22 SES 14 D, Non-traditional Students and Diversity
The contribution presents an experience of application of the autobiographical method as an innovative device aimed at stimulating the recognition of life experiences and the self-recognition of transversal skills of unemployed women.
Although the theorization of the Autobiographical approach was established starting from the late 70s and early 80s by a large group of scholars from different geographical realities (Josso, 1991; Pineau & Le Grand, 1993; Demetrio, 1996; 2008; Domincé, 2000; Delory Momberger, 2000; West, Alheit, Anderson & Merrill, 2007; Merrill & West, 2012), its applications began to spread in a rather capillary way in recent years only, for training and research aims, in the various territorial, educational and professional contexts, also in light of the many educational purposes recognized to narrative-autobiographical methodologies, namely:
- meta-cognitive: know the way you learn;
- self-training: learn from your life experiences;
- transformative: discover unlived lives to glimpse new possibilities of choice;
- motivational: intercept and/or recover the component of desire;
- heuristic: discover the meaning of your life experiences (Demetrio, 1996; Benelli & Pedretti, 2017).
In Italy, autobiographical narration enjoys today great attention in the most disparate fields (psychological, sociological, medical humanities, etc). Above all in pedagogy and in the field of Adult Education, autobiography occupies an increasingly central space, not just at the level of theoretical reflection (Cambi, 2002; Demetrio, 1996, 2008; Formenti, 1998) but also of practices, as a personal and professional research and training device (Formenti, 2009; De Carlo, 2011; Benelli, 2017).
The narrative workshop has been realized in Naples as part of a three-year project (2018/2020) against poverty (educational and material): the OPENN project (Offerta Percorsi Educativi Nuovi Napoli), aimed at offering opportunities for social inclusion to families living in the Spanish Neighborhoods, one of the poorest neighborhoods of the city. The project has set itself two macro-goals, namely:
- expand the educational offer for children from 0 to 6 years, a totally inadequate offer in this neighborhood of the city where 10% of Neapolitan children live;
- train young mothers, leading them towards training and work orientation paths so as to raise the cultural and economic level that should significantly affect the quality of life of the whole family.
Regarding the second macro-goal, the activities of the Openn project aimed to certify the skills of compulsory schooling of the research sample, in view of the subsequent acquisition of a professional profile expendable in the field of childcare. The narrative-autobiographical workshop really turned out to be a pedagogically functional space-time for self-recognition of self-images, motivations, skills and attitudes, the latter difficult to self-evaluate (Spencer & Spencer, 1995; EU, 2008; De Carlo, 2011; Striano & Capobianco, 2016). In particular, the self-assessment of transversal skills offers the opportunity to identify and exploit a whole range of skills acquired in informal and non-formal contexts, of which the individuals are often poorly aware. In this perspective, the research-training activities of the workshop aimed to promote "self-care" in the women in training (Demetrio, 1996; Cambi, 2002; Orofiamma, 2002), educating to the admiration of oneself and the other (Rossi, 2017) and re-activating reflexive skill, processes of emancipation and self-knowledge (Monteagudo, 2006; Striano, Melacarne & Oliverio, 2018).
Therefore, we initially asked the following research questions:
- which learnings and skills are promoted by the autobiographical practice in the women involved in the research-training path?
- does the realization of an essential autobiography succeed in stimulating in the unemployed women an implementation of the methods of self-representation of themselves, also with a view to promoting employability?
- what effects does the realization and sharing of autobiographies produce?
Sample: 13 unemployed women aged between 18 and 44, residing in the Spanish Neighborhoods, who couldn't finish their training (due to early parenting, social distress, etc.) and chose to join the Openn project to follow educational paths completing the cycle of higher studies. Research tools/devices: consistently with the project's goals, in addition to 4 modules for the development of the basic subject areas (Italian, English, mathematical-scientific and human sciences), the following research-training activities were planned: - administering of the questionnaires Avo Giovani (Bosca, Grimaldi, Porcelli, Rossi & Silvi, 2015) and BdC (Striano & Capobianco, 2016) to identify the internal profile of employability and the individual map of transversal skills of the research sample; - a narrative-autobiographical workshop aimed at self-recognition and implementation of transversal skills for a more effective self-representation of oneself; - administering of final evaluation forms to verify the effectiveness of the narrative-autobiographical activities with respect to the prefixed goals. The research, carried out between April and December 2018, was divided into the following phases: contact with the unemployed women; negotiation and agreement on the workshop path; administering at T0 of the questionnaires Avo and BdC; narrative workshop, divided into four meetings, each focusing on a biographical theme and aimed at writing an autobiographical text; individual backtalk meeting; moment of sharing and collective return; individual and overall analysis of the autobiographical texts using the phenomenological approach; administering at T1 of the questionnaires Avo and BdC and evaluation forms; final return of the research results to the sample. Narrative-autobiographical device: women were encouraged to write a kind of essential autobiography. The autobiographical path was organized by adopting a double narrative register (written and oral) and the alternation of two essential movements: subjective movement, aimed at the autobiographical recognition of life events; intersubjective movement, aimed at sharing the narrative fragments produced. From the individual written stories it was developed an oral, plural autobiography, including multiple and different points of view. Unit of analysis of narrative texts: starting by reading the autobiographies produced, the narrative fragments were synthesized in a subjective profile and subsequently compared to identify main and peripheral categories, in order to grasp the meanings that women attributed to experiences. The different profiles were finally compared in order to get a general interpretation of the phenomenon under study, that is, if and how the narrative-autobiographical workshop promoted the self-recognition of transversal skills and, therefore, a strengthening of personal self-awareness.
At the end of the activities, appreciable transformative learnings were noted in women, especially in terms of acquisition and implementation of transversal skills. In particular, the analysis of the Avo questionnaires administered at time T1 showed an increase in the internal index of employability of about three points (18.7 compared to 15.24 recorded at time T0); also the BdC questionnaires revealed, compared to T0, an increase in some transversal skills, such as Communicating (3.7%), Self-awareness (4.5%), Critical thinking (4%), Identifying relationship (4%) and Management of emotions (2.8%). The evaluation of the research-training path was carried out through the analysis of the contents of the essential autobiographies and the final evaluation forms (Mortari, 2007; Mortari & Sità, 2010), which allowed to note the following: - the self-recognition of transversal skills and learnings acquired: autobiographical writing favored and directed the reflection of women with respect to their experiential background in order to identify, self-evaluate and narrate their transversal skills; - the understanding of the value of investing in the construction and promotion of oneself: in particular, a more authentic self-awareness was reached by those women who got at time T0 and T1 a higher score at the subdimensions of the professional Adaptability scale of the Avo questionnaire (Flexibility and openness to change, Learning orientation, Orientation to the future); - the production of effects of self-esteem, etero-esteem and eso-esteem (as theorized by Demetrio, 1999), concerning, respectively: the self-recognition by women of their ability to express thoughts and emotions organizing a narrative text about themselves and their life events; the possibility for women to discover that their story is worthy of interest in the eyes of colleagues and the expert figure; the opportunity for women to recognize themselves in the autobiographies produced, gaining confidence in their expressive creativity (Formenti, 1998; Orofiamma, 2002; Demetrio, 2008).
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