Molly Baustien Siuty Research Statement

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Research Statement
Area of Focus
I argue that schools are sites of social reproduction in which systemic inequity is perpetuated
by privileging normalcy and its corollary, pathologizing difference (Artiles, 2013; Leonardo &
Broderick, 2011; Skrtic, 1995). Because these processes are insidious, they are rarely evident to the
students, teachers, and administrators who work in schools. The goal of my research is to make
schools more inclusive of difference by exposing and dismantling systems of educational inequity
with my participants. Specifically, I want to explore the social processes through which teacher
education systems prepare (special)1 educators equipped with the knowledge and skills to be
critical inclusive educators in urban settings. In this research statement, I will explain my
theoretical orientation, describe my current research activities, and lay out future directions for my
research agenda.
Theoretical Orientation
Since teaching and learning is rooted in systems seeped in a social and cultural history, I
seek to understand the practices of individuals through a sociocultural lens (Gutierrez & Stone,
2000; McDermott, 2006). Thus, my research extends the unit of analysis beyond the individual
teacher or teacher educator to the social processes of their everyday practice. I also take a social
constructionist approach in my work (Charmaz, 2008). As opposed to positivist approaches in
research, constructivist grounded theorists do not assume that “truth” or “facts” exist waiting to be
uncovered through research. Nor does it assume that researchers come to the process of data
analysis as blanks slates devoid of particular histories, interests, or interpretive frames of reference.
In other words, the goal of data analysis in constructivist grounded theory is always an interpretive
version of reality. Since I am committed to social justice in my research, I also employ critical
ethnographic methods because they seek to uncover systemic processes of injustice for the purposes
of promoting equity (Madison, 2012). I see to make the implicit undercurrents of power and
privilege explicit and vulnerable to critical reflection.
In my research, I also take a humanizing stance, which according to Paris (2011), “requires
that our inquiries involve dialogic consciousness-raising and the building of relationships of dignity
and care for both researchers and participants” (p. 137). In contrast to more positivist approaches
that view human behavior as mechanical and consistent, I use interpretative methods that take into
account the messiness and uneven nature of teaching and learning providing for a situated view of
the lived classroom (Erickson, 1986). By making these social processes visible, I work with teacher
candidates and teachers to redefine the role of teacher as change agent in the social project of
increased equity and inclusivity.
Current Project
Teacher educators have proposed inclusive teacher education as one means to address to
educational systems that perpetuate interlocking oppression for students with disability labels (e.g.,
Ashby, 2012; Causton-Theoharis, Theoharis, & Trezek, 2008; Dotger & Ashby, 2010; Gehreke &
Cocciarella, 2013; Oyler, 2011; Zeichner, 2010). This version of inclusive teacher education rejects
a limited scope of inclusion as a place but rather a critical conceptual understanding of school
organizations and the marginalization of difference. Ultimately, these programs seek to prepare
educators to be agents of change in their schools. However, scant attention has been paid to the
process through which graduates of inclusive teacher education programs (re)constitute their teacher
identity in practice (Artiles & Kozleski, 2007).
1 I place the word special in parentheses because inclusive education is a social project that involves the preparation of
all educators in systems change for increased equity. However, I recognize that special education as it currently exists in
the law has real consequences for the way that school organizations provide services. Therefore, special education
teachers are of particular focus in my work on inclusive education.

Molly Baustien Siuty Research Statement

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My dissertation is exploring the social processes through which graduates of an inclusive
special education Master’s program (re)constitute their teacher identity within the power dynamics
of their communities of practice. School contexts are steeped in dominant ideologies of normalcy
that collude to create intersecting systems of oppression in special education (Artiles, 2013;
Leonardo & Broderick, 2011). Using phenomenological interviewing (Seidman, 2006) and reflexive
video analysis (Tochan, 2007), I help special educators draw on their preparation experience and
personal histories to examine ways in which these teachers reify dominant ideologies but also how
they resist given the institutional constraints that they face. Using critical ethnographic methods
(Madison, 2012), the participants and I co-construct a critical analysis of institutional inequity and
their connection to intersectional oppression within their schools and their own teaching practices.
Together, we explore the naturalized and taken-for-granted social processes that occur in their daily
practice. Through this dialectic process, we will strive to identify locations for special education
teacher resistance that challenge the status quo, promote inclusivity and, produce better educational
outcomes in urban schools.
Research Agenda
I aim to develop three lines of inquiry in my research agenda around three problem spaces in my
area of focus: (a) the appropriation of inclusive teacher preparation, (b) deficit narratives of urban
special education/educators, and (c) limited opportunities for special education teacher resistance
and transformation.
Appropriation of Inclusive Teacher Preparation. Graham and Slee (2008) warn that the
assumption of commonality around the term inclusive can prove dangerous. Seemingly inclusive
programs can actually be appropriated by the mainstream to protect the status quo. While models of
critical inclusive teacher preparation programs exist, the project of inclusion is not an endpoint but
must be ongoing and reflexive (Artiles & Kozleski, 2007). Therefore, my research will investigate
how we build teacher preparation systems that not only promote an inclusive agenda but also model
and sustain equity through critical reflection and pedagogical inquiry.
Deficit Narratives of Urban Special Education/Educators. Urban schools and teachers ar
often depicted as deficient (Buendia, 2011; Milner, 2008) and comprised of homogeneous racial,
ethnic, and classed populations (Viesca, 2011). Indeed, popular representations of urban spaces
focus on “decline over renewal, segregation over collaboration, and silent struggle over shared
narratives of struggle” (Kinloch, 2007, p. 38). In my research, I want to work with urban special
educators to share counter narratives of their schools and students that highlight the amazing
resilience and strength in urban communities that often goes undeveloped or even ignored in formal
educational settings, (Delgado-Bernal, 2002; Matias & Liou, 2015). My goal is to then use these
counternarratives as pedagogical tools for inclusive teacher preparation.
Limited Opportunities for Special Education Teacher Resistance and School
Transformation. I advocate for an approach for teacher education, particularly for special
education teachers, that prepares them to critically examine structural inequity, challenge oppressive
structures, and promote increased equity in urban schools. However, it is important to understand
that teachers in urban settings are not immune to structural inequity themselves (Farber & Azar,
1999; Milner, 2008) and often face top down mandates and strictly controlled curricula from
neoliberal reform movements (Crawford-Garret & Riley, 2006). In this type of environment
teachers have few opportunities to advocate for equity, challenge the dominant culture, and
transform the spaces in which they work. In my research, I want to partner with special education
teachers who have graduated from inclusive teacher preparation programs to use critical
ethnographic methods (Madison, 2012) and participatory action research (Fine & Torre, 2004)
focused on uncovering and challenging systemic inequity in urban education systems. In addition,

Molly Baustien Siuty Research Statement
the goal is to create and extend teacher advocacy groups beyond teacher preparation to support inservice teachers in becoming agents of change in their schools.

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