ERG SES E 11, Social Justice and Education
Considering the cultural aspect a variable acting in the social, political and educational issues (Pertceille, 2013), intercultural education is increasingly recognized not as a set of guidance to assimilate culturally different people but as an education addressed to all, in order to allow everybody to understand and respect differences, in a dynamic process that expects reciprocity.
One of the main point is that culturally diverse schools have become a reality in Europe (OECD, 2010; 2015). This aspect demands formal education to enhance its sensitivity and competence on cultural diversity in order to promote inclusion and well-being and widespread school effectiveness and achievement (Alleman-Ghionda, 2009): therefore, teachers play a crucial role. According to OECD (2010), there is a lack of research on how teachers deal with diversity and what their needs in terms of training in this field are. Moreover, studies on teachers’ beliefs about cultural diversity show ‘significant gaps in the body of knowledge’ (Gay, 2015) and according to Biesta, Priestley & Robinson (2015), teachers’ beliefs highly influence their agency.
Starting from a problematic frame that highlights how important and necessary it is to work with teachers, this qualitative ongoing study is focused on determining what the teachers’ beliefs on diversity are, and how their beliefs about diversity influence their planning and their practices. The tools of the research instruments work towards three crucial perspectives: the teachers’ semi-structured interviews, the participant observations, and the focus group. We conducted semi-structured interviews with 45 in-service primary teachers in order to examine their “direct explicit” beliefs. All teachers are in-service, female, 36 and 62 years old: 9 of them work in different schools in the same city, and 3 in a village close it. As Gay states, ‘almost all research studies and conceptual or theoretical essays involve prospective teachers’ (2015): indeed, it was quite arduous to involve them in such a long research program: we have planned 10 hours of participant observation after every interview, and, at the end of this period, we will proceed with the focus group. The teachers involved were afraid we might load them with extra tasks to add to their normal work, such as specific school projects, extra relations, or extra hours. In this circumstance, we found extremely useful to organize a meeting with the teachers in order to explain how the research would be improved and to answer to their questions and doubts. Moreover, it is necessary to admit that this kind of research enhances teachers’ reflection and thinking about their work and, in detail, about the way they deal with diversity – in order to understand it-, and their awareness, knowledge and beliefs.
AbdallahPretceille M. (2013). L'education interculturelle. Paris: Presses Universitaires De France – Puf. Alleman Ghionda, C. (2009). “From Intercultural Education to the Inclusion of Diversity: Theories and Policies in Europe.” In The Routledge International Companion to Multicultural Education, edited by J.A. Banks. London: Routledge. Biesta G., Priestley M., Robinson S. (2015). The role of beliefs in teacher agency (pp. 624-640). In Teachers and Teaching: theory and practice, Volume 21, Issue 6, 2015. Special Issue: Teachers’ Professional Agency in Contradictory Times. Taylor & Francis. Gay G. (2015), Teachers’ Beliefs about Cultural Diversity. Problems and Possibilities. In Fives H., Gill M. G., International Handbook of Research on Teachers’ Beliefs. New York: Routledge. Marques da Silva S. (2004), Doubts and Intrigues in Ethnographic Research (pp. 556-582). In European Educational Research Journal 3(3), September 2004. SagePub OECD (2010). Closing the Gap for Immigrant Students: Policies, Practice and Performance. Paris: OECD. OECD (2015). Helping immigrant students to succeed at school – and beyond. Paris: OECD
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