Table of Contents Author Guidelines Submit a Manuscript
Education Research International
Volume 2014, Article ID 325430, 10 pages
Research Article

Against the Standards: Analyzing Expectations and Discourse of Educators regarding Students with Disabilities in a Kindergarten Classroom

Hussman Institute for Autism, 5521 Research Park Drive, Catonsville, MD 21228, USA

Received 27 August 2014; Revised 23 October 2014; Accepted 9 November 2014; Published 7 December 2014

Academic Editor: Jo Lunn Brownlee

Copyright © 2014 Fernanda T. Orsati. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


This two-year ethnographic case study critically examines the language educators use to describe students with disabilities who are considered to present challenging behaviors in one classroom. Focusing on the language and practices used by one special education teacher and three teaching assistants, this paper explores how educators respond to students’ behaviors by analyzing educators’ utterances and the implication of such use for the education of the students. Using critical discourse analysis, this paper highlights how educators’ language in the classroom reflects a discourse of expectations that is based on various social standards and pressures that educators have to juggle. Educators expressed academic and behavioral standards by comparing students’ performance to the expected norm as well as through comparisons between students. Based on such comparisons, some students were constructed as always lacking and ultimately defined by the adjectives originally used to describe them. Students were perceived to embody defiance or smartness, the characteristics by which they were defined.