Disability Studies in Education

For my critical summary I chose the topic of disability studies and its importance in education. This is something that I have always been very interested in and being employed at SaskAbilities has affirmed my passion around this topic. I am excited to explore this topic and learn more about it.

One article that I will explore is Disability Studies in Education: The Need for a Plurality of Perspectives on Disabilities by Susan Baglieri, Jan W Valle, David J Connor, and Deborah J Gallagher. In this article, the authors focus on the history of special education and its importance, and how we need to create a broader understanding of disability. The article discusses how instead of modifying a lesson based on what we believe a student can or can’t do, that we need to offer a spectrum of possibilities and teach in a way that learners can engage. I came across one quote that really stood out for me, and that I feel very strongly about.

“Disability is an idea, not a thing. It is not that people do not vary or differ from one another in sometimes very noticeable ways, but to call or think of some of those differences as “disabilities” is to make a social judgment, not a neutral or value-free observation. Put differently, it is not the way in which people vary or the differences they have in comparison to others but what we make of those differences that matters.”

Another article that I came across was by Nirmala Erevelles, Understanding Curriculum as Normalizing Text: disability studies meets curriculum theory. In this article, Erevelles discusses that “[…] lost in the shadows, is any critical discussion of disability in curriculum theory.” The author questions what conduction produced the distances that exist between the ‘disabled’ and ‘normal’ world and how educators can create a curriculum that would enable all students, both academically, and socially. Erevelles analyses how we need to understand and deconstruct what society views as the norm to be able create an inclusive curriculum.

Both articles emphasize the importance of understand disability and what creates the distinction between an “able” and “unable” student so we can make a difference. My next steps will be to dig deeper into these articles as well as to find at least one more that relates. I hope to find ways in which we, as future educators, can expand and share knowledge on disability and create an inclusive classroom in which everyone can learn.

The Tyler Rationale

There are a couple of examples that come to mind in my schooling which relate to Tyler’s rationale and ideas around curriculum. One example that sticks out quite clearly for me would be my math classes, especially in high school. We were taught how to find the answers to problems in particular ways, and that was exactly the way we had to do it. I remember there was one unit that I was struggling with, and when I asked for help, my teacher didn’t even know how to teach it a different way. I went around to multiple teachers in my high school and there was only one who had a different way of explaining it. There were also many times when during a test, I could come up with a formula that worked and find the right answer, but if I didn’t do the question exactly the way we were taught, I would lose marks. Another example is the reading tests we had to do where we were taken aside to read to the teachers, and we were graded in comparison to our classmates. We were then given a reading level and had to pick books according to that level.

Tyler’s rationale creates this idea that if we can see the end goal and we know where we need to get, then we just need to figure out the steps to get there and that these steps will work in the same way for everyone, which is not the case. Another problem with this idea is that it puts educators in a position where they teach us what to think, rather than how. This greatly limits educators and gives them very little room for creativity. Furthermore, this theory only focuses on the results, and not the steps and the learning it takes to get there. This takes away any opportunity for students to learn how to think critically.

Although I don’t see many, there are a couple positives to this Tyler’s rationale. The first that comes to mind is that everything is taught in an organized way. Everyone is learning the same things in the way, at the same time which, in theory, makes it easier to teach. This theory simplifies teaching for educators as it clearly lays out everything they need to teach and how they should go about it; and it allows them to plan their time accordingly. Even though this is not the most effective way to teach, seeing that everyone learns differently and at a different rate, it is an easy way to teach concepts quickly and with less confusion.

Kumashiro

Commonsense is what people are used to and what they think is the norm. It’s what they had become accustomed to. These ideas give us a sense of comfort. An example of this is when Kumashiro talks about how it took time to get used to how they did things “It took time to change how I thought about meals, water, time, privacy and other aspects of daily life in Nepal.” This is because it is different from what he’s grown up learning and experiencing.

It is important to pay attention to commonsense because it is difficult to recognize. Commonsense creates a sense of belonging and it can be hard to come into a new situation if you are unfamiliar with their ways of doing things. We often don’t question certain practices and perspectives because it is what we’ve been taught and always fall back on. Kumashiro mentions that perspectives that challenge common sense are often dismissed as being irrelevant or inappropriate. It is easy to get lost in commonsensical ideas and we then struggle to think outside of these ideas.