05 SES 11, Alternative Education and Preparing Young People at Risk for Employment
This paper is a presentation of an ongoing study in how Urban Production Schools facilitate and contribute to the constituting of participation identity for youth at risk. Youth at risk are defined as young people with a career of (school-)dropouts and/or being expelled from previous school and educational contexts.
An Urban Production School is a preparatory school, which stated aim is to provide the students with basic personal-, social- and educational skills, ultimately enabling the student to enter and complete secondary education or to get a job. The schools didactical foundation is derived from production, where students and employees are working in industrial or health-care workshops, based upon cooperative processes and individual organized learning aims. The teachers are organized in interdisciplinary teams that consists craftsmen and – women, healthcare workers, social workers and school teachers.
This projects primary objective is to identify how the young people develop their participatory identity and how a diversity of participatory trajectories are made possible for them in the context of the Production School.
The project will explore how different opportunities for trajectories are provided in the pedagogical practice. A practice that is shaped by students, school facilities and the inter-professional collaboration between teachers in a social environment.
Young people are at risk of developing a non-participatory identity, which does not match the understanding of learning as a social and complex process and social learning as participating in social practice communities (Wenger 2004, Lave & Wenger 2003).
The youth group attending production school have a wide range of social backgrounds and personal issues, which necessitates a wide range of pedagogical factors to successfully interact to achieve the productions schools stated aims of secondary education or job. Success seems likely to depend on a wide range of legitimate behaviors and a wide range of participating trajectories that leads to full participation. It requires a special inclusive practice and environment from the school, the teachers and the other students.
The projects main focus is on how cultural and pedagogical practice and organization can provide conditions that enables young people at risk to gain access to active participation, in order to develop social, personal and educational skills for further integration in education and civil life.
The project builds on already existing international and national research about learning and education environments. The existing research highlights the importance of a positive dialogue- and participatory-oriented learning environment, where experiments and creativity is facilitated through the organization of education, and where the learning environment is based on confidentiality (Tanggaard I; Sørensen & Skaalvik 2013, Eisenkraft 2003, Hattie 2015). Furthermore, several Danish research projects conclude that committed communities strengthen responsibility for learning and a desire for education. The research mentioned above emphasizes, that it is important to continue researching how different didactical and pedagogical approaches facilitate participation for youth at risk in education (CEFU 2010, Pless 2009).
The project is based upon an ethnographically inspired fieldwork conducted over a year. Data is collected during two periods of five to six weeks in what we in Denmark call a “production-school” situated in an urban area. During the data collection and analysis, emphasis have been projecting to the field's own concepts to give the young people a voice. Observations are carried out by 3 members of the research team and two 3rd year students from the BA in social education. The methodological approach has been informed by participatory observations, where the researcher plays two different roles at the same time: subjective participant and objective observer. This method is chosen not only to see what it is called reembeded conversations, but also to focus on the bodily participation in the physical and cultural spaces at the production school. Observations have been made at three different workshops; wooden workshop, sewing and design, sport and event. It is assumed that each workshop cultivates different cultures and student profiles, which might enable different possibilities for participation. In addition, we have conducted observations with regard to how the teachers during school hours meet the very different backgrounds these young people have in terms of school experiences, and how they guide them about their future. The question is how can the production school, and thus the teachers, prevent further school dropouts and improve the young people’s results during both production skills and more traditional school skills such as math and Danish language?
The project is expected to generate new knowledge on whether the production school is able to give the young people at risk a participation identity, while they go to school. We also expect to gain insight into how the young people experience being in this state of transition. From young people at risk entering the Production School, where they are in a kind of liminalty being marginalized compared to other young people and how they might be able to reenter secondary the education system that is part of the Danish society. Furthermore, the project will achieve a more specific knowledge on how to practice differentiated didactic, where active participation in practice communities is intended. Production schools have a lot of (formal) rules and it will be of key interest to the project to uncover the young people’s possibility for participation in the Production Schools practice/activities in spite of the many (formal) rules. How are the rules applied by the production school and which possibilities for participation does that leave for the young students? Our hypothesis is that it is possible for the students to be participants even though they might not always abide strictly by the formal rules as set out by the school. In that sense, the school adjusts its pedagogical practice to accommodate the individual students psychical and psychological ‘mood’ to create different spaces for participation.
De Walt, K.M & B.R. De Walt (2002): Participant observation- A guide for fieldworkers. Waltnut Creek: AltaMira Press Eisenkraft (2003): Eisenkraft, A. (2003). Expanding the 5E model. The Science Teacher, 70. Pless, M. & Sørensen, N.U. (red.) (2015): Brydninger i ungdomslivet. Aalborg universitetsforlag. Aalborg. Turner,V (1967): Betwixt and Between: The Liminal period in Rites de Passages" In : A Forest of Symbols. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press Wadel, Cato (1991): Feltarbeid i egen kultur, EEK A/S, Flekkefjord Wenger, E. (2004): Praksisfællesskaber. København. Hans Reitzels forlag.
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