32 SES 12 A, Counseling and Guidance Services as Change Agents in Organizations
As well as being a place for learning and teaching, school is a social organization which, as such, performs the symbolic and material mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion on the basis of implicit and explicit norms. These norms are incorporated into administrative procedures, in teaching practices, in the evaluation standards, in the discourses and in the different kinds of relations among the subjects that inhabit the school (Paliokosta and Blandford, 2010). Therefore, school can be thought as an agent of innovation and social change, as well as an institution that can reproduce social inclusion or exclusion, sometimes fueling discrimination and marginalization.
The mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion become most evident in relation to the differences (gender, ethnic, religious, cultural, cognitive, corporeal, social, economic) that populate the school itself. Today these differences are mainly labeled as “special educational needs” and “learning disabilities” (WHO, 2000). The great diffusion of the matter of inclusion in contemporary society forces social organizations, including schools, to deal with the issue of diversity measuring themselves with problems that are difficult to manage. Furthermore, the social imperative of inclusion challenges schools to question and redefine pedagogical, anthropological, cultural and organizational models that in daily routines are implicit and consolidated: such models often reveal themselves inadequate to cope with the complex social emergencies that generate new educational needs (Booth and Ainscow, 2002).
This situation produces a widespread unease in the school world. Teachers increasingly struggle to understand students’ behaviors and needs and to find educational strategies that allow them to build inclusive, accessible, exciting and meaningful learning settings for each student. This induces professional disorientation and ineffectiveness, and often produces requests for help addressed to subjects outside the school, who are considered able of indicating sustainable solutions through consultancy activities. These solutions, however, are truly sustainable only when they are not “top-down” solutions, nor are they developed by an “expert” who imposes or proposes to the school logics and knowledges external to the context and to the teachers’ practices. Therefore, it is needed to refer to pedagogical consultant who plays a facilitator role: a consultant able to create a setting in which teachers can question the educational daily practices, and rethink and act in a creative and not stereotypical way (Palma, 2017).
On these bases, our hypothesis is that pedagogical consultancy should be conceived as a teacher training activity. This means that the consultant must build a learning setting that allows teachers to explore their daily practices and learn from their own experience, facilitating the knowledge of the different (subjective, social, relational, organizational, cultural and material) elements that produce habits, attitudes, discourses and educational actions. In this context, consulting is not just a training process, but also a research practice (Palmieri, 2017). The consultant’s task doesn’t deal with imparting notions, nor offering teachers “recipes”, but with creating the conditions so that teachers can assume a research attitude, and develop reflection on the educational experience. Since the educational experience is complex, as it is made up of subjective and inter-subjective processes of signification, and of organizational and material dimensions, it is necessary that the professional and epistemological background of the consultant consists of theoretical approaches belonging to different traditions of thought (Fook, 2002).
The intrinsic complexity of educational practices and the multiple elements that these practices involve, suggest that pedagogical counselors should not consider only some of these elements at the expense of others. In other words, the consultant should be able to involve teachers in analysing and possibly redesigning the educational experience, through a research-training setting that allows practitioners to reflect not only on the explicit dimensions and the implicit assumptions that connote their way of teaching, but also on the material and socio-cultural aspects that characterize scholastic organizations, as well as on the relational, cognitive and affective dynamics embodied in teaching-learning contexts. Therefore, we suggest to set up the pedagogical consultancy in schools referring to knowledges, tools, concepts and methods that come from different theoretical fields in an integrated way, adopting an inclusive approach (Fook, 2002). In particular, from our point of view, it is useful to refer to both the reflective and the socio-material perspectives (Sartori, 2012). During pedagogical consultancy, on the one hand, reflexive approaches can allow to unearth and modify the teachers’ implicit assumptions, redefining their subjective relationship with diversity, questioning and becoming more aware of the organizational culture of the school where they work (Schön, 1983; Kolb, 1984; Mezirow, 1991; Argyris and Schön, 1996; Fenwick, 2000; Fook and Gardner, 2007; Brookfield, 2009). On the other hand, sociomaterial approaches - for example Complexity Theory, Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT), Actor-Network Theory (ANT), Spatiality Theories, New Materialisms - encourage the consultant to question the issue of diversity in relation to scholastic organization and educational practices from a perspective that allows to grasp the contextual, performative and material dimensions more attentively, without separating human beings and things and without focusing exclusively on subjective meanings (Orlikowski, 2009; Sørensen, 2009; Fenwick, Edwards and Sawchuk, 2011; Snaza et al., 2016; Ferrante, 2017). While moving from very distant and in some respects conflicting epistemological and ontological premises, reflexive and sociomaterial approaches share specific attention to the question of practices, and lead to original and productive reflection.
The expected outcomes of an inclusive-approach-based pedagogical consultancy be inferred from some consultancy and training experiences, carried out according to the previous premises. These experiences aimed of helping teachers to understand and modify their didactic practices in classrooms with students with Specific Learning Disabilities (SpLD). For example, in one particular counseling and training setting, school teachers were involved in simulation activities, centered on reading and writing texts, in which some alterations of the socio-material learning context were introduced. Through the simulation, teachers lived an experience similar to that of their students with SpLD. This led teachers to experience feelings of inadequacy, anxiety and loneliness, and to perceive the trainer of counselling activity a lack of support and attention to their difficulties. The training experience activated a process of shared reflection among teachers involved. On the one hand, the role of the socio-material dimension in making dysfunctional learning was analyzed, and strategies were suggested in order to make the teaching experience more accessible to students. On the other hand, the teachers’ experiences were shared and compared with the representations and the experiences usually attributed by the teachers themselves to the students with SpLD, taking into account the teachers’ attitudes and the socio-material elements that structured the learning situation. This process allowed teachers to develop a research attitude about both their own SpLD representations and the students’ experiences. Moreover, it stimulated them to design diversified, non-uniform and non-prescriptive educational activities. Thus, the conditions were created to generate an inclusive school context, aimed at welcoming, understanding and supporting the unique learning methods of each student within the class group.
Argyris C. and Schön D.A. (1996), Organisational Learning II, Theory, Method and Practice, Addison Wesley OD series. Booth T. and Ainscow M. (2002), Index for Inclusion: developing learning and participation in schools, CSIE, Bristol. Brookfield S. (2009), “The Concept of Critical Reflection: Promises and Contradictions”, European Journal of Social Work, 12, 3: 293-304. Fenwick T. (2000), “Expanding Conceptions of Experiential Learning: a Review of the Five Contemporary Perspecitves on Cognition”, Adult Education Quarterly, 50, 4: 243-272. Fenwick T., Edwards R. and Sawchuk P. (2011), Emerging Approaches to Educational Research: Tracing the Socio-material, Routledge, London. Fook J. (2002), “Theorizing from Practice. Towards an Inclusive Approach for Social Work Research”. Qualitative Social Work, 1, (1), pp. 79-95. Fook J. and Gardner F. (2007), Practicing Critical Reflection. A Resource Handbook, Open University Press, Maidenhead. Kolb D.A. (1984), Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development. Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs. McGregor J. (2004), “Spatiality and the Place of the Material in Schools”, Pedagogy, Culture & Society 12, 3: 347-372. Mezirow J. (1991), Transformative Dimensions of Adult Learning, Jossey-Bass, Oxford. Orlikowski W.J. (2009), “The Sociomateriality of Organisational Life: Considering Technology in Management Research”, Cambridge Journal of Economics, 34, 1: 125-141. Paliokosta P. and Blandford S. (2010), “Inclusion in school: a policy, ideology or lived experience? Similar findings in diverse school cultures, Support for Learning”, Support for Learning, 25, 4: 180-186. Palma M., ed. (2017), Consulenza pedagogica e Clinica della formazione, FrancoAngeli, Milano. Palmieri C. (2017), “Consulenza nel disagio educativo: presupposti e caratteristiche di un approccio clinico-pedagogico”, in Palma M., ed. (2017), Consulenza pedagogica e Clinica della formazione, FrancoAngeli, Milano, pp. 190-210. Sartori D. (2012), “Consulenza pedagogica e disagio”, in C. Palmieri, ed., Crisi sociale e disagio educativo. Spunti di ricerca pedagogica, FrancoAngeli, Milano, pp. 215-233. Schön D.A. (1983), The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think In Action, Basic Books, New York. Sørensen E. (2009), The Materiality of Learning. Technology and Knowledge in Educational Practice, Cambridge University Press, New York. Snaza N., Sonu D., Truman S.E. and Zaliwska Z., eds. (2016), Pedagogical Matters: New Materialisms and Curriculum Studies, Peter Lang Publishing, New York. Wearmouth J., Glynn T, Richmond R. and Berryman M. (2004), Inclusion and Behaviour Management in School. Issues and Challenges, David Fulton Publishers, London WHO (2001), ICF: International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health, Geneva, World Health Organization.
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