04 SES 04 D, Small Worlds: Exploring peer relationships in the inclusive classroom
The presentation focuses on the first findings of our research project titled 'The school is not an island'. The project aims to explore the ways in which schools and the communities they serve interact and mutually form each other in multi-ethnic rural micro-regions in Hungary. The research design’s key theoretical proposition is the adaptation and testing of the concept of institutional and community resilience to the Hungarian context with the aim of developing a deeper understanding of the factors that contribute to the resilience of “trend-bucking” communities and multi-ethnic schools. (Hall and Lamont 2013)
We define resilient communities by their positive capacity to mobilise resources in the context of
neoliberal reforms and severe cuts of state subsidies as well as by their resistance to radical political movements which employ an anti-cohesive rhetoric. We interrogate school narratives and practices related to effective teaching and inclusive learning spaces in the Hungarian education policy context of the retrenchment of the welfare state. Thus, we aim to identify the organisational characteristics of schools that are capable to contribute to community resilience.
The research explores resilience from the following three aspects and inquires their interrelations.
1) Pedagogic: What makes effective teaching?
What makes elementary schools effective in conveying knowledge, developing competencies,
providing differentiated support in ethnically diverse classrooms, forging inclusive peer communities and enhancing social mobility?
2) Organizational: What makes resilient schools?
How do schools cope with uncertainty in the public sector, most importantly in the context of
radical institutional reorganizations, the retrenchment of institutional autonomy and incalculable
3) Community: What makes resilient communities?
How do settlements navigate in the context of the retrenchment of the welfare states and what are the resources mobilized in successful coping strategies? How do schools contribute to community resilience in multi-ethnic localities in the context of the restructuring of local labour markets, increasing social inequalities and political radicalization?
We are especially interested in how these questions play out in ethnically mixed Roma-
Hungarian localities. Therefore the inquiry places special emphasis on how majority-minority
ethnic relations factor into the effectiveness of schools, on how schools navigate within the local
struggles for symbolic resources, and what the successful school strategies are to mitigate ethnic
conflicts and enhance social mobility.
This presentation attends the first results from our school case studies. Alongside individual and focus group interviews as well as classroom observations, we conduct sociometric tests with the students attending 8th year classes to assess patterns of inter-ethnic relations. With this experimental use of sociometry, we hope to compare the social hierarchies within the communities and within the classrooms and thus analyse the effect of schools in transforming social relations.
This presentation will focus on our first findings arising from the sociometric survey.
The mixed-methods research design relies on quantitative (the analysis of standardized national educational assessments) and qualitative (ethnographic observations, individual and group interviews) sources. Based on their outstanding added value performance in the National Assessment of Basic Competences, we selected four 'resilient' elementary schools with a mixed Roma and non-Roma intake and four control schools in the same educational district with similar social intake but not outstanding results. We conduct school case studies and community studies in the selected eight localities. Sociometric tests were developed by Jacob Moreno (1951) in the first part of the twentieth century. Ferenc Mérei, a Hungarian psychologist further elaborated the method and excessively used it in organisational contexts, furthermore, he implemented the method in education research.
It is a longstanding challenge for sociologists to assess internal classroom relations and inclusive classroom climates. Our methodological innovation aims to address this challenge. Our analysis of the sociometric tests has a double focus. On the one hand, we aim to assess inter-ethnic relations and use the test to assess the climate of ethnically and socially mixed classrooms. As the community case studies provide us with information about the structure of local social hierarchies, we will also attempt to compare the school's achievement hierarchy, the classrooms' peer hierarchy and local social hierarchies. We expect that in inclusive classrooms, we find more positive ties generally, and there is a higher percentage of inter-ethnic and socially heterogeneous positive choices as well.
Hall, P. A. – Lamont, M. (eds.) (2013) Social Resilience In The Neoliberal Era, Cambridge : Cambridge University Press. 1-31. Mérei, F. (1971) Közösségek rejtett hálózata. [The Hidden Networks of Communities] Budapest: Közgazdasági és Jogi kiadó. Moreno, Jacob Levy (1951). Sociometry, Experimental Method and the Science of Society: An Approach to a New Political Orientation. Beacon House. OECD 2010a. PISA 2009 Results: Overcoming Social Background – Equity in Learning Opportunities and Outcomes (Volume II) OECD 2010b. PISA 2009 Results: What Makes a School Successful? – Resources, Policies and Practices (Volume IV) Reid, R. – Botterrill, L., C. (2013): The Multiple Meanings of ’Resilience’: An Overview of the Literature. Australian Journal of Public Administration. 72 (1): 31.40. Szalai, J. – Carson, M. – Kusa, Y. – Magyari-Vince E. – Zentai V. (2009): Comparative Report on Educational Policies for Inclusion. EDUMIGROM Comparative Papers, Budapest: Central European University, Center for Policy Studies. Szalai, J. – Schiff, C. (eds.) (2014): Migrant, Roma and Post-Colonial Youth in Education across Europe. Being ‘Visibly Different’. Palgrave Macmillan, 284 p.
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