Blind people: a social constructivist analysis of New Zealand education policy and practice
Higgins, Nancy Alice
This thesis explored the educational experiences in New Zealand of ten blind people of various ages. It submits that the social constructivism position developed by Lev Vygotsky allows the researcher to explore personal and social constructions as part of scholarly discussions and theorising about disability. Vygotsky's notions of social dislocation and blind people are also shown to be of value in this research area. The research arose from a query to blind people themselves who suggested that the study examine the effect of educational policy and practice on a blind person's life. From participant observation and interviews with seven blind adults! three blind children! five parents of blind children! and eighteen professionals! this thesis discusses the different meanings which have been constructed about blindness in the participants' lives and within their educational experiences. A discussion group of two blind people and one parent of a blind child was also formed to help the researcher negotiate meaning within the study. The blind participants in this study first learned about social dislocation when they attended the special school where they were segregated and under the control and surveillance of others. It occurred when the participants were at regular schools where the prevailing education policy and practice did not include or acknowledge the educational needs and rights of blind students. There were issues about the availability and the type of literacy and movement instruction which they received. They also had problems accessing other curriculum areas which were competitive, Visual or considered too difficult for blind people. They had few friends but some participants felt a bond with and supported by other blind people. Despite these obstacles, the participants resisted social constructions which were barriers to their inclusion and transgressed their assigned identities through their purposeful rebellion, achievement, political action, or withdrawal. When the participants felt that they had a social place in their families, schools, and communities, they felt understood and valued. The meaning of blindness in these instances was constructed as one facet of their humanness. It was not an overwhelming disaster and they were like anyone else. All of the participants stated that inclusion was the goal to which the New Zealand education system should aspire. However, a climate of mistrust has formed within the education system, and the participants stated that they did not believe that the Ministry of Education was concerned about blind children. It is suggested that the Ministry of Education needs to make a commitment to change and to inclusive education where all children can have a social place.
Advisor: Ballard, Keith; MacArthur, Jude
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Education
Publisher: University of Otago
Research Type: Thesis
Hardcopies exist as standard thesis and as 2-volume Large Print version. Supplementary material (computer file and 1 folded sheet) in pocket of Volume 2.