Viewing the child as a participant within context

Rix, Jonathan and Matthews, Alice (2014). Viewing the child as a participant within context. Disability & Society, 29(9) pp. 1428–1442.



This paper explores tensions between the social nature of learning and the current emphasis upon individual support. It contrasts the focus upon context in discussions with parents and practitioners with the focus upon the individual within formal and informal written documents. This is situated within the first author’s experiences as a parent researcher, drawing upon ethnographic research carried out with families involved in early intervention and an evaluation of over 150 pages of documentation supplied by a father involved within the research in relation to his son. It identifies the need for assessment and evaluation to focus upon and record the broad range of context which influences learning.

Points of interest
• Practitioners and parents are aware of the many contextual factors which affect their capacity to support children.
• Parents and practitioners informally discuss issues arising from many contexts but not as a formal part of assessment, funding and support decisions.
• The focus on the individual in formal and informal written reports excludes the context and subsequently works against the social nature of learning.
• Requiring a broad range of contexts to be focussed upon and recorded within assessment has the potential to benefit everyone involved in learning.

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