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Digital storytelling research funded to explore educational inclusion

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A project which will use storytelling as a device to explore young people’s understanding of what it means to be included in education, has been funded.

Led by Dr Alison Buckler, Senior Research Fellow in International Education (ECYS), and Deputy Director of the new Centre for the Study of Global Development CSGD, the project: Ibali: storying new discourses of educational inclusion/exclusion in the UK, Nigeria and South Africa has received £610,000 from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

The project, which involves researchers from the UK, Nigeria, and South Africa, focuses on the under-researched commonalities and differences of how inclusion and exclusion are experienced across education systems.

Using storytelling more effectively in research

There are three strands: a digital storytelling approach to generate new discourses around inclusion and exclusion in these contexts; a critical, ethnographic evaluation of the storytelling research process to show how storytelling could be better and more ethically used in research and; a storytelling research knowledge exchange Hub.

The storytelling element will explore young people's, teachers', teacher educators' and policymakers' perspectives on what it means to be included in or excluded from education. It will adapt an established approach for generating stories through creative workshops to produce 60-72 digital stories which document experiences and perspectives on inclusion/exclusion (at least 20 from each country). The approach incorporates closed and public story screening, analysis and dissemination events hosted with the support of project collaborators (stakeholders in education provision at local and national levels). These events will be designed to support rich and nuanced dialogues around how to reconceptualise education settings and processes to support wider inclusion.

Dr Buckler said: Existing understandings of ‘inclusion’ in international education are rooted in European and North American ideas about education and learning. With this study the team intends to disrupt the balance and focus of education and development research, first through the emphasis on arts based approaches to explore young people’s own understandings about what it means to be included in education, and second by inverting the lens and studying educational inclusion in South Africa and Nigeria alongside the UK.”

Promoting deep cultural understanding

The Hub, which is due to be launched in June 2022, will be an online, open access site of storytelling research resources, knowledge exchange and innovation.

Dr Buckler added: “This project will contribute to addressing issues around young people's inclusion in different contexts, as well as document and analyse how researchers can learn to work with complex, arts-based storytelling approaches in a critical and anti-colonial way.

“It is directly aligned with the AHRC's aim to bring a deep cultural understanding into the realm of international development: it positions storytelling as both an epistemology and research approach, and as a mode of knowledge generation as well as a form of expression and engagement. The reviewers said multiple times that it was an “outstanding” proposal and one said that “it would reflect superbly on the AHRC”.”

Dr Buckler is collaborating with Dr Jennifer Agbaire, currently at the University of Bristol and the University of Benin in Nigeria who will now join the OU as a postdoc through this project; Dr Faith Mkwananzi, from the University of the Free State in South Africa; Yusra Price, independent consultant, South Africa  and Dr Joanna Wheeler, University of the Western Cape, South Africa.

Find out more about OU research in International Development and Inclusive Innovation

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