Ana Luisa Rubio-Jimenez

I am an Educational Psychologist who graduated from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). I am currently a PhD candidate in Education at the University of Cambridge. Throughout my career I have participated in research projects on educational dialogue and inclusion. In my PhD project I explore how the self-determination of Mexican young adults with intellectual disability can be enhanced through a dialogic pedagogy. I have shared my findings in international conferences and journal papers. I have worked with teachers and students with special educational needs and disabilities in Mexico and England. I have also collaborated with ‘Cambridge Student Community Action’ and ‘The Brilliant Club’ in the UK and ‘Capys-Contruyendo Puentes’ in Mexico.

As an undergraduate student of Psychology at UNAM, I collaborated on two projects that were highly significant for my professional career. In one of them I learned about the importance of educational dialogue, in the other about the educational and social inclusion of people with intellectual disability. Both experiences led me to develop a curiosity for how to promote more inclusive practices by enhancing the quality of interactions between students and other agents (e.g. peers, teachers). For my PhD research project, I went back to this interest specifically in relation to the promotion of the students’ self-determination.

Enhancing the self-determination of young people with intellectual disability (ID) has been related to their achievement of education-related goals, post-school employment, and quality of life outcomes. Programmes have been developed with the aim of promoting self-determination, many of which take the form of individual skill-based programmes in which educators work with students to set goals and make plans to achieve them. However, in practice, these programmes fail when they result in students responding automatically to questions or agreeing passively to plans made for their future. In my PhD research project, I drew on the potential of dialogic pedagogies (Alexander; 2008; Freire, 1970; Skidmore and Murakami, 2017) to promote the students’ reflection about their decision-making process.

For nine months, I used participant observation to research a Mexican educational programme: ‘Construyendo Puentes’ (or ‘Building Bridges’ in English) (see Saad, Zacarías and Buenfil, 2017; Building Bridges opens-up access to university contexts to young adults with ID. Nevertheless, instead of pursuing an academic degree, Building Bridges prepare their students for independent adult life.

In addition to the observations, I also carried out an educational intervention based on dialogue to promote the students’ reflection on their decision-making process. In these discussion groups the students shared their experiences related to their decision-making process in different areas of their lives such as job placements, money management, and romantic relationships. Moreover, with a fine-grained analysis of our discussions, I found strategies to promote the students’ active participation in the discussions that concern them. Some of these findings are available in:

Rubio-Jimenez, A. and Kershner, R. (2020). Promoting the Self-Determination of Mexican Young Adults Identified with Intellectual Disability: A Sociocultural Discourse Analysis of Their Discussion about Goal Setting. Social Sciences, 9, 200. Doi: 10.3390/socsci9110200
Open access:

Rubio-Jimenez, A. and Kershner, R. (in preparation). Feeling “comfortable and happy”: the views of Mexican students with intellectual disability on their transitions to an independent-living flat.

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