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Take three postgraduate researchers with a shared interest in developing inclusive approaches to disability and education, a carrier bag of magazines donated by the Women’s Institute, scissors borrowed from a school, a pile of gluesticks, a lavish amount of hand cream and some recently acquired BERA publications and we have the beginnings of a BERA 2023 Annual conference workshop.

We have each attempted to develop inclusive approaches within our own education research and presentations – Julia is utilising worn go-pro cameras to explore touch with her pupils who have Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities; Neetha interviewed disabled teachers, creating affective ‘found poems’ (Butler-Kisber, 2002) bringing teachers’ experiences to the fore; and Sharon engaged in conversation with parents of disabled children, before generating collage and poetic transcription (Glesne, 1997) for analysis and dissemination. We have presented together previously at University of Birmingham conferences, our home institution, and were delighted when our workshop abstract was accepted for BERA 2023.

Our aim for the session was to collaborate with other researchers, exploring questions that we continue to ponder on in our own work, namely:

  • What role might our prior/current experience outside of academia bring to our research and is that important?
  • What does the use of creative research approaches enable/bring to inquiry?
  • What does being inclusive in research mean to us?
  • How might we embrace uncertainty and open-endedness in our inquiry?

Following an unscripted conversation with each other, based on an interactive Microsoft Sway presentation (including videos, Spotify playlists, photographs and links to articles) we engaged in a collaborative workshop to think and craft together, exploring what it means to be inclusive when undertaking education research. We posed these four questions for participants to think with and through offering ‘creative encounters’ (Bernardi, 2023, p. 46), as they engaged in playdough, scrunching, ripping, sticking, collaging, found poetry and more.

To ensure we lived by our own inclusive values, we started the session with ideas on how we might engage in the session together:

Our aim was to use this workshop to develop a manifesto for inclusive approaches to education research. We have collated some of the key messages, as an early draft manifesto emerged:

  1. We will start with our existing experiences and reflect on how they might inform more inclusive research approaches.
  2. We aim to continually learn from and with each other – making time and space to be with people who have lived experience and/or who are developing inclusive approaches to education research.
  3. We will be authentic in our engagement with others.
  4. We recognise the importance of recognising and expressing emotions in and through our work and will seek creative ways to do so.
  5. We will listen to and learn from those who have existing relationships with people we want to engage with in our research, to understand how they suggest we can be inclusive in our work.
  6. We believe that everybody’s voice deserves to be heard – especially those who communicate through alternative means. We recognise that ‘voice’ might not always be expressed verbally, but can be understood in other ways eg through the body.
  7. We seek to imagine research differently – moving away from what has always been done to imagine new ways of engagement that might produce new knowledges.
  8. We want to be flexible and brave enough to adapt our research to authentically represent participant experiences and perspectives, even if this makes it harder for us as researchers.
  9. We do not always need to communicate our analysis or findings using the written form, but can use images, music, texture and movement to engage with others.
  10. We will ‘think with things as well as words’ (Prior, 2003, p. 70).

Creative content forming part of the manifesto – thanks to Sarah Gillie, Kerissa Nelson, Charlotte Marshall, Tanya O’Reilly, Sally Sharp, Prue Adams and Philippa Isom for their contributions to the manifesto in the BERA workshop.

We want to carry on this discussion, to hear from you what else should be included in this manifesto. The session padlet is still open and we would be delighted to gather your contributions.


Bernadi, F. (2023). Embodiment, creativity, and matter as posthuman agents in research with disabled children. Cultural and Pedagogical Inquiry, 14(2), 42–60. 

Butler-Kisber, L. (2002). Artful portrayals in qualitative inquiry: The road to found poetry and beyond. The Alberta Journal of Educational Research, XLVIII(3), 229–239. 

Glesne, C. (1997). That rare feeling: Re-presenting research through poetic transcription. Qualitative Inquiry, 3, 202–222. 

Prior, L. (2003). Using documents in social research. Sage Publications.