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Policy archaeology: digging into special education policy in Ontario, 1965-1978

Yvette DeBeer (Independent Scholar, Kitchener, Canada)

Qualitative Research Journal

ISSN: 1443-9883

Article publication date: 10 August 2015

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to provide a clear and replicable methodology for conducting a policy archaeology. This paper articulates the steps in policy archaeology and the process is applied to a study of Discourses of disability in special education policy in Ontario, 1965-1978.

Design/methodology/approach

The metaphor of field archaeology guided the process of locating relevant texts through backward and lateral mapping and locating and interpreting artefacts. The artefacts were discursive representations of complex policy problem of disability in stakeholder texts. The Discourses were compared chronologically, within and across stakeholder texts. An explanatory narrative relates the Discourses to the socio-historical context.

Findings

There were significant contradictions in the discursive construction of disability. The texts of the Council for Exceptional Children presumed agreement that disability was an intrinsic, permanent deficit within the student with disabilities. In contrast, the other stakeholders stated that disability was the result of socially and educationally constructed barriers.

Research limitations/implications

This paper makes no claim of universal truth. The interpretations and conclusions reached are influenced by the researcher’s knowledge and experience. Other scholars may reach other conclusions.

Practical implications

Scholars have a clear and replicable methodology for conducting a policy archaeology. This methodology is currently the most “true” to the metaphor of archaeology and uses Discourse analysis, interpretation and the creation of a narrative situated in a socio-historical context.

Originality/value

The study shows that the Discourses of disability in special education policy in special education policy in Ontario place children with disabilities at a serious educational disadvantage.

Keywords

Citation

DeBeer, Y. (2015), "Policy archaeology: digging into special education policy in Ontario, 1965-1978", Qualitative Research Journal, Vol. 15 No. 3, pp. 319-338. https://doi.org/10.1108/QRJ-11-2013-0069

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited