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Class 3

  • Project 4 – ‘Mixed Abilities Group’ of UCC students in collaborative DE learning experience with service users from three Disability Support services in Cork, inclusive of people with Intellectual, Neurological and Physical Disabilities.

In Year 3 I wanted to take DE to another group whom I felt were often excluded in DE learning.  At this point too I was feeling less comfortable with a sense of ‘them and us’ in my research approach, so I wanted all participants, students and ‘community partners’ to participate in six DE workshops together.  This project was also Finuala’s work-placement.  Finuala had expressed a particular interest in institutional care such as residential centres, direct provision and prisons. In addition, the coordinator of a course for people with intellectual disabilities at UCC asked if I could take one of their students on a work placement. This student joined our planning sessions and helped with the organisation and facilitation of the six DE workshops.  We ran six two-hour workshops on Development Education themes attended by twelve students, six from UCC and six from the three ‘disability’ partner groups.  The ‘key participants’ in my research work from this project were first year student Finuala and a wheelchair user, Vera (not her real name), who also had learning difficulties and more importantly had recently moved out of residential care and into her own home in the community.  Finuala’s work-placement included participating in the six workshops and working closely with Vera to help her to reach her full potential in the course.  Finuala and Vera also worked with me and other students, on a digital archive about institutional care in Ireland, an archive that features Vera’s own story of her move out of institutional care.  (LINK here Archive:  Vera’s story is on the attached USB and entitled “No Looking Back”. OM/SOB Question re public story yet a different name in thesis

In terms of recruiting Vera and other participants, I had previously worked with people with intellectual, neurological and physical disabilities as a ‘Transition Coordinator’.  My job had been to assist two individuals to move out of institutional care into their own homes in the community.  I had found the work deeply rewarding and wanted to develop DE learning opportunities that would bring people with ‘mixed abilities’ together.  After a long process relating to ethical consent, these two individuals joined what would become the ‘mixed abilities’ DE group:  When I attended a course myself on the theme of Sustainable Development I was fortunate to meet a woman who worked in another NGO working with people with intellectual disabilities.  She too had been hoping to run a Global Citizenship course with some of the residents and we began to plan the project together.  All participants signed a consent form and where appropriate, were assisted to do so by staff from their ‘organisations’.

One of these organisations also had a residential centre in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) India.  We had an online discussion with the group there about life in India and in Ireland.  In addition, one of the participants had a sister who worked as a development worker in community radio in Kenya, with Irish Aid. She came to speak to the group about her work.  The project which all students worked on together was the production of a radio show as part of the Global Hub.  This radio show is on the attached USB and includes an interview with the Aid Agency Concern as well as what the group had learned during their six week course.  At the end the students were also presented with a certificate of participation.

I gathered data in the following ways: (1) observation – I recorded all workshops and wrote field notes immediately afterwards. I particularly focused on the experience of both Finuala and Vera.  At this stage I knew both ‘key participants’ well.  I had worked with Vera in the past and Finuala had been attending the cross-disciplinary group workshops.  (2) Radio narrative – the students researched and presented a radio show about what they had learned.  This was transcribed and content/process was analysed as part of the data collection procedure, particularly content relevant to Vera and Finuala. (3) Narrative from the digital archive and digital stories.  I used data from student blogs and from Vera’s story to analyse learning and experiences of this process.  As always, my question was to what extent such engagement with community-linked learning and multimedia, impacted on student engagement with DE issues and what was the impact of the work for community partners.