ERG SES D 08, Social Justice and Education
The paper will present the preliminary results of a qualitative research on scaffolding decisions and practices of gymnasium teachers from two schools. One of them is located in a gentrified urban area and the other in an affluent neighbourhood. As well, the paper will include a discussion of the findings in terms of social justice in relation to social class.
In Romania the Ministry of Education is tracking and basing its policies on indicators of access and outcome (e. g early school leaving, promotion rates, average scores at national exams, PISA results). Inequity is acknowledged in relation to students from rural areas, marginalized ethnic groups (roma), students with special needs or from socioeconomically disadvantaged communities (The strategy to reduce early school leaving in Romania, 2015).
In its analysis of 2012 PISA results, Țoc (2016) shows that in the Romanian society there is a strong relationship between the students` social class and their performance in math, reading and science. Practically, according to the author, the PISA scores tend to be higher among students whose parents have higher occupational status and more cultural possessions; the family related factors being a stronger predictor of achievement then school factors (the principals’ perception regarding the availability of school infrastructure, educational resources and qualified teachers). Thus, Țoc (2016) shows that social class should not be overlooked by researchers and policy makers. Though, I would argue that its analysis must be relativized and completed with findings about how social class is shaping the teaching and learning in different social contexts.
As following, the research aims:
- To describe classroom situations in which the teachers capture (or not) the students` need for scaffolding and their pedagogical responses;
- To discuss the teaching practices in relation to contextual particularities (e.g access to resources, demographic changes, institutional policies, national policies) and the teachers` narrative on learning, scaffolding or any other aspect used to justify their pedagogic choices;
- To problematize the research results in terms of social justice.
The scaffolding practices will be studied as situationally constructed, the two sites included in the research are: a low to medium performing school, located in a gentrified urban area and a top performing school from an affluent neighbourhood. Discussing how (if) gentrification is shaping the teaching practices make the research more relevant because this is a frequent urban phenomenon which is scarcely investigated in relation to schools (Pearman II, 2018).
The teaching decisions and practices are conceptualized as a result of classroom negotiations, assuming that educators make and impose meaning while also responding pedagogically to their socio-political environment. Applied to the classroom activity, scaffolding refers to the process through which teachers enable students '... to internalise knowledge and convert it [the scaffold] into a tool for conscious control ... [the adult serving as] a vicarious form of consciousness until such a time as the learner is able to master his own action through his own consciousness and control' (Bruner, 1986, p. 123 in Bliss et al., 1996). Problematizing classroom scaffolding in terms of social justice will mean analysing how it ensures redistribution and recognition regardless of social class (Fraser, 2012). Finally, social class is conceptualized as rooted in economic inequalities, shaped by the discursive frameworks that the teachers have access to and lived as cultural practices (Skeggs, 1997).
The theory framework will be revised and completed in accordance with the emerging findings.
The research project includes 2 schools, one is a top-performing urban school and the other is located in a marginalized urban area which is on a growing demographic trend. The schools were selected using data from the atlas of marginalized urban areas (World Bank, 2014), the population census (National Institute of Statistics, 2002 and 2011) and the results of 8th grade national evaluation (Ministry of Education, 2018). In each school, the inquiry includes all groups of year 7 and two disciplines (Math, Romanian Language and Literature). The selected cases should make possible to compare and analyse findings within and in between schools. The assumed strategy of inquiry is a qualitative bricolage, mixing ethnography and narrative analysis, as follows: • Non-participatory observation of daily classroom activities (at least 2 to 4 weeks per school); • Interviews with teachers inquiring their interpretations, ideas and logic about teaching (especially scaffolding), on the one hand, in relation to the students` claims and social position and on the other hand, in relation to the particularities of the school, the wider urban and political context; • Interviews with the teachers and the students about the classroom activities (intensions, unfolding, reflections, justifications), before and after the non-participatory observations, based on their recollections and video recordings; • Narrative and content analysis of lessons plans, learning resources, evaluation tools and results; • Narrative and content analysis of national and school policies relevant for understanding the findings emerging from the field; • Observation of the school`s environment (time and space use, resource organization wall display etc.). I am performing the research as a Romanian woman, with higher education, no teaching experience and preoccupied with social justice in education. Firstly, my relationship with the students (particularly low class, roma students) and teachers will be unequal as I will have the privilege to tell their story. Secondly, my personal history and stands will give me a particular view in the field and on the collected data, claiming otherwise would be futile. Nevertheless, in order to reflect as close as possible the experiences of the subjects, as I think is valuable, I will keep a field journal where I will critically reflect upon my observations, I will collect data by creating a context for teachers and students to discuss classroom situations depicted in video recordings and I will validate the findings with the research participants.
The scarcity of research on the topic in the Romanian context and the commitment to investigate the teaching practices in a situated manner are preventing me from anticipating the outcome.
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