07 SES 10 C, Learning Spaces for Inclusion and Social Justice: Success Stories from Immigrant Students and School Communities in four Nordic Countries
In this paper we explore interconnections between personal strengths of upper-secondary school students, conducive learning spaces and effective school practices in Iceland. We present findings from a Nordic research project entitled Learning Spaces for Inclusion and Social Justice: Success Stories from Immigrant Students and School Communities in Four Nordic Countries (2013-2015). The main objective of the project is to draw lessons from success stories of individual immigrant students and whole school communities as well as other learning environments and practices that take place in equitable and socially just learning contexts. In this study students’ success is explored from both social and academic dimensions. The theoretical framework is based on critical theory and culturally responsive pedagogy which includes teacher-student dialogue; valuing students’ academic, language, social and cultural background; teachers’ high expectations of students and inclusive pedagogical practices (Cummins, 1996; Freire, 2000; Gay, 2001; Nieto, 2002). The data are derived from interviews with nine teachers and twenty-nine students with immigrant backgrounds from three upper-secondary schools in Iceland. The interview data will be compared and contextualized with findings from an online survey on school policies and multicultural practices which was carried out in the participating schools in the Nordic countries. The overall findings of the study indicate that successful students are active participants in diverse learning spaces. The students draw on a variety of resources, including personal strengths such as resilience and resourcefulness, family support, social connections, cultural identity, emerging language skills and school support. Since it seems that the agency of students is a common denominator, we conclude that it is a presupposition of success, which can be enhanced even more by culturally responsive practice of their teachers, positive multicultural policies in the schools and suitable learning spaces. Interplay of these four factors seems to bring out the best possible results.
Cummins, J. (1996). Negotiating Identities: Education for Empowerment in a Diverse Society. Ontario, CA: California Association for Bilingual Education. Freire, P. (2000). Pedagogy of Freedom: Ethics, Democracy, and Civic Courage. Lanham: Rowman&Littlefield. Gay, G. (2001). Culturally responsive teaching: theory, research, and practice. New York: Teachers Collere Press. Nieto, S. (2002). Language, Culture, and Teaching. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
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