ERG SES C 06, Studies in Education
In the last few decades in Europe bi- and multilingual school experimentations raised and developed. In the German speaking area several educational programs of this sort were offered and continue to be proposed. There are primary schools where the lessons are taught in German and one another language of the migrant population and this dual model builds the main curriculum. Also in South Tyrol, a multicultural and multilingual region in the north of Italy, schools with multilingual focus at primary level were started and are a new offer among the several multilingual models still present in this territory. Their existence is a richness for the intercultural living in the country but also an open challenge at the same time because they are not private offers for a selected kind of pupils, they are public and for everyone. This could compromise their main goal: guaranteeing an adequate level to every child. A significant reference about multilingual school models as the evaluation of the Staatliche Europaschulen Berlin (SESB) rejects this supposition pointing out both the remarkable language competences even in a third language reached by the pupils and their ability to foster social and cultural integration of students coming from different cultures. (Baumert 2017) In South Tyrol the advantages for children attending these partly immersive programs have been highlighted (Hofer, 2012, Cavagnoli 2016), but they focus more on the cognitive than on the social aspects, pointing out the importance of innovative methods as CLIL, the use of open classes or the effectiveness of bilingual literacy in learning language and teaching (Cavagnoli 2016) or showing how a bilingual model gives instruments for acquiring a third language. They don’t focus on students’ perception of their belonging to a wide community or of their wellbeing at school. Students’ perception studies, which can be set in the field of investigations about student-centred learning (Jones, 2007), can support the pupils a lot in a multicultural context. They can help them to became aware of their linguistic resources (self-perceived language improvement, language awareness) and to develop significant social skills as self-confidence or tolerance. If set in a multilingual context they can also became the ideal field to explore inclusion because this kind of context contains a variety of elements that can foster or obstruct students’ participation in school life: there is a quite heterogeneous social composition (immigrates, refugees, pupil coming from other Italian regions, local pupils with family languages different from Italian) there is the challenge of learning in more than one language for everyone, there are teachers with different opinion about multilingualism. My definition of inclusion fits in the framework of the wide definitions traditionally given to inclusion, (Demo, 2017) according to which the focus is not so much on the idea of giving attention to single categories of students but rather on school development processes, so that the institution is able to guarantee quality for every child attending it. (Ainscow, Booth e Dyson, 2006: Armstrong, Armstrong e Spandagou 2011) This definition is clearly carried out by the Index for Inclusion (Ainscow, Booth 2002 and 2011), an ideal instrument to conduct a research about students’ perception in multilingual contexts because it combines both the social and the learning dimension in its vison: the idea of an inclusive school has to do both with learning and teaching and with relationships and sense of community. Using the Index I would like to raise following issues: what’s the grade of inclusion perceived by the pupils living in a multicultural context? Can the direct opinion of the primary school students contribute to an improvement of inclusion in the corresponding school stage?
The Index has been generally shown to provide a good foundation for measuring school inclusion. (Agani-Destani, Hoxha, Kelmendi 2015). It will furnish a basis for conducting a quantitative research through exploratory questionnaires administered to primary school students attending a school with a multilingual program in Brixen (South Tyrol, Italy). I will focus on the indicators contained in the third chapter, organized in three main areas: creating inclusive cultures, producing inclusive policies and evolving inclusive practices. The final questionnaire will be partly used as a basis but at the same time it will be adapted to the local multilingual reality, following a suggestion of the Index itself, which stimulates to adapt surveys to the educational and social characteristics of the involved schools. I will develop a questionnaire with 30 statements that students have to evaluate (I agree, I agree to some extent, I disagree). It will be administered in two fourth classes chosen for their variegated composition: there are some bilingual children (Italian/German, Italian/other languages), immigrants coming from extra-European countries as Pakistan or Egypt, students with special needs, gifted and talented language learners, students from low income families. They learn in Italian, German and English. Before showing how to measure students’ inclusion perception from a multicultural point of view, let’s consider how the original sample questionnaire is structured: it measures cooperation grade’s perception among students, willingness in helping one another in the classroom, perception of a shared learning environment and of teacher’s engagement, perceived sense of justice, wellbeing or unease with peers and teachers, teaching and learning strategies, family reputation of the school. Considering every batch of indicators, one can say that every two statement it is possible to add a new one. For instance, to reinforce the students’ perception of wellbeing with peers or teachers one can add “All languages, dialects and accents in the school are appreciated”, or a statement to verify the pupils’ perception of a welcoming learning environment at the first contact could be: “Welcome words in different languages are put in the hall for other people to see”. These kinds of changes contribute to give the questionnaire the desired multicultural slant. It’s developed in Italian because it’s the most spoken language among the three ones taught at school. Significant simplifications will be made for children with special needs, who will be given a face to face questionnaire. Diagrams, graphics and tabs will help in the evaluation.
A wide range of differences in perception is to expect, both for the heterogeneous composition of the pupils and for the different development stages in which children are at that age. That can give the school incitement to reinforce the daily work on differences, by furnishing multisensory incentives in lessons and by promoting the talents and resources of every pupils. Pupils’ perception can make us understand how teacher’s work is efficient and to what extent a multilingual offer can be an obstacle or not for pupils with cognitive impairment or other kinds of difficulties. Finding out children perception of relationships can lead to better develop them in order to reduce or eliminate conflicts, tensions and frictions and increase positive attitudes as listen effectively or giving people time. It’s not excluded that a less positive perception of an aspect gives ideas for new questions or for finding new fields to investigate. For instance, it could be interesting to discover whether an European learning context is ethnocentric and how much it can afford to remain like that in a multicultural society. Knowing that children can give information that adults can’t perceive, their information can be compared with adults’ perception of inclusion in a further stage of the research. A discussion of inclusion from the learner’s point of view should therefore be able to make explicit the values which underlie what, how and why changes should be made in schools.
Agani-Destani, Hoxha, Kelmendi (2015) Survey on Inclusive Education in ten Primary Schools of Kosovo, Council of Europe. Armstrong, D., Armstrong, A., Spandagou, I. (2011). Inclusion: By Choice or By Chance? International Journal of Inclusive Education, 15(1), 29-39. Armstrong, F., Armstrong, D., Barton, L. (1999) Inclusive education: policy, contexts and comparative perspectives, London, Fulton. Booth, T and Ainscow, I (2002) Index to Inclusion: Developing Learning and Participation in Schools. CSIE: London. Booth, T. and Ainscow, M. (2004, 2006) Index for Inclusion: developing play learning and participation in early years and childcare, Bristol, CSIE Booth, T. and Ainscow, M. (2011) Index for Inclusion: Developing Learning and Participation in Schools. Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education, Bristol. Bearne, E. (1996) Differentiation and diversity in the primary curriculum, London, Routledge. Blair, M. and Bourne, J. with Coffin, C., Creese, A. and Kenner, C. (1999) Making the difference: teaching and learning strategies in successful multi-ethnic schools, London, HMSO. Borgers, N, de Leeuw E., Hox, J. (2000) Children as Respondents in Survey Research: Cognitive Development and Response Quality, in Bulletin de Méthodologie Sociologique, Paris, pp 60-75. Bunch, G., & Valeo, A. (2004). Student attitudes toward peers with disabilities in inclusion and special education schools. Disability & Society, 19(1), 61–75. Cavagnoli, S., Passarella, M. (2011) Educare al plurilinguismo. Riflessioni didattiche, pedagogiche e linguistiche, Carocci, Roma. Hofer, B, (2015) On the Dynamics of Early Multilingualism: A Psycholinguistic Study, (Trends in Applied Linguistics 13, De Gruyter Mouton, Berlin. Demo, H. (2017) Applicare l’Index per l’inclusione. Strategie di utilizzo e buone pratiche nella scuola italiana, Erikson, Trento. De Leeuw, E. D, (2011) Improving Data Quality when Surveying Children and Adolescents: Cognitive and Social Development and its Role in Questionnaire Construction and Pretesting. Jones, L. (2007) The student centred classroom, Cambridge University Press. Language and Curriculum Access Service (LCAS) (1999) Enabling progress in multilingual classrooms, London, London Borough of Enfield. Möller, J, Hohenstein, F, Fleckenstein, J, Köller, O & Baumert, J (eds) 2017, Erfolgreich integrieren - die Staatliche Europa-Schule Berlin. Waxmann, Münster. Shaw, C., Brady, L.-M. & Davey, C. (2011) Guidelines for Research with Children and Young People. London: NCB Research Centre.
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