Valuing (dis)ability diversity through a narrative of activism

Paliokosta, Paty, Ooms, Ann, Millar, Joanna and Morrow, Elizabeth (2023) Valuing (dis)ability diversity through a narrative of activism. In: BERA Annual Conference 2023; 12-14 Sep 2023, Birmingham, U.K.. (In Press)


Teachers and trainee teachers internationally report uncertainties about how to respond appropriately to children and young people with disabilities in schools and colleges as well as how best to teach students about disability. Growing numbers of children and young people with special needs and disabilities in England are being marginalized by divisive educational policies that hinder inclusive education, interprofessional collaboration and student understanding. The aim of this paper is to contribute to understanding of how to enable teachers to improve disability awareness in their practice and educational settings. The paper draws on the accounts of teachers in training and qualified teachers regarding their views and experiences of using the Fighting for Our Rights (FFR) educational resources in their professional training and teaching practice. These resources are 1) a national web-based archive of 23 oral histories of disability activists, and 2) a Disability Awareness Resource (DAR) for schools comprising 13 lesson plans co-created by academic lecturers and teaching students. The study discussed evaluated: to what extent the Fighting for our Rights Disability Awareness Resource (DAR) can improve awareness, knowledge and understanding of student teachers about disability and inclusion in their development of professionalism in higher education (HE) and beyond. how the DAR can affect HE (Health, Social Care, and Education) and schools’ curricula relating to disability in the context of inclusion and socially just practice. The constructive evaluation undertaken used an Iterative Educational Evaluation Model (IEEM) and a body mapping approach to examine engagement, perceived value, impact, and sustainability. Data sources were: 3 cohorts of student teacher feedback, a focus group with 3 qualified teachers, an in-depth interview with a teacher working at a special school. The questions the constructive evaluation asked were informed by four elements of the Iterative Education Evaluation Model (IEM) developed by team member Prof Ann Ooms (Ooms, 2005; Ooms & Garfield 2008) and was validated using this evidence-based approach. The four elements are: • Engagement: Who and how and to what extend have the resources been used? • Perceived value: What is useful and why? What might be improved? • Impact: What has changed and how? • Sustainability: What can support lasting change? The overall theme of diversifying teaching practice and curricula with a narrative of activism is discussed as a transformative mechanism for disability awareness and socially just education at various levels of formal education.

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