14 SES 07 A, Inclusive Learning Environments towards Social Inclusion
This paper explores the interactions fostered by non-teacher adults who participate in facilitating the discussion among elementary children organised in small heterogeneous groups when doing mathematics. This classroom organization model, defined as Interactive Groups, involves other adults to collaborate in children’s learning tasks and situates the teacher as a coordinator of the whole activity (Valls & Kyriakides, 2013). Research on Interactive Groups in Schools as Learning Communities has shown to improve students’ academic achievement overtime and foster social cohesion among immigrant and non-immigrant families (García-Carrión & Díez Palomar, 2015). Recently, this particular form of inclusive classroom organisation has shown to be successful also in early years (Aubert et al, 2017). However, a detailed analysis of the volunteers-students’ interactions and how it develops in the groups has been underresearched. This paper addresses this question as part of a 2-year research project entitled 'Impact of interactive learning environments on academic and social success' funded by the Spanish Government (Grant number: EDU2015- 66395-R). The main objective has been to analyse the impact of implementing two dialogic-based interventions -Interactive Groups in Mathematics and Dialogic Literary Gatherings- in students’ mathematics and reading and in prosocial behaviour.
Interactions as the basis for learning and development
Social and dialogic interactions have been pointed out as an essential factor for learning and development, in particular, for language acquisition (Purcell-Gates, Melzi, Najafi, & Orellana, 2011), scientific reasoning (Howe, 2009) or mathematical understanding (Stein, Engle, Smith & Hughes, 2015). A wide array of research in the field has shown the value of using effectively the talk and dialogue in teaching and learning processes (Mercer & Howe, 2012, Howe and Abedin, 2013). Group-work can be particularly useful to increase the opportunities for children to engage and interact, however not all the interactions are pointed to develop higher order thinking -including reasoning, hypothesizing, asking questions, agreement or disagreement, etc. (Galton, Hargreaves & Pell, 2009). Whether these interactions can be prompted by an adult involved in a small group of students, has been less explored. In Interactive Groups volunteers aim at achieving equitable participation of students based on seven principles of the dialogic learning (Flecha & Soler, 2013).
This paper focuses on analysing the interactions between four volunteers and small groups of 4th grade students during Interactive Groups in two Spanish schools with different socioeconomic background (one low SES and one high SES). Particularly, the study aims at exploring the ways in which non-teacher adults engage in supportive and encouraging interactions that foster the involvement of students in the mathematical discussion.
The research design is a quasi-experimental study, pre- and post- testing of students’ attainment on mathematics, and pre and post interviews with intervention teachers and post interviews with children and volunteers. The intervention consists of ten sessions of Interactive Groups in 4th grade in one experimental group, while the control group followed the usual maths curriculum. Teachers and volunteers received at least two training sessions. For ethical reasons, the intervention was also implemented in the control group, after the post-test. Attainment tests were based on the Spanish version of TIMMS and administered to the students in both groups (n=95) (pre and post). Data collection involved classroom observation (video recorded) for the two experimental groups during Interactive Groups (n1=26 ;n2=22). Video recordings of peer and student-volunteer interactions were transcribed and analysed. For this paper, a detailed analysis of 7 episodes (M=9,18 minutes), in which 35 students and 4 volunteers participated, has been conducted. A coding scheme based on previous research on classroom interaction to determine students’ behaviour was developed (Galton, Hargreaves, Pell, 2009). It also included emerging categories from an inductive analysis. Categories were defined and structured under two big dimensions: (a) Cognitive: question, explain/reasoning/argument, question, agreement, disagreement; (b) Social: support/encouragement, spontaneous help, promote help. The analysis of the video recordings conducted using Nvivo Plus, allowed us to identify the type of interactions promoted by the volunteers.
Students in the experimental group achieved higher than those in the control group after the intervention. In the school 1, the experimental group (n=26) improved (M=2.58, SD=2.19) more than the control group (n=24, M=1.21, SD=2.17). Similarly, in school 2 the experimental group (n=22) showed a higher improvement (M=1.82, SD=1.56) than the control group (n=23; M=1.26, SD=2.07). After coding the episodes selected, 90.16% of the interactions initiated by the volunteers aimed at supporting and encouraging children to engage in the learning. Interactions coded under the support-encouragement category present common features related to: (a) open questions mostly asking for reasoning (e.g. why?); (b) utterances providing emotional and social support (c) fostering equitable participation involving all the student in the dialogue (d) encouraging peer support and mutual help. Volunteers provide social support and equitable participation - come team, very well, keep going, we can work as a team! - Ok, come next question, let's see. - What other people think? Does everybody think the same? Is there anyone who thinks differently? Encouraging peer support and mutual help -Volunteer: Do you want anybody to explain it to you? -Girl: Yes. -Volunteer [inviting other child]: Please, can you explain it to her? Let’s go, explain her the problem. -Boy: What Sara said is ... In any case we would have to look for a number that multiplied by 20 gives me 240. That is, the best thing that we can do, or the fastest thing, actually, the best thing we could do is to divide. Not multiplying. Overall, supportive and encouraging interactions prompted by the volunteers in Interactive Groups play a crucial role to engage children in the learning. Although these interactions are not academically-related, our data show that students engage in mathematical talk while supporting their peers at the same time.
Aubert, A., Molina, S., Schubert, T., & Vidu, A. (2017). Learning and inclusivity via Interactive Groups in early childhood education and care in the Hope school, Spain. Learning, culture and social interaction, 13, 90-103. Flecha, R. & Soler, M. (2013) Turning difficulties into possibilities: engaging Roma families and students in school through dialogic learning. Cambridge Journal of Education 43(4): 451–465. Galton, M., Hargreaves, L., & Pell, T. (2009). Group work and whole‐class teaching with 11‐to 14‐year‐olds compared. Cambridge Journal of Education, 39(1), 119-140. García-Carrión, R., & Díez-Palomar, J. (2015). Learning communities: Pathways for educational success and social transformation through interactive groups in mathematics. European Educational Research Journal, 14(2), 151-166. Howe, C. & Abedin, M. (2013) Classroom dialogue: a systematic review across four decades of research. Cambridge Journal of Education 43(3): 325–356. Mercer, N., & Howe, C. (2012). Explaining the dialogic processes of teaching and learning: The value and potential of sociocultural theory. Learning, Culture and Social Interaction, 1(1), 12-21. Stein, M.K., Engle, R.A., Smith, M.S., & Hughes, E.K. (2015). Orchestrating productive mathematical discussions: Helping teachers learn to better incorporate student thinking. In L.B. Resnick., C.S.C. Asterban, & S.N. Clarke (Eds.). Socializing intelligence through academic talk and dialogue (375-388). Washington, DC: AERA. Valls, R., & Kyriakides, L. (2013). The power of Interactive Groups: how diversity of adults volunteering in classroom groups can promote inclusion and success for children of vulnerable minority ethnic populations. Cambridge Journal of Education, 43(1), 17–33. https://doi.org/10.1080/0305764X.2012.749213
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