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Composite Critical Incidents (Jane Fernandes, Warren Francis, Christopher Driscoll)

Situated knowledge circulates in and through the DALN interviews in ways that could also contribute to composites purposefully crafted to inform a group's inquiry. This approach to the DALN is similar to Linda Flower's approach to critical incident interviews described in "Intercultural Knowledge Building." In preparation for a public dialogue on workplace and work life issues, Flower and a team of researchers (including college students) interviewed various stakeholders who had experienced changes in welfare-to-work legislation in various ways, given their unique perspectives, for instance, as human resource managers, union leaders, new hires entering the workforce from welfare, and the new hires' co-workers. To develop catalysts for discussion at deliberative sessions among concerned community members participating in the Think Tank's sequence of events, Flower crafted a set of written scenarios. These scenarios consolidated insights and details from the interviews into a set of dramatizations of what some of the most prominent recurring welfare-to-work issues look like, not in policy institutes' white pages, but down on the ground and in real time—as experienced by those with firsthand knowledge of the policy changes. Circulated in a Briefing Book mailed to Think Tank participants' homes, these scenarios were read by participants prior to and in preparation for their roundtable discussions. As Flower explains, as the basis for written or performed problem narratives, details from critical incident interviews can replace participants' generalities and untested pet theories with observations of specific behaviors, logics, and beliefs. This new knowledge can, in turn, lead to both more realistic understandings of complex problems and to more informed—and, thus, wiser—plans of action.

Richly detailed, strategic, actionable knowledge is likewise made available through the DALN interviews—although, of course, the content is different. For instance, for the course under construction here, references to mothers' roles in their children's literacy learning could be culled from across the interviews and consolidated into a single composite to inform richer and more grounded understandings of access and Discourse. For example,

  • Fernandes explains in her literacy narrative that her mother was deaf. All the same, she wanted her deaf children to have access to the social capital—encoded in Discourse—that the Hearing world afforded her hearing children. Fernandes credits specific strategies of her mother's with her own literacy learning—strategies ranging from taping written words and definitions to their corresponding objects around the house to reading aloud to her deaf children to staging informal advocacy meetings with teachers on playground duty (part 1, 04:12; 5:08-12; 15:22-60).
  • Warren Francis describes his mother's efforts to revise his Individualized Educational Plan (IEP)—revisions that moved him from the special education room to advanced English classes to address that he was gifted as well as hard of hearing (part 1, 16:08; 16:50-17:08; part 2, 00:34-55).
  • Christopher Driscoll recounts his mother's active concern for his well being, for instance, by researching cochlear implants when he was very young and networking through a deaf woman in their small rural community to access "the sign language community [...] and the Deaf community even there in [his] small hometown" (part 1, 5:34-69).

On their own, each of these scenarios may or may not form a critical incident; taken together, they begin to crystallize around the seemingly consistent need of the deaf and hard of hearing, at least as far as these contributors are concerned, for advocates who intentionally provide them access to technology, discourse, or social networks.

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