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ERIC Number: ED559845
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2013
Pages: 299
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: 978-1-3033-3354-5
Understanding the Ideology of Normal: Making Visible the Ways in Which Educators Think about Students Who Seem Different
Moore, Brooke Anne
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Colorado at Boulder
The conceptualization of normal in schools is problematic. It mediates perceptions about ability, achievement and behavior. Normal implies a hierarchy, naturalizing the idea that some students can achieve better than others. This practice places the blame on the student by locating the problem within the child while failing to consider ways to make educational contexts more responsive. Those seen as deviating from normal are often characterized by race, language use, socioeconomic status or perceived ability. Historically, this has led to educational inequities. Equating difference with deficits is problematic as US schools are growing in diversity daily. In this social design experiment, I combined Disability Studies in Education and Cultural Historical Activity Theory to examine: (1) how normal was conceptualized for my participants and within the contexts of their schools, and how this influenced their role as special educators; and (2) how to shift the meaning of normal to be more encompassing of diversity and what this means for the future of special education. My participants were graduate level, practicing teachers enrolled in EDUC 7105. Participants read critical literature, engaged in audio-recorded small group discussions, and wrote personal written reflections pertaining to how normal is conceptualized in the activity systems of their schools and to consider ways to expand the meaning of normal to be more encompassing of diversity. I then analyzed my data using qualitative, grounded theory methodology. My participants recognized institutionalized practices as influential in reifying an ideology of normal in schools. These practices become reinforced in schools through localized actions of linking ability to access, enforcing acceptable behavior, and using academic standards as benchmarks. Special educators work to "normalize" students by helping them achieve academically and behaviorally. Yet, normal is relative to each student and my participants discussed how they use their knowledge of disabilities and students to create learning supports that maximize achievement by building on abilities. Negativity in teacher talk is problematic in perpetuating notions of normalcy by highlighting difference in students. Working to bridge negative talk into something productive can work to change an ideology of normal. Future educators need to recognize and value diversity. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
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Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A