04 SES 08 A, Re-Examining Support in the Light of Inclusive Education
Inclusive education has become an important challenge in our education systems. In addition, when we try to build schools truly inclusive we must achieve, at least, three goals: all students must attend, participate and progress to achieve their goals, in many cases to move away from the danger of social exclusion. Achieving this is not an easy task because it requires a true transformation of the educational system and an important change in many inertias that have traditionally marked the operation of the schools, especially those related to the search for homogeneity (Carrington & Robinson, 2006).
This communication collects the results of the first part of an investigation carried out by a mixed team formed by teachers and management teams (12 teachers of 7 Catalan schools) together with 5 teaching staff and PhD candidates from the Universities of Barcelona and Lleida. The common interest of the team members is to deepen the educational support in schools with a markedly inclusive character that bet on the participation of the community. The first part of this research ended in 2016 and focused on educational support, a key element of the inclusive school, taking into account the social inequalities that characterize the students and that the school has an obligation to reduce them (Hodge & Runswick-Cole, 2008; Rodríguez, Ríos, & Racionero, 2012).
The inclusive school does not exclude any student from the town that wants to access it. This increases the diversity of the students and also implies that you have to seriously consider what is the focus that gives educational support, which is essential if we want to have equal results or achievements at the end of schooling (Kraft et al., 2015; VanDerHeyden, Snyder, Broussard, & Ramsdell, 2007). From our point of view, it implies that educational support must no longer be seen as an "addition" to the dynamics of the center, and instead become a fundamental part of its operation.
What does it mean that support must become a crucial part of the operation of the centre? From our perspective, basically 3 things:
- Most educational support actions are designed for all students, which also adopt a preventative nature.
- The support resources (personal and material) are those that "approach to the student" and not vice versa. Priority is given to support within the ordinary classroom, keeping the student from leaving their class group to receive support.
- Support is not understood as the specific task of a professional. In the inclusive school there are many support agents, starting with the students themselves as well as involving the rest of the community, families in particular (Puigdellívol, Molina, Sabando, Gómez-Zepeda, & Petreñas, 2017). Support is not understood as a bi-directional activity but rather as a network activity, which includes the aforementioned agents as well as community services.
Fortunately there is a lot of research that highlights the potential benefits of the partnership between families and school (Allan & Catts, 2014; Giovacco-Johnson, 2009; Mortier, Hunt, Leroy, Van de Putte, & Van Hove, 2010). One, especially significant for our study, was carried out in 2004 by Porter, showing how community education had a dual effect of strengthening schools based on the actions of the community. Porter also outlined the strengthening of the community thanks to the involvement of schools, families, students and community members (Porter, 2004). With this foundation, what we wanted was to give voice to the different agents involved, specifically in educational support. We also wanted to know their effects on the learning of students and the social cohesion that the centre and the community involved were experiencing.
Methodology One of the objectives of this research was to explore the intensive and extensive effects of educational support in a community perspective. We understand by intensive benefits those that lead to an acceleration of learning and the motivation to reach them among students (Slavin, Lake, Davis, & Madden, 2011). And for extensive benefits we understand the effects of support, beyond school, in the student environment, especially the family member (Kyle, 2011). This aim required the use of a qualitative methodology. Three centres were selected, from among those who participated in the group, The three schools had been working as learning communities for more than 4 years, presented cultural diversity, -schooling immigrant pupils or the Roma community, as well as students with disabilities-. We also considered that the three schools had achieved significant improvements in the language and maths standardized tests taken by the last primary year (6th) during the previous two school years. The instruments that were used in the field work were  In-depth interviews with the directors of the centres and the support staff (2 interviews);  Focus Groups (FG) with the general teaching staff of the centres (3 FG, with families including families of some students with disabilities (3 FG), and with students in the second and third cycle of primary school -between 8 and 12 YO- (3 FG). This was completed with the study (monitoring) of 5 cases of students with disabilities with the support of the teaching staff and their tutor. The material obtained was transcribed and categorized into 8 major categories that contained between 2 and 13 subcategories. Major categories were: Support agents; Assessment of agents participation; Organisation of students, teachers and other agents; Organization of support teachers; Interaction of support teachers with other agents; Initial and ongoing training; Suggestions for improvement; and Information of cases. All this was analysed with the Atlas-ti program. Care was taken that the research was not merely descriptive, promoting equal dialogue between researchers and the different stakeholders, including students, so that it was a stimulus and improvement for all participants, plus the schools were also part of the research team. Throughout the investigation, all the information was provided to the participants to obtain their permission (in the case of students, that of their families), stating the use that would be made of the data obtained and guaranteeing the anonymity of the informants.
There were few doubts about the presence of intensive and extensive benefits, due to the presence of volunteering in the classroom. A student, in a focus group, gives one of the keys to this: “In our class a girl's grandmother come to help us, and she helps us a lot because she has a way to explain things while the teacher has another. And if we do not understand our teacher, we can better understand her.” One of the keys is the academic and non-academic language, with everything that it implies. The presence of diverse volunteering is a stimulus for learning because, in addition to allow small groups, students understand the importance of school for their social surroundings. This support enriches the student's environment (extensive benefit), as volunteers emphasize repeatedly: “For many of us, who do not dedicate to teaching, entering the classroom gives us an opportunity. Our memories of when we were studying have nothing to do with how the classroom is organized now. As a mother, this is very interesting on both sides: for the benefits I can bring to the children and for those I receive from them.” Voluntary mother in a Focus Group A teacher, in a parallel FG, details the following: “This way both the relatives, as well as the members of open centres, support each other at the nearest bar where we all go. We are all involved, for example, in the second year there is a project with which they go to the nursery school, where many children come from,. They also go to the old people’s home where there are grandparents of school students. I do not know… everyone is involved.” In short, community-based educational support entails benefits that go beyond learning, that's why it is a powerful combination for achievements.
References Allan, J., & Catts, R. (2014). Schools, social capital and space. Cambridge Journal of Education, 44(2), 217-228. doi:10.1080/0305764X.2013.863829 Carrington, S., & Robinson, R. (2006). Inclusive school community: why is it so complex? International Journal of Inclusive Education, 10(4&5), 323–334. Giovacco-Johnson, T. (2009). Portraits of Partnership: The Hopes and Dreams Project. Early Childhood Educ Journal, 37, 127-135. doi:10.1007/s10643-009-0332-1 Hodge, N., & Runswick-Cole, K. (2008). Problematising parent–professional partnerships in education. Disability and Society, 23(6), 637-647. doi:10.1080/09687590802328543 Kraft, M. A., Papay, J. P., Moore-Johnson, S., Crarner-Laird, M., Ng, M., & Reinhorn, S. (2015). Educating Amid Uncertainty: The Organizational Supports Teachers Need to Serve Students in High-Poverty, Urban Schools. Educational Administration Quarterly, 51(5), 753–790. Kyle, D. W. (2011). Families’ Goals, School Involvement, and Childrens’ Academic Achievement: A Follow-up Study Thirteen Years Later. The School Community Journal, 21(2), 9-24. Mortier, K., Hunt, P., Leroy, M., Van de Putte, I., & Van Hove, G. (2010). Communities of practice in inclusive education. Educational Studies, 36(3), 345-355. doi:10.1080/03055690903424816 Porter, C. F. (2004). The impact of community education on school community relations. Journal of School Public Relations, 25(3), 247-254. Puigdellívol, I., Molina, S., Sabando, D., Gómez-Zepeda, G., & Petreñas, C. (2017). When community becomes an agent of educational support: communicative research on Learning Communities in Catalonia. Disability & Society, 32(7), 1065-1084. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09687599.2017.1331835 Rodríguez, H., Ríos, O., & Racionero, S. (2012). Reconfiguración de la educación compensatoria en base a las evidencias científicas. Actuaciones inclusivas para la igualdad de resultados. Revista de Educación, 2012, Nª Extraordinario, 46-66. Slavin, R. E., Lake, C., Davis, S., & Madden, N. A. (2011). Effective programs for struggling readers: A best-evidence synthesis. Educational Research Review, 6, 1–26. doi:10.1016/j.edurev.2010.07.002 VanDerHeyden, A. M., Snyder, P. A., Broussard, C., & Ramsdell, K. (2007). Measuring Response to Early Literacy Intervention With Preschoolers at Risk. Topics in Early Chilhood Special Education, 27(4), 232-249. doi:10.1177/0271121407311240
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