Identities and Agency in Transition: moving from special school to further education.
Douglas, Anastasia Jane
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
This thesis draws on the experiences of 21 young people transitioning from a special school for students with labels of moderate learning difficulty, to further education college. Taking a disability studies approach, that is, viewing disability as a social and political response to human diversity, I examine some social processes through which student identity and agency meanings may be negotiated during transition. Times of change offer circumstances of opportunity in which new identity and agency meanings may be improvised and tested in various forms. Some students found emergent ways to subvert and transgress expectations, given the different labels applied to them. Transition, with its focus on future change, offers limbic moments which appear to support situations for such opportunistic transgression. Of particular interest are the environments and circumstances that support or promote broadening of identity and agency options, because an understanding of these may enable the engineering of such situations. Whilst the students were transitioning to college, my own researcher subjectivities and understandings of ‘knowledge’ were also in flux. I describe the considerable influence these changes had on the research processes and my understandings of identity and agency. I propose that identity and agency meanings, whilst fluid and ever-changing, are linked with particular people and situated in particular social sites. With this in mind, and as a provocation to new ways of thinking I discuss foundation level further education as an ethical project, envisaging circumstances that may support and promote broader, more positive opportunities for identity and agency negotiations amongst young people with labels of learning disability. In this context, further education is re-imagined as an opportunity for potential empowerment, repositioning learning disabled students as agents of social change.
PhD in Education