Action Research for Inclusive Education: Changing Places, Changing Practice, Changing Minds

By Felicity Armstrong; Michele Moore | Go to book overview
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Chapter 9

Out of the closet, into the classroom

Gay students, teachers and research action

Colin J. Slater

Being gay, lesbian or bisexual is not a way of life; it's a part of life.

(National Youth Agency)

This chapter is about a small action research project which I carried out while I was working for the Home and Individual Tuition Unit in a large inner city. The unit is responsible for the educational provision for students who have statements of Special Educational Needs and who are not in full-time education, usually because they have been 'permanently excluded'. These students either attend the centre where our service is based, or they are visited in their homes for two-hour teaching sessions a week, or sometimes we hold the sessions in another venue such as the local library. The centre is based at a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU). At the time when I carried out this small project, I was the only person working in the Home Tuition service. The colleagues who contributed to the research were all members of staff at the PRU.

I set out to investigate how the subject of homosexuality is approached within my own work context with the purpose of trying to ensure that, through collective reflection and action, gay issues are included sensitively and with understanding as part of a wider commitment to developing inclusive practice. I began by asking 'the participants' (my work colleagues) to answer a series of questions relating to issues of sexuality as they impinge on the curriculum and teaching and learning. Their responses were used to assist in the creation of an information pack which I later presented to them and asked for their reflections. This chapter looks at the background to the project, especially in terms of a particular group of marginalised students - gay, lesbian and bisexual teenagers - and the issues and possible exclusion in education which they face. It then goes on to describe how the research was carried out and discusses its possible impact. As a gay man and a teacher, I approached the project from a particular 'insider' perspective, having personal knowledge of the kind of exclusion gay students may experience, and the way in which this marginalisation is implicitly supported by education systems which fail to address discrimination in this area.

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