[Thesis]. Manchester, UK: The University of Manchester; 2019.
This research aimed to develop a theoretically coherent account of the significance
of student voice in understanding the secondary experiences of students with 'SEN/D'.
The research question was: 'In what ways can student voice increase our current knowledge
and understanding of inclusive processes?'
The study utilised a multiple-case study design (Yin, 2009). Two secondary schools
in each of two different national contexts (England and Greece) were recruited, from
which 12 secondary students with SEN/D were selected as participants (3 from each
school). The study's methods included classroom observations, interviews combined
with participatory methods for eliciting student voice and the systematic use of a
research diary. The fieldwork in each school included student observations during
a school day; 'guided tours' combined with photo generation; and two separate individual
interviews with each student combined with photo elicitation and other child-friendly
activities. Collected in a range of contexts and situations, the student accounts
were also complemented by data obtained though qualitative interviews with the school
staff (SENCOs, SEN teachers and TAs).
The study followed a dialectical approach to analyse and interpret the data, by combining
the 'objective' bio-ecological theory of child development (Bronfenbrenner, 2005)
with the 'subjective' student voice approach. The data analysis process included a
two-stage analysis of the interview data. In the first stage, twelve 'personal experience'
stories were developed to illuminate each participant's voice, using an inductive
approach. In the second stage, data were examined for common themes and ideas following
the structures of the bio-ecological (Process-Person-Context-Time) framework, which
were further scrutinised through the study's student voice critical framework.
The analysis showed that students' individual characteristics (such as their status
in relation to 'SEN/D', their particular abilities/skills, level of motivation, temperament)
considerably affected their experiences in both contexts. Students reported few instances
of peer acceptance and having fewer friends and social interactions compared to their
classmates. A general lack of interaction with mainstream teachers was reported in
and out of the classroom. Divergent and often conflicting discourses emerged regarding
the interactions of the students with the special support staff. While certain aspects
of secondary school life (such as the inclusive school ethos and the flexibility of
support) were perceived positively by students, other aspects (such as frequent exams
and grades) were found to affect student experiences negatively regardless of the
particular school or national context. By and large, the findings of this study indicated
that the way students perceive their individual characteristics, their relationships
with key people in school and their multi-level ecological system environments are
inextricably intertwined in shaping their school experiences.
The unique contribution of this study lies in the demonstration of the value of student
voice to the actual meaning of the process of inclusion. Focusing on student voice
contributed to a more holistic analysis of the development of young people in their
school environments by: highlighting issues of power and identity; illuminating many
of the key factors in the PPCT model and explaining their perceived significance;
providing evidence for the interactions between PPCT elements; and finally, by identifying
contradictions between students' and staff's perceptions. Overall, this study suggests
that this dialectical view of student voice and the bio-ecological framework provides
opportunities for a deeper understanding of the experiences of students with SEN/D
in diverse settings and educational systems. In this way, the study enriches student
voice and inclusive research in the secondary education level.