Living otherwise. Students with profound and multiple learning disabilities as agents in educational contexts. - PhDData

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Living otherwise. Students with profound and multiple learning disabilities as agents in educational contexts.

The thesis was published by Mercieca, Duncan P., in September 2022, University of Stirling.


This thesis address the question of agency that children with profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD) have in educational contexts. Teachers and educators do not usually regard children with PMLD in terms of their agency, because of their profound and multiple impairments. Discourses on children and adults with PMLD are linear, systematic, defining and closed to contingency. The discourses normally applied with regard to children with PMLD attending school are mapped out in the beginning of the thesis.

The thesis provides an account of my becoming-teacher and my becoming-researcher It is my journey with students whom I worked with directly as their teacher in a segregated specialised school for children with PMLD, and also as a participant observer in two mainstream primary classrooms. The works of Jacques Derrida, Felix Guattari and Gilles Deleuze were crucial in reading the lives of these children together with mine. Nine stories with comments are the central focus of this thesis, where through the writing of these stories my own becoming-teacher is mapped out.

The thesis shows how students with PMLD are able to provide teachers with spaces of possibilities in the linear and closed discourses mentioned above. Students themselves are able to introduce in the life of teachers, their classroom and at times even at school level, the ‘non-sense’ that help teachers ‘think again’ the discourses that they are working with. They are able to help teachers open up discourses, and see that they are ‘assemblages’, characterised by contingency, contradictions and aporias. Students with PMLD provide possibilities (potentials) for engagement in these assemblages. The identity of a teacher is shaken when she experiences her identity as an assemblage, but even more so when such an identity is seen as a process of becoming by engaging with the possibilities. Here the end is not important and is unknown; what is important is the process. What is argued is that the teacher’s identity is seen as becoming-teacher through becoming-PMLD. This thesis concludes that there needs to be a desire to engage with students with PMLD to continue the process of becoming-teacher.

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