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Appears in Collections:Faculty of Social Sciences eTheses
Title: 'Looking okay': exploring constructions of fluctuating or recurring impairments in UK Higher Education
Author(s): Boyd, Victoria A.
Supervisor(s): Watson, Cate
Keywords: Fluctuating of recurring impairments
Disabled students
Narrative analysis
Higher Education
Social constructionism
Issue Date: Nov-2012
Publisher: University of Stirling
Abstract: This research explores constructions and understandings of fluctuating or recurring impairments in Higher Education in the UK. It considers ways in which institutional discourses within one UK University have shaped policy and provision for disabled students, and how students with fluctuating or recurring impairments negotiate and enact identities in this context. For many students, impairments such as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)/ myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), epilepsy or diabetes, for example, have the potential to vary in intensity, and thus impact, on participation in learning activities and on self-perception/ identity. With increasing disclosure, yet limited recognition, of such types of impairment comes a need for institutions to better understand changing impact in terms of inclusion and in observing anticipatory aspects of legislation, as well as furthering insight into how student identities are negotiated and constructed in an educational context. This research uses a social constructionist framework to explore constructions and subjectivities as regards fluctuating or recurring impairments, and comprises both staff and student perspectives. The staff perspective is based on the thematic narrative analysis of interviews with three members of staff, and is presented in conjunction with an example of institutional policy to highlight discourses drawn upon in constructing disability and disabled students. The impact of these discourses on institutional constructions and practice is key to the analysis. The student perspective is based on two phases of data collection: firstly, 24 semi-structured interviews with students who self-described a fluctuating or recurring impairment; and secondly, five students’ responses to six bi-weekly emails over the course of one academic trimester (January – April 2011). Summary data from the first phase is used to frame discussion on issues raised by students regarding institutional constructions and support. A ‘hybrid’ narrative analysis framework incorporating positioning analysis as well as both ‘big’ and ‘small stories’ has been used in analysing the phase two data. The approach considers the influence of institutional discourses on how students are positioned institutionally and position themselves, as well as ways in which performances of identity may be shaped. The thesis concludes by considering the implications of the research outcomes for Higher Education. In so doing, it notes the significance of policy implementation and cultural change, and makes recommendations for areas of focus in raising institutional awareness of fluctuating or recurring impairments within existing constructions of disability.
Type: Thesis or Dissertation

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