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Title: Teacher/therapist collaborations: discourses, positionings and power relations at work
Author(s): Forbes, Joan Christine
Issue Date: 2003
Publisher: University of Stirling
Abstract: ABSTRACT The focus of this research is on the collaboration relationships of teachers and therapists working in school-based provision for pupils with language and communication disorders. The research is concerned with how the collaboration relationship operates as a power relation for these individuals. There is an attempt to work out something of the effects of changing notions of professionalism in its historical and current versions. The research reveals individuals' identifications with the powerful discourses in this contingent context, manifested in their metaphors and discursive moves. It analyses the complex interaction of discourses and cultural discourses/practices, attempting to grasp the effects of the powerful discourses as individuals construct and re-construct multiple professional and cultural identities and subject positions. In its examination of the political and cultural functioning of the forces of power-knowledge-selves-desire, the research analyses the operation of five dimensions of power at work in these relationships. The analysis subsequently suggests some implications for teacher/therapist co-practice. The research attends to the discourses of inter-professional collaboration in government policy documentation at the macro level, within local authority and school-institution policy statements at the meso level and in the way that participants write and speak of their collaborations at a micro leveL. Macro level discourses were examined in the relevant speech and language therapy and education agencies' policy documentation including Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Schools (HMI) Report (1996) and the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) (1996) statement of professional standards. Meso level discourses were sought in the relevant local education authority and school policy documentation. Micro level discourses were explored in instances of individuals' talk about their collaborative practice. Participants' accounts were gathered in semi-structured interviews, audiotaped collaborators' meeting talk and written texts. Individual experiences within specific collaboration relationships have not perhaps been grasped or understood in research into teacher/therapist co-working which draws upon positivist methodology and uses positivist methods. There is much previous research which theorizes collaboration at interagency or interprofessionallevels or that takes a systems theory approach that seeks to generalize norms of 'effectiveness' at either or both of these levels. This research was concerned to explore individuals' experiences of co-practice in an analysis which questioned co-practice norms and attempted to unsettle certainties. Participants' accounts in this analysis suggested a more continuous, fluid process of construction and re-construction of individuals' subject positions characterised by unstable identifications. Analysis of individuals' accounts revealed their subjection to the powerful discourses and their active exploitations of those discourses as resources, their subject positions manifested in their discursive choices, ambivalences, oscilations, evasions and miscalculations. Certain of the ways were uncovered in which multiple, unstable practice and co-practice related discourses interplay and compete, working to produce individuals subject to their power; and providing the discursive resources which individuals deploy as they constitute and reconstitute discourse/practice identity positions in their struggles for domination within their relationships. This analysis suggests certain of the effects of the powerful discourses as the participants constitute and re-constitute acceptable power sharing practices, positions within the dimensions of power which, at times collide with positions acceptable to the other. A number of possibilities for the co-practice of teachers and therapists in school-site provision for pupils with language and communication disorders are identified and discussed. These suggest how school institutions' and agencies' policy makers might attend to the diversity and plurality of teachers' and therapists' discursive resources and co-practices. These also suggest that spaces for the exploration of teacher/therapist discourse/practice differences as these relate to the notion of shared discursive resources and co-practice should be opened-up. These further suggest the need to question current policies and practices using a wider variety of conceptual and analytical tools and the need for shared learning spaces which might promote more personally acceptable practices underpinned by knowledge of each other's aspirations.
Type: Thesis or Dissertation
Affiliation: School of Education

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