Researching Inclusion in HE

A narrative of initial enquiry


  • Susan Flynn Institute of Technology Carlow
  • Sandra Nolan Institute of Technology, Carlow



This rapid response considers the topic of inclusion in Higher Education and takes the form of a braided essay, which aims to illustrate the dialogic nature of teaching, learning and research. Sandra is pursuing an MA by Research in Education which intends to investigate whether access and attainment for migrant students and studies of migrants can be improved through inclusive pedagogies. This is a reflection on a preliminary research stage of Sandra’s journey, and the larger study has been granted ethical approval.  As White women working and learning in Irish Higher Education, we are aware of the need to reflect on, and deconstruct our own positionality in this journey, in order to become ‘race allies’ in a meaningful way. Following a macro-level introduction to inclusivity in HE and the need for empirical enquiry, a narrative of the first meeting between a graduate student researching inclusivity and undergraduate students from a minority[1]  group provides a micro level enquiry into lived experiences. In this way, two strands, theoretical and narrative weave together to illustrate how the value of lived experience, conversations, creating a sense of belonging and understanding for all learners can bring a richness and depth to the research journey. We believe that inclusive education begins and ends with personal experience and that the lives of our learners should be paramount in the design of our teaching practice. The interaction between supervisor (Susan), researcher (Sandra), and learners Beatrice and Gabriella is interwoven to illustrate the research journey. We are aware that Sandra’s initial steps as a researcher must be to engage in critical reflexivity to gain a deep understanding of her own positionality, and a comprehensive understanding about the experiences of minority students. Tillman (2002) highlighted that while one does not need to belong to a group in order to research it, it is important that “the researcher has the cultural knowledge to accurately interpret and validate the experiences” of others in a study.


[1] We define minority as a culturally distinct group of people whose practices, race, religion, ethnicity, or other characteristics are fewer in numbers than the main groups of those classifications. In sociological terms, minority group refers to a category of people who experience relative disadvantage as compared to members of a dominant social group.

Author Biography

Sandra Nolan, Institute of Technology, Carlow

Graduate Researcher, eduCORE, Insitute of Technology, Carlow






Rapid Responses