Dissertation Journal

25 June 2016

Interesting article about the challenges posed by us aged PhD students 🙂

8 Feb 2016

The absence of updates doesn’t mean there has been an absence of work done!  Really!

I finished my literature review and then sometime in October got interested in one aspect of it, which had to do with self advocate narratives, and particularly the moments when self advocates talked about their experiences of segregation.  A few things interested me:

  • Despite different programmatic intentions, and time time periods, self advocates talked about segregation using the same language and imagery – whether it was in an institution, a segregated classroom or in a “community inclusion” program where they were supported to be part of the community but in weird ways – as part of a group, directed by staff, going to places where the rest of the community wasn’t (at those times).
  • One difference was that in institutional narratives there was a clarity that segregation was wrong and damaging, whereas in later narratives there was more a sense of puzzlement…  why is my community inclusion program a segregated place or sequence of events?
  • The narratives that I could find which were by people experiencing those community inclusion programs were usually statements made at the behest of some authority – the intention being something like “Tell us how much you like our new deal!”  Within those narratives the self advocate would suddenly speak out against their experience of segregation, a kind of rupture within, I think, what Derrida talked about in terms of “hopital” – hospitality.  In short, the person offering the opportunity to speak is being “hospitable” but still controls the dialogue and output.

So it was a rhizomatic analysis…  all kinds of different sources connecting and sparking off each other.  I think this was less successful than I hoped and it also made me realize that I want to avoid Deleuze and Guattari because I don’t want to end up defending philosophy that is so mysterious to so many people.

In any case, i wrote a paper and then had an opportunity to send it to a journal, so it’s now off being looked at.  Hmmm…

This act in itself created all kinds of self-doubt and also self-knowing…  I realized i need to learn more to write journal quality papers, and that I need to be thinking of my research as s product.

What else?  Had some great conversations with my Taos advisor, Dr. Ginny Beldon-Charles, and she came to Vancouver and we spent a couple of days  together.  I took a job teaching at a college – was smitten by the students and their great passion and intentions – and the faculty are also great.  It’s been really interesting and given me a new take on things as well.  I’m not sure I’ll stay – college faculty are rather badly paid and they work incredibly hard.

And I realized that I need more ongoing help – some coaching to get through this process…  so hired a coach who seems kind of amazingly perfect and is both demanding and fun.  We will start working together next month.  The first order of business is to create a month by month plan that will take us to the end of the work 🙂


25 Sept 2014

Thinking about literature reviews.  pears with differences gathering as colleagues.

Thinking about literature reviews. pears with differences gathering as colleagues.

reading an amazing paper.

Douglas Biklen & Christopher Kliewer (2006) Constructing competence: autism, voice and the ‘disordered’ body, International Journal of Inclusive Education, 10:02-03, 169-188, DOI: 10.1080/13603110600578208

21 Sept 2014

Hmmm…  as I go through this, I realize i just kind of leapt in, out of a more private journal that I was kind of bored with.   So, to put it into context, this is what I did before I went into the PhD program.


I graduated from Athabasca’s Master of Arts in Integrated Studies (MA-IS)  in January 2014.   It was a lovely, reflective and reflexive program in which I got introduced to many new ideas and new capacities in myself (like, I’m really good at philosophy when I’ve got the right prof!) and great collegial relationships with people who pushed me further than I expected to be pushed, and I got to study things that made sense of my work and got to bring things from work into my studies.  In the end I got to write my thesis, working with a group of self advocates here in B.C. to come up with a good question and then going to Ottawa where the amazing agency LiveWorkPlay supported me to meet with a focus group of folks with intellectual disabilities.   I was well supported by Dr Kenneth Banks, who took time out of his holiday to show up and help me through some initial processes when my prospective advisor was suddenly unavailable, and second reader Dr Gloria Filax, one of my heroes in about six different ways.

My questions were:

Question 1: “Leadership means to take action. What are some stories about what has been satisfying or successful for you as a leader in:
A. Your life

B. Groups you belong to

C. Your community?”

Question 2: Did the graphic recording make things easier to understand? In what ways was graphic facilitation helpful?

You can read the whole thesis here or you can see the plain language powerpoint presentation that it turned into when I presented it at TASH 2013 in Chicago.   I will be working with self advocate plain language expert Barb Goode to turn the thesis into a plain language document, probably early in 2015.


The graphic created with the focus group as they told me stories about leadership in their lives, groups they were part of and in their communities; about 4′ x 7′, in 2.5 hours.

Finished with Athabasca, I found myself grieving those conversations and that research environment, and went out for lunch with my friends Norm and Emma who were excited about starting their own work at the dissertation based social constructionism university, the Taos Institute, which grants degrees through a partnership with Tilberg University.    I got excited and put together my application package over the next few days and was accepted.   While I was waiting to hear, the Taos Institute announced a fascinating new M.Sc. program in Relational Leadership  – my big discovery of my master’s research was that folks with disabilities form these matrixes of potential support which they can then tap as necessary when the right opportunity arises, so I was thrilled.   I hadn’t realized anyone else was even thinking about this until after my research was done and further exploration of that finding would be the obvious next step.   So I went back and forth, getting more excited about their take on relational leadership and that course of global connections interested in social constructionism, and also really wanting to pursue a deeper, more intensive study of my own.   At first it was looking like there would be a way that if I didn’t get into the PhD program I could quickly reapply to the MSc program, but then just as that window closed the Taos folks, who really liked my application, figured out this perfect solution.   I could be in the PhD program and the head of the MSc in Relational Leadership, Dr. Ginny Belden-Charles,  could be my thesis advisor 🙂

My draft research question is:

What are some ways adults with intellectual disabilities have found to participate as leaders in their lives, groups they are part of and in their communities and what aesthetic, artistic and relational processes and accommodations related to emergent literacy might support their leadership mission(s)?

We’ll see how this flies with a small group of self advocate advisors when the time comes to finalize it.  They shredded my last question and put it back together in such an elegant and far more open ended way that led to way more interesting conversations.   I began my studies in Autumn of 2013 and hope to finish sometime in 2017.

21 Sept 2014

Ending two projects – Cheryl’s Star Raft Salons and our Community Mapping Project – and hopefully beginning two more (fingers crossed for funding).  Had an amazing potluck last night, with Lasagna by Ben – whose goal when we did some planning last spring was to learn to cook a few things for himself.  He can now make about ten different dishes; the lasagna was amazing and he’s now working on french toast (I think I want to go back for his Indian chicken dish).   An abundance of cakes and laughter.

Emma says I need to incorporate these projects in my thesis, so I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around how the themes in them might turn into research questions and processes.   I think I want to turn adult special education on it’s head.

I am failing miserably at my objective of not becoming obsessed 🙂

Over the next couple of months I need to finish my practicum requirements and do the test for my SHIFT-IT coaching certification.  Am really excited about the work I’ve done with Christina and about these processes she’s taught us, and about how we might templatise our own processes… my interest in them is really in helping people become the best leaders they can be, as part of networks of leader-learners.  Learning the coaching techniques has been a nice stretch too.

This is Christina’s great new info-video:

17 Sept 2014

So far my literature review is going really well and has been an interesting way to organize my thoughts – much better than I expected really.  It gave me a way to narrow my scope, even though that’s not what i was trying for; so that was a very cool offshoot.  I’ve now organized my virtual and actual shelves, have been purchasing books and finding articles like crazy, though now my online library card with my old university is no longer working and my new one hasn’t started working yet – some issue with taking payment in europe.

I’ve been working my way through what I think are the required readings from the last email, and want to sign up for an online course in social construction and research, and there’s other interesting ones coming up.   It’s all very exciting.  Loving the work of the profs at the Taos Institute, many of whom offer downloadable books and articles.

I took a webinar from Dr Kat about research questions that satisfy one in the long haul, of the http://www.academiccoachingandwriting.org/ – I think I will probably sign up for some help from them as I learned more in that hour than I’ve learned in weeks of courses on research theory.   I will try to find the graphic and upload it.  I have another one tomorrow but I’ll have to see the recorded version.

I’ve already realized, and I knew this and had made a deal with myself, that I tend to get obsessive about things – my “notes” for my literature review got to 200 pages and i realized it was turning into a premature document do got rid of it and started over.  So I’m making myself stop and draw chocolates and sweets every week.  This week it’s all-sorts licorices 🙂


In the United Kingdom, the idea of educating disabled children in mainstream school environments had been around since the Education Act (1944). Nonetheless it created 11 medically based classifications of children and, despite its lukewarm endorsement of integration, facilitated the expanded segregative practices of the past the ‘special school’ system, which had its roots in the eighteenth century. Hence special schools flourished in the post-1939–1945 war period and continued to expand until the early 1990s despite the publication of the Warnock Report (Warnock 1978) and its implementation through the Education Act (1981).

Following the longstanding critique of segregated educational systems for children and students labelled with ‘SEN’ (see, for example, Tomlinson 1982, 1995; Barton and Tomlinson 1984; Barton 1988; Rieser and Mason 1990; Oliver 1990, 2000; Barton and Armstrong 2001, 2007), the principle of inclusive education was endorsed in official documents both nationally and internationally (see, for example, UNESCO 1994, 2006, 2007; Department for Education and Employment 1998; UN 2006).

In 1997 the Department for Education and Employment endorsed the UNESCO Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on Special Needs:

This statement calls on the international community to endorse the approach of inclusive schools by implementing practical and strategic changes. (UNESCO 1994, 1)

This is based on the assertion that regular schools with this inclusive orientation are the most effective means of combating discriminatory attitudes, creating welcoming communities, building an inclusive society and achieving education for all. (UNESCO 1994, 1)  Yet despite apparent initial enthusiasm for such an approach by the Labour Government of 1997 and the introduction of SENDA in 2000, progress has been slow. For instance, the proportion of all children attending special schools, that rose to just under 1% at the start of the 1980s, has subsequently declined to only 0.8% (Rustemier and Vaughan 2005; Department for Educa- tion and Skills [DfES] 2007). The number of special schools fell from 1830 in 1990/91 to 1391 in 2006/07 (DfES 2007). Moreover, these figures mask considerable variation with segregation increasing slightly in one-third of local education authorities in England (Rustemier and Vaughan 2005).

554-5, Mike Oliver & Colin Barnes (2010) “Disability studies, disabled people and the struggle for inclusion.”

Last week it was a nice custom box of dark chocolate covered ginger (for Deleuze and rhizomatic thinking), peanut butter with himalayan sea salt and salted caramels.


Sometimes Deleuze provides a beacon, lighting the way out of murky, twisty labyrinths. Other times, Deleuze is the Minotaur, confounding the path, all the while seething at the center. His work makes some kinds of thinking easier, and other kinds of thinking more difficult. It challenges me, excites me, frustrates me, evades me. I like thinking with Deleuze; it, its own reward. His writing is simultaneously figurative and literal. When I read him, I read intensely, my nose near the page, fingers shoved in my ears to block the sound, eyes tracing chains of words (all an exaggeration, but gosh, it feels like this). And then, just as I am about to/able to finally suspend my dis/ belief that I must read to extract meaning, delight! A plateau of meaning is revealed. I bask and marvel at meaning hidden in plain sight:

Close the door, make sure no one’s listening, put your ear close to the page: I’m going to tell you a secret. It’s not for publication. But should it fall into the wrong hands, should your own hands be the wrong hands, this will be of little consequence – the secret will remain transparent, inaudible, imperceptible. For the question of philosophy can only be posed as a confidence between friends. (Deleuze and Guattari 1994, 2)

I often spend ages paging through Deleuze, searching for the line where he said something or other specific about something or other. Then I realize, that wasn’t him who wrote that, it was me who thought that – my firing synapses – as I was reading him! So saturated, so Technicolor is my experience of reading him, the experience is practically chewy.

635-6, Eve Tuck (2010) “Breaking up with Deleuze: desire and valuing the irreconcilable”

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