11 SES 10 B, Improving Schools by Using School Knowledge
The contribution is devoted to the importance of social relationships for students at school in Secondary I. The focus from a student perspective is on within-school-components which serve as a resource for their learning in class. Perceptions of students at New Middle Schools in Lower Austria (NMS) were observed over the course of four years (5th to 8th grade).
Between 10 and 14 years, the student-parents-school constellations begin to change, and social relationships are expanded in the out-of-school context during adolescence. (Böhnisch, 1997). Social relationships, described by Bourdieu (1983) as part of the social capital of human beings, open up opportunities to mobilize resources and use them for school-based learning. If existing friendships are stable, they may serve as an important resource and can have a stabilizing effect (Müller, 2014). Looser (2011) points out that students describe relationships with their parents differently and that recognition as well as social embeddedness are important for students’ willingness to perform. Suárez-Orozco, Pimentel & Martin (2009) emphasize the special importance of significant others for students with migration background, since they perceive major changes in social relations. Significant others seem to play a special role in their coping with the changed (learning) situation. Since the 1990s focus in research is on the importance of social relations and the development of social and learning-related aspects for formal and informal learning.
In addition to the importance of social relationships e.g. family, peers, and significant others in the extended out-of-school network, classmates and teachers provide a resource for common learning at school. Classmates offer orientation for students’ own learning, can act as supporters in class and influence learning motivation positively. School-related student perceptions are also shaped by the student-teacher relationship. Suárez-Orozco et al. (2009) indicate that the perception of relationships with classmates as well as of those with teachers have long-term importance for positive change in learning motivation, school performance, school attendance, social recognition and the effort of students. The teacher-student interaction, as well as group processes experienced in class are further aspects which play a role for the success of learners, but also for the development of learning motivation. In class, classmates provide orientation for students’ own learning, their learning success or self-assessment. The significance of this is noted in several studies, and is also relevant across age groups (Fredricks, Blumenfeld & Paris, 2004, Furrer & Skinner, 2003, Neuenschwander & Hascher, 2003, Ulich & Jerusalem, 1996). However, social relations with teachers and classmates do not have the same importance for all students. Some are more oriented towards their classmates, while others are directed towards teachers (Raufelder, 2014).
Since 2015/16, all lower secondary schools in Austria have been transformed into NMS. Within the school reform of NMS a series of pedagogical innovations aimed at stimulating a change in students learning in school, to develop a learning and communication culture in class and to broaden the educational base of students (LSR, 2009, 2011). Throughout compulsory school, a relation between students’ willingness to learn and the experience of social embeddedness as well as the feeling of being accepted in a class was traced. Furthermore, the perception of learning successfully in class and the perception of social relations with classmates seem to change school expectations in the long term (Hössl & Vossler, 2006).
This relates to the research question of how students in Austrian NMS perceive social relations with their classmates and teachers, how these perceptions change over four years and if the development of social relations can be seen as a resource for the development of within-school aspects in the perception of students during Secondary I.
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