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E801: Action 2.1: Artiles (2003)

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E801: Action 2.1: Artiles (2003)

Artiles, A. (2009) 'Special education's changing identity: paradoxes and dilemmas in views of culture and space' in Soler, J., Fletcher-Campbell, F. & Reid, G. Understanding Difficulties in Literacy Development: Issues and Concepts, London, Sage.

Action 2.1a

Study of inclusion and over-representation
Human Capital Theory (p221) - [functional literacy links]

What are the main staging posts in this argument?

  • Ignoring racial diversity in implementing inclusive models
    Hegemony of dominant social group
    Silence / controlled or ignored in research
  • Lack of vision for culturally responsive education system
    Standards based / impact of tests
    lack of English
  • Lack of attention to socio-historical context and complexity of culture
    [cf D/eaf culture vs racial culture / identity crises]
    Social structure of education [see Rassool]
  • Limited definitions of space
    First space - physical/perceived space
    Second space - conceptions of power/ideology - not considered by overrepresentation discourse
    Gaps in spaces - overrepresentation not conceptualised as second space
  • Problematic views of difference
    Special educators may reconstruct education system but ignore all the racial/social impacts on learning

What are the three main 'theatres of activity' from which he draws his evidence?

  • Literacy
  • Special educational needs
  • Research

What would you identify as a 'recommendation' as a result of Artile's work?

Research should use a complete perspective on culture when theorising about overrepresentation and inclusion.

My thoughts:

An interesting paper, albeit very long-winded with far too much rhetorical justification.

Strong similarities with Artile's reports of Soja's ThirdSpace and Rassool's lenses which she describes as the overlaps between subject disciplines.

Not sure I totally understood the 'transparent norm' within the concept of diversity but had a look around and found this quote from http://postcolonial.org/index.php/pct/article/viewArticle/420/827

'Bhabha elaborates:

[Multicultural policy] entertain[s] and encourage[s] [. . .] cultural diversity, [while correspondingly] containing it. A transparent norm is constituted, a norm given by the host society or dominant culture, which says that these other cultures are fine, but we must be able to locate them within our own grid. ("The Third Space" 208)

The aim of this model of multiculturalism to control or sanitize cultural difference implicitly calls for the production and preservation of norms and power hierarchies such as margin and centre, insiders and outsiders, us and them. More significantly, this conception of multiculturalism perpetuates the myth of "natural," or "real," difference, from which the discourse of racism gains its pervasive strength.'

I am working with a student at the moment who is registered blind and it has been interesting to discuss with her the conflicts between her dual cultural identities of being Muslim and of being a blind law student. As a blind student her workload is very high as accessing the material she required takes at least three times as long as for other students. However, as a Muslim, tradition expects her to entertain her relatives at the weekend and she has struggled to ensure her family understands that she needs time to work. She struggles to be independent in her life but the cultural expectation is that she should not go out alone. Her brothers are expected to accompany her and she has been discouraged from mobility training using a long cane and a guide dog is a cultural impossibility as the majority of Muslims regard dogs as unclean.

She is in the process of negotiating with her family in order to locate her cultural identity as a blind student within her family's grid.

Action 2.1b

I described this in detail in TMA01 and some of this is reproduced here. Lea & Street (1998) describe three models of student writing: study skills model; academic socialisation model; and academic literacies model.

Study Skills Model

XXXX University sessions are often held by library staff, IT technicians or career centre personnel and involve isolated subjects out of context. Kress (cited in Lillis & Scott, 2007, p.12) discusses this approach as normative with the identification of the conventions exhibited by a normal academic member of the community and the teaching of these conventions in isolation. This mirrors the autonomous model described by Street (cited in Lillis & Scott, 2007, p.11) and the cognitive aspect of literacy described by Rassool (2009).

Academic Socialisation Model

Support for learners with literacy difficulties at XXXX University is currently organised in a different manner. Students are encouraged to bring work with them to sessions so that an independent tutor can assist them with their difficulties with the aim of the students becoming as independent as possible over time. This form of support reflects the approaches for younger learners described by Julia Douetil, the National Co-ordinator of Reading Recovery (E801 DVD, Section3) who describes the scheme as a 'battery of independent strategies' that produce individualised plans that are aiming for independence. Lea and Street (1998) criticise these practices as an acculturation of students into academic discourse which fails to address literacy as a social practice as the onus is on the student to change their orientation to learning.

Academic Literacies Model

Individual departments at XXXX University run support sessions where students are assisted to negotiate the contrasting literacy practises between disciplines [the majority of XXXX University students study dual honours degrees]; their knowledge and identity as dual honours students is valued; and the power relationships between disciplines is acknowledged.

These three models are causing tension between lecturers and support staff and also confusion for students as Lea and Jones (in press) report that students rely on the authority of their lecturers when valorising materials. This causes dismissal of study skills sessions held by support staff as irrelevant with poor attendance and lack of attention. The support sessions for students with literacy difficulties have a poor take-up and many students only use them during their first 6 months.

Studying a dual honours course the student is negotiating competing cultures of, for example, a geology student, a music student and a disabled student. At the same time many are coming to terms with their new cultural identities as adults as they move away from home for the first time. Many students find that they cannot come to terms with the swift changes in cultural identity and select which ones are most important to them. This can lead to students denying disabilities, refusing assistance and immersing themselves in their courses. The only way to help these students is to make them aware that support is still available if they decide that they require it in the future and to ensure that any support they do accept is on their own terms and is unobtrusive and does not conflict with their other cultural identities.

In some cases the opposite happens and students identify themselves as a disabled student and fight for constant assistance and use their identity as a disabled student as a barrier to other identities and an excuse for the inability to acquire the culture of their disciplines.

Action 2.1c

I work at three universities and various departments from the whole set are only too relieved to hand over disabled students to the care of support services. They have stated privately that they do not believe that a student with a disability can access their degree course to an adequate level to obtain employment in that field and so there is no point in them studying that particular course.

Alternatively there are departments who are not happy for their students to receive any support as they consider that it will not be valued in the workplace and if they confer a degree on a student with a disability, the whole department's reputation will suffer. This approach is backed up by some professional organisations such as the NHS who raise objections to allowing professional notetakers into lectures for disabled students.

When lecturers and professional organisations hold the opinion that some students should not be studying a degree as they will not benefit the workforce then it is no wonder that some students do not disclose their disabilities or accept help. This is especially true of literacy difficulties where debate over the existence and extent of dyslexia has resulted in many lecturers being reluctant to assist learners with dyslexia. Other students resent those with a diagnosis who get extra time in exams and what they consider 'freebies' using their Disabled Students' Allowance and life can be unpleasant for those who ask for assistance.

Action 2.1d

I have a lot of experience working with disabled students in the field who are studying geology. As part of their field work they are expected to attend residential courses of up to a month long where they work for long days in the field with lectures, preparation work, report writing and presentations in the evening. Some of these courses are 100% of the module mark and this depends on a combination of marks for performance in the field (including presentations of work); a mark for the field notebook (including content, organisation, neatness, spelling and grammar); and often a written report which may have to be written by hand on the boat/plane on the journey home and handed in at the airport!

I am present to act as notetaker and/or support worker for students with a wide variety of impairments and it is possible to envisage the difficulties of working at this intensity level for students who have Myocardic encephalopathy or experience chronic pain. I also work with students who have hearing and/or visual impairments and those with literacy difficulties.

The simplest adjustment for the university to make is to set the student extra work instead of attending the field trip. This is generally in the form of literature reviews and essays concerning the area where the trip is taking place and may involve microscope analysis and study of samples returned from the field. This option is used for students who are taking geology as a second subject and are not showing an interest in using their qualification for employment. However, many of the lecturers do not believe that it should be possible to achieve a geology degree without field work and all encourage students to attend as many field trips as possible (Least Restrictive Environment). There are problems with the use of notetakers as most sites are in wild country and require training in advanced outdoor skills and use of walking and navigation gear. Many lecturers are understandably apprehensive about taking unknown personnel in the field.

'The inclusive education movement argues all children can learn1, that learning is supported by a strong sense of community2, and that services are based on need rather than limited by location3. Also, the movement promotes schoolwide approaches, such as teacher collaboration4, enhanced instructional strategies5, curriculum accommodations and modifications6, and additional supports in general education settings.' (Lipsky & Gartner, 1999, cited p.223)


1.   All students are expected to achieve the same learning objectives by whichever route is possible

2.   All are encouraged to attend field trips to build up the sense of academic community

3.   DSA pays for support workers on field trips

4.   Collaboration is between lecturers, students and support workers at this stage

5.   Many universities are working on virtual field trips and other adaptations for disabled students

6.   Any student can miss up to 10% of a field trip but if they miss more than this there are options to repeat the trip or essays to complete to make up the marks.

Dyson (1999) - 2 discourses for rationale: Rights-and-ethics (fairness from Lipsky & Gartner,1999, but also 'free market'/individual choice from Rizvi & Lingard, 1996); and efficacy (no greater gains if segregated)

Dyson (1999) - 2 discourses for realisation: political (resistance to special ed. professionals); and pragmatic (what it should look like)

Action 2.1e

The probability of the incidence of a particular genetic disability occurring within a population is theorised to be equal across all populations.

13% of the European population aged 16-64 has a disability (Eurostat study, 2001; 12% in 1995) but there are significant differences between member states which is postulated to be due to different cultural perceptions, levels of awareness, quality of services, integration of people with disabilities.


If we are looking at special education and seeing a difference then it suggests that there are other factors that we are not considering and thus there is a 'problem'.

Data are not facts - and it is a waste of time looking at raw data without considering the methodology of the collection of the data, the background of the subjects and the motivations of the collector.

The group of learners with literacy difficulties at my local university tends to be mainly white, middle class - I do wonder if this reflects the fact that they have involved and educated parents who are able to communicate with schools and colleges and insist on the assessments required for dyslexia diagnoses.

'Although few question...' Artiles, 2009, p.226

Flow/Structure: Statement of problem, list of causes, contrasts, reasons

Use of literature: backing up facts in this paragraph

Use of theory: causes linked to theories

Action 2.1f

It definitely matters who is doing the labelling. For example an educational psychologist is generally working freelance and needs to satisfy the disability department of a university who is employing them to diagnose dyslexia in students. They earns a lot of money for doing what the department wants i.e. diagnosing dyslexia so that students can obtain DSA and get the equipment that they would like. This also justifies the employment of the psychologist; makes life easier for the staff of the disabilities office who are having to satisfy lecturers that they are doing their job; justifies the existence of the number of staff in the office; and keeps struggling students happy for a while as they have a justification for their struggles (whether true or not!).

Action 2.1g

I think that silence in a research university setting is very different from that in a school setting. There are three subjects that are totally taboo: the student may be disabled but also does not have the ability to study at that level; the lecturers' belief that certain disabled students should not study their subjects; the fact that international students with disabilities are not supported.

The first is allied with the role of academic culture and is sometimes linked with the distrust of support workers in academic communities. In my experience, support workers at further education level are often encouraged to support students to perform beyond their ability levels by providing personalised instruction and even by writing assignments with their students. This assists institutions to hit their targets but students achieve undeserved grades which enable them to enter university to study subjects without the actual knowledge and experience that they require. This results in failure in their first year at university which reflects badly on the student, their department and on the support workers concerned. It has a knock-on effect that makes university departments reluctant to accept disabled students in future and thus less welcoming on open days and at interview. This results in a reduced likelihood of inclusion of disabled students in that particular department of the university.

It is widely recognised that all students are assimilating a new culture at university but it is expected that once students have gained the marks to get to university, they are capable of the fast pace of learning and acquisition of new terminology and concepts that characterise this academic culture. Students that do not perform at this level, when they have previously gained A level grades that suggest that they are capable of doing so, are generally considered to be lazy. However, the current system of A-levels in modular format makes gaining high grades much more achievable for many disabled students including those who take longer to fix information in long term memory as a limited amount of information is presented in a period of time with plenty of revision time built in to the process. The spring semester at university ends on the Friday of week 12 and exams start on the Monday, there is often no revision time.

This is also linked with the second area of silence. I tend to find lecturers at research universities are passionate about their subjects and enjoy working with students who are working hard and achieving good results. They have an open door policy and will help any student but their highest commitments go to those that will move through to the inner circles of the academic community and they will take on through Masters and PhDs. The department and university reputation depends on their ability to produce good research and supply graduates to good jobs in their field. They need good students who can perform well in research and in employment. If a disabled student cannot access all aspects of the course at university and need courses adjusted for them, then the lecturers have doubts about their ability to gain prestigious employment in the field or ability to participate in high level research.

The third area of silence concerns international students who are not able to access support for their disabilities. International and EU students are not eligible for Disabled Students' Allowance and are generally advised to try to find charitable support. Some universities do try to find some funding but it is not reliable. This creates the situation of underrepresentation of international and EU students receiving additional help.

Action 2.1h

In Action 2.1a I discussed the choices that disabled students make when they start university and how they have to make many decisions very rapidly in order to maintain aspects of their cultures they value and often have to abandon aspects they cannot maintain. It is very closely linked with identity theory and I imagine the cultures as a Venn diagram with interlinking circles with the student at the centre.

Thinking of a specific first year student


  • Deaf culture
  • Chemistry department culture
  • Forensic Science department culture
  • Astrophysics department culture (extra subject)
  • Mature student culture
  • Freshers culture

The clashes occur where these cultures overlap and have different priorities. My example in 2.1a was of a blind student who needed to be independent as part of the culture of a high achieving law student but also needed to be accompanied as a blind Muslim woman.

I am not saying that these clashes do not occur for all students but that the disability culture includes an extra dimension and ALL dimensions need to be considered when supporting a student at university level. If they choose to discard parts of their disability culture by refusing support, then that is their choice. Other students may decide to discard parts of their culture as a fresher and not get drunk all the time; or discard parts of their Muslim culture and get drunk whilst at university.

Action 2.1i

Cohesion - allows members of a culture group to assume an identity. Empowers the group member who can identify with the rules and form their identity.

Stability - fossilised
Empowers others who can make assumptions about the group from previous experience

Tension between group traits is illustrated by the Latinos example

Action 2.1j

I work closely with a group of students with Asperger syndrome. One student is very intelligent and high achieving. She was in her third year when another student with Asperger syndrome started his first year in the same subjects. The lecturer was very confused as he could not equate the behaviour of the second student with the first student and eventually said that he thought that the first student was not very typical of someone with Aspergers.


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my daughter is a disabled student.... and i found your article fascinating a lot of what you say has been experienced by her. Originally studying computer studies she made it through the first year just...having resit exams three days after orthopaedic surgery... she scraped through to the second year which was a folly and after failing miserably... That really seems to be the crux of the matter... do disabled students underacheive because it is expected from them by themselves?She   changed courses to learning disability studies. This has been an epiphany for her as she can identify with the issues and herself works with children with learning difficulties.... i suppose the moral of this story is.... it is important for a disabled student to chose a degree which is compatible with them and theirin lies the problem..... it isnt always obvious until its too late.... she is thriving in this new course. Also society has different expectations on disabled people. It isnt enough to sit back, claim DLA and live on benefits.There is a lot of negative labelling and disabled people feel threatened. She is in constant pain but society cant see this.......she wants more out of life than to be shut away! she wants to do things go places and be able to afford a good lifestyle. Unfortunately higher education seems to be the only answer for her.... but to gain professionalism in her own right and not gain an intellectual free ride! 

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The labelling would seem to be important. You mention that "who was doing the labelling" mattered and your last para. made it clear that once the label had been applied it was difficult for [sic] educators to see people as anything else about a person other than what others had called them.

I'm going to play devil's advocate here and suggest that we've created ramps to allow people, who once couldn't get in, to be betterly tortured!

I think, that the problem is that people, management, whoever, pay lip-service to the idea of accessibility. They're not the ones who have to do the work to make it happen. I still have to use the shock tactic of asking people to substitute the word Jew for deaf. They think I'm crass.

A policy is not an achievement.

Sometimes we need to see people as what they are—essentially arseholes.

[Sorry Carolyn/Lynn I seem to have been on your case too much this year, if it's any consolation it's because you're a much better writer than the rest of your course-mates. I understand what you're saying.]

Aw ra best




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I feel a trifle flippant after reading Tracy's comment. But I don't think that we're at odds.

If we truly want to be inclusive, and this means people of any label, then we need to change. It is within our grasp, we, that is us all, not just those that care, need to develop the appetite to do it; we're clever monkeys.

Easy to write, harder to do.


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Thanks to both of you for your comments. I have been going through a bit of a crisis in self-confidence and it was nice to receive such prompt and thought-provoking comments.

Hi Tracy

You raise some interesting points. I don't think that I agree that disabled students in general underachieve because that it what they expect. I do think that disabled students can be 'over-assisted' in some subjects and so they genuinely believe that they have a real talent for them and go on to study them at higher levels where there is less support and they fail.

The worst example I have seen is from a school who actually cheated a blind student through maths A level by constant personal tuition, doing his coursework for him and using a maths lecturer to act as amanuensis in exams where he told them what he thought and they wrote down the correct answer! The school hit the press with their fabulous accessibility solutions that allowed a blind student to achieve an A grade and he went on to study maths at university and failed the year. The good news is that he did not allow it to ruin his confidence and he has repeated the year on a different subject and is achieving first class honours marks in his modules. However, it could have had very different results.

Disabled students are no different from any other in that they may not know which degree they would like to study but those that have been over-assisted have a bigger problem and one that is not of their own making.

Your other point about the expectations of society is also very important. Disability seems to be a "competitive sport". It has to be in order to gain much necessary funding. The Government ranks disabilities along the lines of a medical model in order to determine how much allowance the individual should be given and this attitude is fostered throughout society by disability groups competing for charitable income. I was present at an interesting conversation between two geography students: one in a wheelchair and one in chronic pain. Between themselves they decided that they both deserved some extenuating circumstances for their field work but the young lady in a wheelchair was fed up with the constant sympathy and the other young lady was fed up with lack of understanding! They both felt a great pressure to achieve academically in order to prove that they were worth the extra trouble they caused the lecturers. This is not an attitude I have found with all disabled students, some expect instant and total adaptation for their courses, but it is very prevalent with many of them.

I hope your daughter enjoys her new course. It can be hard to change direction and retain your self-confidence. Best wishes to her J


Hi Neil,

I think that you can see from my reply to Tracy that I agree with you that sometimes the ramps we provide to get people into university are leading them to failure. The difficult bit is to try to make these ramps accessible by disabled students on their own without having to be shoved up them using techniques that are not available at the top!

I so agree with you that some people pay lip service to accessibility and that is a problem but I feel that the greater problem is those that work so hard to make life very easy for people with a disability. I may sound very hard here but life is never easy for anyone. We do need to make the learning material and assessments accessible; we need to ensure that ALL students have the support they need to be as independent as possible but we are not there to completely smooth the pathway whilst students are at university because that is both unrealistic and cruel when people have to enter the world of employment afterwards. Working at three universities is a bit of an eye opener. One is a research university where the students justifiably complain about accessibility on some occasions; one is the Open University where they work hard to make courses accessible but some students raise concerns; the other is a teaching university where they work very hard to make sure all students are not only supported but, in my opinion, hand-held throughout the course. These students work hard and deserve their degrees but seem to lack independence and the knowledge required to help themselves. This means that they reach the workplace with a very steep learning curve to climb. Not only do they need to assist their employer to make the necessary adjustments but they also need to start finding out how to do this for themselves.

Here is a quote from one student who contacted me. He is a student who has no usable sight and has had a lot of problems getting his departments to make reasonable adjustments:

"No one will ever be completely happy with the level of disability support that [****] or any other uni offer, since everyones needs are so different.
[****] could do lots more to support disabled students, but wether they should or not is a different matter. Putting different carpets in different rooms is generally scene as one way of letting a blind person know where they are since they are able to feel the different textures under there shoos, but since most workplaces aren't going to do this, in the spirite of getting young adults ready for work, why should disabled people be rapped in cotton wall by [****]?"

It certainly made me think!

Happy New Year to you both!


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hi again.... in Leilas case she hasnt actually had any intellectual assistance..... i dont know what policies other universities adopt but with Manchester University if you cant cut it then you are out..... in computer studies she was totally on her own.... whilst doing her a levels it was the same whilst going through a bone marrow transplant.....she bitterly resented the fact that she had so little support... but the up side is that she is an independent learner and the only assitance that she needs is the occaisional extension when things are bad. The conclusion that perhaps we can agree on is that facilities and support depend on post codes? or maybe on a more personal level.....