Inclusive education is increasingly prioritized in legislation and policy across the globe. Historically, the concept of inclusion within educational contexts refers primarily to the placement of students with disabilities in general education classrooms. More recent descriptions of inclusive education focus on ensuring that all children can access and participate in physical, social, and academic aspects of the classroom. However, a growing body of research suggests that students continue to experience exclusion even within educational contexts that express a commitment to inclusion. In France, a growing number of private, independent schools seek to create the inclusive environments that, despite the ministry of education’s initiatives focused on inclusion, the public school system does not yet provide. One such school engaged in a participatory action research project to create an inclusive classroom that responded to the evolving needs and interests of the community, resulting in a sense of belonging for all members. As all classroom community members (students, families, and teachers) participated in the project of creating an inclusive classroom, the elements of participatory action research allowed inclusion to become a flexible, ongoing, and reflexive practice of identifying and responding to contextually specific needs of classroom members. Approaching inclusion as a participatory action research project in the classroom offers a promising approach to moving beyond interpretations of inclusion that fail to actively address pervasive inequalities and their impact on classroom experiences.
Utilizing Participatory Action Research to Build an Inclusive Classroom Community in France
Critical Participatory Action Research, Critical Discourse Analysis and Praxis
Nicolina Montesano Montessori
Critical discourse analysis (CDA) and participatory action research (PAR) reinforce each other as critical research approaches toward social transformation and social justice provided to humans, other species, and the ecosystem at large. Both disciplines are suitable to be embedded in a critical emancipatory research paradigm. Both CDA and PAR are problem-oriented, contextualized forms of social research. Both CDA and PAR are sensitive to the macro, meso, and micro dimensions of social life and the dynamics and relations between these levels. Both CDA and PAR envision social reality as a—respectively—discursive or social construct which, therefore, is—in part—a matter of choice. Both CDA and PAR include the potential of social or organizational change. CDA does so by displaying hidden ideological effects of texts and discourses so as to create awareness and may suggest alternatives; PAR by analyzing existing situations and investigating and implementing alternatives as part of its collective research efforts. Both include the notion of agency and the potential of change, whether in organizations, communities, or in society at large. Both consider the construction of knowledge as a social practice. Both CDA and PAR have iterative research methodologies. CDA reinforces PAR due to its robust theoretical basis, while PAR opens up new ways for CDA to enlarge its impact on the social world beyond academia through the participation of agents. Both CDA and PAR are forms of praxis in that they perform research in social and discursive practice in situated context. Both explicitly rely on theories of practice that include Aristotle, Paulo Freire, and Antonio Gramsci. They do so with the purpose of creating awareness, questioning routines and existing practices, and improving these in an emancipatory project to contribute to a better and a more socially just world. Integrating CDA and PAR and rooting these in a philosophy of praxis creates a solid, inclusive basis for problem-oriented research, considered of high relevance to questioning current hegemonic structures and opening up socially and ecologically just solutions to address the crucial problems of the early 21st century.