07 SES 10 C, Learning Spaces for Inclusion and Social Justice: Success Stories from Immigrant Students and School Communities in four Nordic Countries
The symposium introduces some main findings related to school practices from a three year project (2013-2015) Learning spaces for inclusion and social justice: Success stories from immigrant students and school communities in four Nordic countries (Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden). The main aim of the project is to draw lessons from success stories of individual immigrant student and whole school communities at different levels that have succeeded in developing learning contexts that are equitable and socially just, contrary to expectations based on research findings. Learning spaces refer to school communities as well as other learning environments and practices than schools which may be important or instrumental for the young immigrants´ participation and success. In the project, students´ success is defined as social as well as academic.
The justification for this project and its relevance to the call can be found in the mismatch between shared fundamental values in the Nordic countries, such as democracy, social justice and inclusion which are frequently stated in educational policy documents and the reality in many schools in these countries. In the Nordic countries, recent research has indicated that equality in education is questioned and separation and marginalization of immigrant students is manifested. A broad view of education as multicultural and inclusive has neither been officially established nor realised in these countries although schools are responsible for providing high quality education for all their students according to law in the Nordic countries (Holm & Londen, 2010; Horst & Gitz-Johansen, 2010; Jónsdóttir & Ragnarsdóttir, 2010; Von Brömssen & Rodell Olgaç, 2010). However, research in these countries has also shown that there are some examples of the opposite, i.e. individual students and particular schools have succeeded in spite of what could be expected (Ragnarsdóttir, 2011). By exploring such success stories in all four countries and based on the findings and comparison between these countries, new guidelines for teaching and school reform can be developed. The field of critical multiculturalism has focused on many challenges in modern societies, such as questions of cultural rights of minority groups, and that education has developed in relation to the defined needs of a particular majority or majorities (May & Sleeter, 2010; Nieto, 2010; Parekh, 2006) and is therefore an important general theoretical focus in the project.
The project integrates four subthemes and main research areas: A. Students: Experiences and aspirations of immigrant students. B. Teachers professional development, pedagogy and teaching practices: Teachers as agents and facilitators of inclusion. C. Leadership, collaboration and school cultures: Promotion of democratic participation and collaboration of students, teachers, parents. D. Policies and curricula: Main criteria relating to equity, inclusion and social justice in educational policy and national curriculum guidelines and school policy and curricula.
Case studies were conducted in six schools (2 preschools, 2 primary and 2 secondary schools) in urban and rural contexts in each of the Nordic countries, except Iceland where data collection was conducted in 3 schools on each level, a total of 27 schools in the four countries. Sampling was purposive in that all schools have succeeded in implementing social justice and creating inclusive learning spaces for all students. For selecting the schools, indicators such as average grades and test scores and drop out rates were used, as well as evaluation and judgement of school authorities. Focus groups, semi-structured interviews, participant observation and a questionnaire (online survey) were used for data collection in the schools.
Holm, G. & Londen, M. (2010). The discourse on multicultural education in Finland: education for whom? Intercultural Education, 21(2), 107-120. Horst, C. & Gitz-Johansen, T. (2010). Education of ethnic minority children in Denmark: monocultural hegemony and counter positions. Intercultural Education, 21(2), 137-151. Jónsdóttir, E. S. & Ragnarsdóttir, H. (2010). Multicultural education: vision or reality? Intercultural Education, 21(2), 153-167. May, S. & Sleeter, C. E. (2010). Introduction. In S. May & C. E. Sleeter (Eds.), Critical multiculturalism: Theory and praxis (pp. 1-16). New York: Routledge. Nieto, S. (2010). The light in their eyes. Creating multicultural learning communities. New York: Teachers College Press. Parekh, B. (2006). Rethinking multiculturalism. Cultural diversity and political theory (2nd ed.). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Ragnarsdóttir, H. (2011). Líf og störf ungra innflytjenda: Reynsla ungmenna af tíu ára búsetu á Íslandi. Uppeldi og menntun, 20 (2), 53–70. Von Brömssen, K. & Rodell Olgaç, C. (2010). Intercultural education in Sweden through the lenses of the national minorities and of religious education. Intercultural Education, 21(2), 121-135.
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