Making meaning with teachers of pupils with profound and multiple learning difficulties : reflecting on identity and knowledge
This thesis analyses a complex process of meaning making. It centres upon the meaning making of a group of fourteen teachers who teach pupils with profound and multiple learning disabilities (pmld). The nature of the meaning making changed as the research progressed. It moved from my meaning making of the teachers to my meaning making with the teachers. Integral to this was a process of personal meaning making and critical self reflection. The qualitative paradigm of research methodology offered a framework that informed my methodological decisions. The influence of symbolic interaction, critical theory and grounded theory was instrumental in the initial stages of the research process. Latterly, the role of social construction became important in my meaning making. The contribution of questionnaires, individual and group interviews to the process of meaning making, in the context of this work while necessary, has proved to be problematic, particularly in relation to the organic nature of the research, my personal role in it, and the role of ethics. I argue for an ongoing ethical debate within the research that develops as the research progresses and changes. The research has highlighted the integral role of teacher identity and notions of specialist knowledge in the development, sustenance and challenging of the teachers' understandings about the pupils they teach who have pmld. Inherent in these understandings are the personal experiences the teachers have encountered throughout their lives. These understandings have been analysed and the dominant influences of particular theories and models of disability are made explicit. The influence of labelling, categorising and the professional discourse has also been shown to be an integral element of the study. As a teacher educator, I have gained some insights which may improve the support I offer to teachers in their professional development. These insights relate to the importance of acknowledging the role of teacher identity, and engaging teachers in a process of analysis that encourages them to appreciate the impact of teacher identity on their understandings. An important element of this would be reflection on their personal experiences. In relation to specialist knowledge, a critical analysis of pedagogy is argued for: a process that engages teachers in wider notions of pedagogy for all learners, but which supports them in translating this pedagogy to effective teaching and learning for pupils with pmld.