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”I liked the Idea of Including”
Negotiating knowledge and meaning in conversations about visual impairment and inclusion in Special needs Education, with videobased teaching material as a learning resource. A discourse analytical approach.
Gunn Siri Randem
Department of Special Needs Education
Faculty of Education
UNIVERSITY OF OSLO
8. mai 2007
The goal of this master thesis is to explore conversations about inclusion and visual impairment in higher education from the following research question:” How do international master students in Special Needs Education at the University of Oslo negotiate knowledge and meaning in group conversations when using a video based (DVD) learning material is used as a learning resource, what is negotiated and what may explain the interaction process?” The learning material is being developed at the University of Oslo, Department of Special Needs Education. The theoretical basis of this research lies within the frames of socio-cultural and social-constructive perspectives. The participants in the study are 16 students who participate in group discussions. The research material consists of date from several conversations, where they are considered a unity within the case. Methodologically therefore, this empirical research is designed as an embedded single case study. Discourse analysis is the chosen methodological tool and theoretical framework for analysing the conversations as a text. Discourses are different aspects of reality (socially constructed knowledges) that are represented and realised in ways of thinking, social processes and speech acts. The practical method of analysis is specifically constructed for the purpose of this research. It is based upon transcribed data from the videotaped conversations. How the students negotiate and develop knowledge during their conversations is studied with the aid of Discourse Analysis. This is then discussed in relation to discursive practices and broader social and cultural contexts. The field of Special Needs Education and the views on inclusion and visual impairment are influenced by societal, cultural, global and local ideologies and discourses. Political views on theories of learning also influence discursive practice. The results of this study show that the DVD-based learning material made possible for the students to establish and negotiate “common ground”; a joint contextual and situational platform of understanding. The results of the analysis show that the negotiation in the conversations entails agreement, non-agreement, understanding concepts and language, ideological understanding and discursive content of meaning in addition to discussions on cultural similarities and differences. Norms of politeness probably ensures that non-agreement does not lead to conflict in cases where agreement is not reached. The analysis shows that the students overcame differences in language, culture and discourse through negotiating knowledge and meaning. The students’ backgrounds are different in matter of discourse systems and representations of reality. Sharing these with the others probably helped enriching and stimulating discursive learning processes. Even though the students had different personal experiences and background, the learning material gave the students a joint frame of reference that could be discussed. The students negotiated about what was “seen” both from the work sheets that were handed out and from individually initiated topics. From a constructivist point of view it is possible that the students constructed joint knowledge through sharing discourses that are culturally founded and through reflection, in opposition to the production of what may be called “schooled” knowledge. The students thus generated their own learning context with the use of the DVD-material. The use of the learning material possibly added motivation to the learning process. A tentative conclusion may be that the DVD-material may stimulate cooperation and reflection in conversations in Teacher Education, given the terms and premises within social constructive learning theory and in the light of experiences of the use of technology in higher education. Visual representation of a practice close to “real life” (realistic settings), the prospect of working and reflecting together give the users of the learning material the possibility of a rich presentation and sharing of their own discourses of knowledge. This supports a multicultural and multi-voiced learning context. A tentative conclusion based on analytical generalisation is that the audiovisual video – and work sheet based learning material possibly may enrich the conversations and learning contexts in similar settings. In the further development of the learning material, the need for specific, subject related knowledge (i.e. facts) must be weighed against the need for such tasks that promote reflective and meta-cognitive competence. Specific research questions may be how students’ understanding may be connected to the way questions are asked, whether the questions are open or closed or which words, terms and discourses the learning material convey. It may be a further idea to study the DVD material as a multimodal pedagogical text.