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The case of context: A pragmatic, mixed-methods study of inclusive education’s imagined and context-specific learners in New South Wales, Australia

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posted on 15.11.2021, 20:35 by Julie HollittJulie Hollitt
While the idea of inclusion in education is noble and good, the theorization and pragmatics of its enactment are problematic for learning and teaching in specific locations and situations. Research literature has reflected the aspirational, pragmatic and inquiry focus of inclusive education research over the decades. While having contributed to understanding the notion of context as inextricably related to the implementation of inclusive education, the research literature is not agreed on the theorization or specifics of the notion of context, nor on its complexity. This thesis reports on a case study that investigated the case of context in which inclusion is enacted in Australia’s compulsory years of formal schooling. In the enactment of inclusive education, this study’s theoretical framework established that the case of context is complex (Bourdieu, 1977, 1984, 1999), consisting of multivariable and multidimensional factors which emerge from studying a range of specific locations and situations. These factors of the case of context were conceptualized as: i) consisting of imagined and actual learners, curriculum, capabilities, and conceptual worlds, and ii) co-occurring in the processes and procedures of formal schooling. Methodologically, a convergent mixed-methods research design was implemented to address three research questions: (1) How is the learner imagined?; (2) What other markers of context characterize the learner?; (3) What does this imply for inclusive education in the context of formal schooling? (Fetters, Curry & Creswell, 2013). This design used parallel document and demographic data analysis, and subsequent merging and theme-by-theme integration of findings. Results were found to be divergent, providing alternative understandings of learner, curriculum and formal schooling in the enactment of inclusive education. Interpretation provided insights into educational advantage, learner access to communication field and flow, learner presence and performance in formal schooling, and the possibility of diverse conceptual worlds involved in formal schooling. In its contribution to the field, the thesis provides a nuanced, interrogative way of challenging disparate world views and understandings of inclusive education held by academics, parents, and educational practitioners. Its alternative insights theorize a new analytic framework to address aspirational and pragmatic understandings of the enactment of inclusive education.



Central Queensland University

Open Access


Cultural Warning

This research output may contain the names and images of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people now deceased. We apologize for any distress that may occur.

Era Eligible



Professor Bobby Harreveld ; Dr. Ali Black

Thesis Type

Doctoral Thesis

Thesis Format