14 SES 09 A, Disadvantaged Students, Schools and Institutionalised Children
- Objective or purposes
This paper aims to analyze the contributions of an Extended Learning Time (ELT) experience, as a Successful Educational Action supported by the FP6 project INCLUD-ED (2006-2011). The main purpose of this experience was to promote scientific vocations among institutionalized adolescents who live in residential care centers. In order to achieve this objective and to improve the future of these adolescents, they participated in out-of-school scientific workshops.
- Theoretical framework
The situation of institutionalized adolescents
The number of institutionalized children and adolescents in the world rises to 8 million, distributed not only in developing countries, but also around the globe (UNICEF, 2002). All these minors are facing situations in which their rights are being violated. Their former experiences of negligence can cause severe consequences, such as low academic achievement, poor economic conditions and poverty, low educational expectations and self-expectations, poor mental health… accentuating their situation of vulnerability (Berens & Nelson, 2015; Maholmes et al., 2012; Silvano da Silva et al., 2016). The Spanish context that focuses this communication is one of the EU countries with more children and adolescents institutionalized in residential care centers. According to Díaz (2015), approximately 14,000 children and adolescents are residing in out-of-home care centers in Spain.
Higher educational levels are needed in order to increase social and economic well-being and the access to this quality of life is almost conditioned to post-compulsory secondary education and university degrees. Given the vulnerability of the institutionalized adolescents, ensuring at least a medium-level study certificate becomes essential. Achieving this educational level increases their opportunities of professional and social success and promotes the diminution of vulnerability (Jackson & Martin, 1998; Dixon, 2007). Current data evidence that half of the institutionalized children and adolescents are affected by educational failure and thus, their access to higher education is minority (Institute of Education, University of London, 2008-2010). Taking into account these evidences, alternative mechanisms to overcome this situation have to be provided. Promoting scientific competence among adolescents can contribute to academic success and, in consequence, their access to higher education. Therefore, since interest towards science produces a positive impact on the election of university degrees, enhancing scientific learning will increase scientific vocations among youth (Christidou, 2011). According to relevant researches, boys and girls who chose scientific university degrees are engaged to science through extracurricular scientific activities that promote personal connections and experiences with this field (Gebbels, Evans, & Delany, 2011; Van Meter-Adams et al., 2014; Thiry, Laursen & Hunter, 2011).
Extended Learning Time
ELT is one of the Successful Educational Actions in the framework of European Commission FP6 Integrated Project: INCLUD-ED. Strategies for inclusion and social cohesion in Europe from education (2006-2011). The implementation of these SEAs has evidenced to contribute to learning and coexistence enhancement. Specifically, Flecha (2015) defines ELT as an inclusive action consisting on out-of-school high quality activities that promote excellence levels of learning. Thus, the implementation of this SEA during out-of-school time responds to the necessity of enhancing participants’ interest towards science and, consequently, promoting scientific vocations among them.
A case study was carried out following the Communicative Methodology. This communicative orientation based on egalitarian dialogue allows breaking with the traditional gap between the researchers and the participants. Within this egalitarian dialogue, the knowledge is built when contrasting scientific evidences provided by researchers with the experiences and daily-knowledge of the end-users (Gómez, Puigvert, & Flecha, 2011). The case study was conducted in a residential care selected to participate in the research project “Extending Learning Time: promoting scientific vocations in contexts at risk of social exclusion”, funded by the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (FECYT), from the Spanish government. The participants of this study are 12 adolescents aged between 11 and 17 that live in a residential care center in Spain. All the adolescents had to be institutionalized due to a family helplessness situation, related to parental alcohol consumption or drug abuse, parental poor mental health… This experience consisted on seven scientific workshops and one visit to a paleoecology research center that were carried out during out-of-school time. Four of these sessions were related to chemical sciences and scientific research, while the rest taught about human paleoecology. The implementation of these activities lasted four months and was responsibility of professional researchers in those fields. The researchers conducted 8 communicative observations and 12 standardized open-ended interviews to collect data. The communicative observations compiled data regarding interactions among adolescents and relevant aspects occurred during the sessions, providing fundamental information about these workshops. The communicative character is based in the egalitarian and intersubjective dialogue established among participants and researchers during all observations. After taking part on the scientific workshops, the adolescents participated in semi-structured interviews, which were focused on deepening on their personal expectations regarding scientific vocations, among other relevant topics. The researchers registered the interviews via audio and then analyzed the results using a communicative approach. The communicative data analysis enables to collect those aspects of reality that are considered to hamper the egalitarian access to science (exclusory dimension) and, on the other hand, those that promote equal opportunities (transformative dimension). In that sense, all information was presented always trying to detect barriers to the egalitarian access to science and how to overcome it (Gómez, Puigvert & Flecha, 2011).
This experience carried out in a residential care has contributed to a further extension of the adolescents’ learning time, providing high-quality extracurricular activities. Thus, these sessions contributed to promote scientific vocations among adolescents and to increase their scientific knowledge. The role of the professionals was key in promoting adolescents’ interest during the workshops, as they taught scientific concepts combining theory and practice clearly. On the other hand, the adolescents who participated in the scientific workshops provided positive evaluations of this action. Specifically, they highlighted that this project developed in their leisure time was much more interesting than previous activities in which they had taken part. This experience had a key role in evidencing their preference towards high quality activities that combine enjoying and learning new concepts. As another relevant result, the adolescents expressed they never met a biochemistry or archeologist before and hence, they did not know about the work of this scientific professionals. The participation in the scientific workshops allowed them to discover new professionals and their scientific contributions, giving meaning to their task. This encounter was so deep that the adolescents admitted to have changed their opinions towards scientists and in some cases, to think about studying scientific university degrees in the future. As a conclusion, the experience of ELT promoted scientific vocations among the adolescents through their participation in scientific workshops, influencing on their academic future decisions, increasing their personal well-being and reducing the vulnerability of this group present in the community.
Berens, A.E., & Nelson, C.A. (2015). The science of early adversity: is there a role for large institutions in the care of vulnerable children? The Lancet, 386(9991), 388-398. CREA. (2006-2011). INCLUD-ED. Strategies for Inclusion and Social Cohesion in Europe from Education, 6th Framework Programme. Citizens and Governance in a Knowledge-based Society. CIT4-CT-2006-028603. Directorate-General for Research, European Commission. Christidou, V. (2011). Interest, attitudes and images related to science: combining students’ voices with the voices of school science, teachers, and popular science. International. Journal of Environmental & Science Education, 6(2), 141-159. Dixon, J. (2007). Obstacles to participation in education, employment and training for young people leaving care. Social Work & Social Sciences Review, 13(2), 18-34. Díaz, A. (coord.) (2015). Niños, niñas, jóvenes sin hogar en España. Madrid: Simetrías. Flecha, R. (2015). Successful educational actions for inclusion and social cohesion in Europe. Berlin: Springer. Gebbels, S., Evans, S. M., & Delany, J. E. (2011). Promoting environmental citizenship and corporate social responsibility through a school/industry/university partnership. Journal of Biological Education, 45(1), 13-19. Gómez, A., Puigvert, L., &Flecha, R. (2011). Critical communicative methodology: Informing real social transformation through research. Qualitative Inquiry, 17(3), 235-245. Jackson, S., & Martin, P.Y. (1998). Surviving the care system: education and resilience. Journal of Adolescence, 21(5). 569-583 Maholmes, V., Fluke, J.F., Rinehart, R. D., & Huebner, G. (2012). Protecting children outside of family care in low and middle income countries: What does the evidence say? Child Abuse and Neglect, 36(10), 685-688. Silvano da Silva, M., de Lima, J. A., Rios, I., &Rolim, M. L. (2016). Dignifying hidden lives: The institutionalization of any impact child development. Current Pediatric Research, 10(1&2), 55–56. Thiry, H., Laursen, S. & Hunter, A.B. (2011). What Experiences Help Students Become Scientists? A Comparative Study of Research and Other Sources of Personal and Professional Gains for STEM Undergraduates. Journal of Higher Education, 82(4), 357-388. United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (2002). Children on the Brink 2002. A Joint Report on Orphan Estimates and Program Strategies. Retrived from http://data.unaids.org/topics/young-people/childrenonthebrink_en.pdf Van Meter-Adams, A., Frankenfeld, C.L., Bases, J., Espina, V., & Liotta, L. (2014). Students who demonstrate strong talent and interest in STEM are initially attracted to STEM through extracurricular experiences. Life Sciences Education, 13(4), 687-697. Institute of Education, University of London (2008-2010). YiPPEE. Young People from a Public Care Background: pathways to education in Europe. FP7-SSH-2007-1. Directorate-General for Research, European Commission.
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