Theses Doctoral

Small Spaces, Big Moments: Understanding the Spatialized Lived Experiences of Youth and Adults in Restricted Educational Programs

Newhouse, Katherine S.

The current way of “doing” inclusive education in many US public schools includes re-imagining the spaces where a young person is receiving their educational services. Still, many schools and programs are set up to provide specialized educational services in a specific place. Most often, this place is outside of the general education classroom and deemed to have rehabilitative properties. Therefore, research that draws on the lived experiences of people in restricted educational programs is needed to understand more clearly how policies of inclusion and exclusion are not only enacted, but lived by the people inhabiting those spaces. By designing a qualitative study that is an ethnographic narrative inquiry, this project describes restricted educational programs from the perspectives of the people who occupy them. This study draws on the words and experiences of participants within restricted educational programs to explore what a concerted focus on the spatial dimension illuminates about these spaces and youth learning. Taking an iterative approach this study used ethnographic methods such as, participant observation and open-ended and semi-structured interviewing to inquire alongside educators who work with young people with disabilities and young people who are court involved in restrictive educational programs.

The methodological choice to collect data at two separate restricted educational programs, one in-school and one after school was intentional to investigate the nature of the label “restrictive” and its spatial properties. The research demonstrates that spaces are dynamic and fluid but often limited by the socio-spatial location such as, during or after school. Often it is the adults within each respective space who engage in practices of teaching and learning which either limit youth or provide youth with more expansive curricular possibilities. More consistently youth engage in practices, which add to the dynamic nature of how spaces are socially produced. From this an understanding of the project of inclusive education emerges which demands concerted attention be paid to the spatial dimension of inquiry, one that requires educators, more broadly, to participate in reflexive practices related to understanding their own socio-spatial position along with the socio-spatial position of the youth with whom they are constructing spaces.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Curriculum and Teaching
Thesis Advisors
Naraian, Srikala
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
July 28, 2020