ERG SES E 04, Intercultural Education
The European socio-cultural landscape has changed in the recent decades and it is still changing: intra-mobility and, international migration, as well as economic issues, impact on European societies as aspects strictly interconnected that determine the increasing diversity of context (European Commission, 2017). Alternately, these circumstances can be considered both as challenges and opportunities presented by socio-cultural transformations and globalization, situations that European communities are grappling with (OECD, 2017). All these complexities have influences and reflections in schools, as institutions in charge of welcome, manage and flourish plurality and diversity in different perspectives and lights: in fact, the growing sum of languages, backgrounds, cultural and religious practices have become a reality in multicultural classrooms across Europe. To foster inclusion, well-being, and widespread school effectiveness and achievement, formal education needs to improve its sensitivity and competence on cultural diversity (Alleman Ghionda, 2009). In this view, teachers play a fundamental role, but it should not be forgottenthat at the same time ‘the profession of teaching is firstly becoming more and more complex; secondly, the demands placed upon teachers are increasing; and thirdly, the environments in which they work are becoming more and more challenging” (European Parliament, 2014, p.13).At the national level, Ministry of Education in Italy affirmed in the most significant document about interculturality at school (MIUR, 2007) that ‘teachers have a responsibility to act in the classroom assuming ‘diversity as the school paradigm and considering it as an opportunity to open the whole system to differences’ (Agostinetto & Bugno, under review).
One of the possibilities to improve teachers’ competences is to best prepare them. For instance, the Council of Europe recommends that education systems across Europe equip teachers with skills to make them able to work better in multicultural classes (2010). Likewise, the Council of the European Union and European Commission recognised the need to improve teachers’ training for more inclusive societies (2015), and for diversity (2017). The importance of empowering teachers’ peer learning and in-service professional development considering their conceptions was part of a PhD research that constitutes the starting point of this ongoing work. The investigation involved 31 primary teachers in order to explore the relationship between teachers’ conceptions about cultural diversity and their teaching activities. Based on a model-based approach, the research aimed to study the conceptions in the educational context and about the diversity content. In fact, on the empirical level, the link between theory, conceptions, and the teaching activities on diversity was examined in detail handling a qualitative approach and using integrated analysis tools to purpose a program that makes formative and significant participants’ reflection.
This still in progress study focuses on the participant observations that the researcher is conducting after closing her PhD pathway and coming back to school as well as a primary teacher. In this context, the reference to the teacher as ethnographer of education proposed by Gobbo (2004). The intention is to deeply understand two in-service teachers’ conceptions about cultural diversity by observing situations and dynamics occurring in two first grade Italian culturally diverse classrooms, teacher’s actions and strategies in the interactions with pupils and parents from an intercultural perspective. For that reason, the research questions are:
- What are teachers’ conceptions about cultural diversity?
- Do teachers’ conceptions about cultural diversity influence their planning and their practices?
- How teachers’ conceptions about cultural diversity influence their planning and their practices?
The final step will be to relate and compare the findings of this study with the results of the previous PhD research.
The study presented in this paper uses participant observation and natural occurring conversations (Gobo, 2017) to understand teachers’ conceptions about cultural diversity. Gobbo’s research (2003) highlighted the usefulness and adequacy of the use of ethnographic research in educational contexts. Especially when the aim is to investigate the everyday school life in its practices and interactions, to promote a deep and significant understanding of conceptions, perceptions and related behaviours. The ethnographic approach, in fact, turns out to be particularly suitable for the description, interpretation and comprehension of the perspectives of the actors scholastic realities understood as a community (Gobbo, 2003, p.13). In fact, it allows to reveal how actors of the same educational process mean it and reflect on it to arrive, consequently, to put in action certain actions. Context for data collection In Italy, primary teachers of the same grade classrooms are accustomed to working in teams and sharing educational goals and objectives. In this case, the observed are 2 females. The pupils are in first grade and are in total 34. It is a diverse population including 2 newly arrived immigrants, 3 second generations, 5 biracial, and 24 “native” Italian pupils. The cultural and socio-economic backgrounds of the classroom is diverse. As a math teacher, the researcher is directly introduced in the social group and remains for a relatively long period (November 2017-June2018). As a member of the setting, she is part of the natural environment, and she can establish relationships of personal interaction with pupils and her colleagues. Data collection is occurring by field notes to remember facts, events, and parts of interactions. Notes are then transcribed into ethnographic notes, divided into observational, methodological, theoretical, and emotional categories (Gobo, 2017).At the end, starting from the observation an ethnographic interview is planned.
Even with data collection still in progress, several situations have been fruitful occasions for observations. For instance, the ongoing process of planning a transversal and trans-disciplinary intercultural project, the parents-teachers conference, the Christmas party, and some co-teaching experiences. At the end, the data collected will be processed using ethnographic notes and related to structures and categories identified during the researcher’s Ph.D. research. From an intercultural perspective, findings coming from the first research show a set of actions to improve that represent the influence of teachers’ own conceptions in the logical passage between theory and practice. Assuming culture as an immutably defined and determined element, and not as a process and dynamic dimension, the polarization of “us-them”, and the trivialization of differences, are examples of these conceptions, which can lead to pitfalls or inconsistent educational practices. Determining conceptions on cultural diversity is useful to better understand how teachers, as culturally situated persons (Gobbo, 2014), interpret intercultural education. Furthermore, it aids in adequately comprehending how teachers deal with multicultural classrooms in relation to their conceptions about cultural diversity to promote inclusive practices, and participant environments. This is advantageous in order to best realise how to improve teachers’ peer learning and in-service professional development.
Agostinetto, L., Bugno, L. (under review). Towards congruence between teachers’ intentions and practice in intercultural education. First results of an Italian qualitative research. Alleman Ghionda, C. (2009). “From Intercultural Education to the Inclusion of Diversity: Theories and Policies in Europe.” In The Routledge International Companion to Multicultural Education, edited by J.A. Banks. London: Routledge. Arnesen, A.L., Allan, J. & Simonsen, E. (2010). Policies and practices for teaching socio-cultural diversity: a framework of teacher competences for engaging with diversity. Strasbourg: Council of Europe Publishing. Council of the European Union and European Commission (2015). ‘2015 Joint Report of the Council and the Commission on the implementation of the strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training (ET 2020). New priorities for European cooperation in education and training’, (2015/C 417/04), 15 December 2015. European Commission (2017). Preparing teachers for diversity: the role of initial teachers’ education. Final Report. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union. European Parliament (2014). ‘Teaching Teachers: Primary teacher training in Europe – State of Affairs and Outlook’. Report prepared by Panteia and Ockham IPS for the European Parliament’s Committee on Education and Culture. Brussels: European Parliament. Gobbo, F. (2003) (a cura di). Etnografia dell'educazione in Europa: soggeti, contesti, questioni metodologiche. Milano: UNICOPLI. Gobbo, F. (2004) L’insegnante come etnografo: idee per una formazione alla ricerca, in G. Favaro & L. Luatti (Eds) L’intercultura dalla A alla Z, pp. 126-135. Milan: Franco Angeli. Gobbo, F. (2014). Racism, ‘race and ethnographic research in multicultural Italy, in Rodney K Hopson, Adrienne D Dixson, Race, Ethnography and Education, Routledge: Abington, Oxon, pp. 9-28. Gobo, G.. Molle, A. (2017). Doing ethnography. London: SAGE Publications Ltd. Miur (2007). La via italiana per la scuola interculturale e l'integrazione degli alunni stranieri. Retreived from http://hubmiur.pubblica.istruzione.it/alfresco/d/d/workspace/SpacesStore/cecf0709-e9dc-4387-a922-eb5e63c5bab5/documento_di_indirizzo.pdf OECD (2017). Trends shaping Education spotlight 11. People on the Move. https://www.oecd.org/edu/ceri/spotlight11-PeopleontheMove.pdf
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