their positioning by the dominant discourse as illiterate/disabled. Barriers to agency included others' positioning of the students as unable to access discursive, social, and personal resources. Getting it right as students required more than my reading of the students as simultaneously literate/illiterate, abled/disabled. It also required that others in the school community read them as able to legitimately take up agentic subject positions.