Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy


Teaching-Learning Processes

Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Philip M. Ferguson, Ph.D.


Scot Danforth, Ph.D

Dianne Ferguson, Ph.D

Virginia Navarro, Ph.D

Laura Westhoff, Ph.D


This paper interweaves several theoretical strands—disability studies, narrative theories, and sociocultural perspectives on learning—both as a means to understand current practice in the education of students with significant disabilities as well as to envisage other forms of participation for them. The aims of the study are derived from the argument made by Ferguson (2003) that the narratives of others in the lives of severely disabled individuals are critical to the formation of their identities. Appropriating this idea to the classroom, this study explores the notion that the narratives of classroom peers are vital to the participation of the severely disabled student. The study was conducted at two separate sites, an elementary classroom and a high school setting, where at least one severely disabled student was included. Data collection at the elementary classroom was accomplished through ethnographic methods. At the high school, the emphasis was on completing interviews with students who were the classmates of the included significantly disabled student. Linde’s (2001) construct of “narrative induction” generated the analytical framework for understanding the data obtained in the study. A theory of the ways in which the participation of the significantly disabled student was linked to the social processes within the classroom emerged. Two distinctive paradigmatic narratives drawn from school and classroom practices surfaced within each setting that set in motion varying forms of student relations with the disabled student. The linkage between peer appropriation of the larger paradigmatic narrative and their own relations with the disabled student was explored. A preliminary examination of the conditions that can best support the participation of the significantly disabled student in general education settings is offered.

OCLC Number


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