05 SES 02 A, Effects of Having Been in Care and Substance Abuse
This paper aims to analyze the impact of a successful educational action implemented through out-of-school scientific workshops. The main purpose of this experience was to analyze the increase of academic expectations and the promotion of scientific vocations among children who live in three institutional care centers, promoting successful educational careers.
There are approximately 2.7 million children and adolescents aged 0 to 17 who are living in institutional care worldwide (Petrowski, Cappa & Gross, 2017). All these minors are facing situations in which their rights are 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 or poor mental health, which accentuates their situation of vulnerability (Silvano da Silva et al., 2016; Berens & Nelson, 2015).
Low academic level
Half of institutionalized children and adolescents suffer academic failure, which limits their possibilities to access to higher education and increases their situation of vulnerability (Jackson & Cameron, 2014). UK is the only European country that has collected data regarding ex-institutionalized individuals who were in the childhood protection system. Casas and Montserrat (2009) exposed the possibility that this lack of statistical data could have been used to deny this social problem. The UK Department of Education and Skills (2006) shows that, while 96% of the adolescents in the UK were able to obtain the minimal qualification to access to post-compulsory education, only 60% of the students who belonged to the child protection system were able to pass the test. The main factors that hinder the transition to adult life in residential care populations are low education level, dropping out of school, lack of aspirations and expectations, poor social environments and poor social support (Farruggia, Greenberger, Chen, & Heckhausen, 2006; Naccarato, Brophy, & Courtney, 2010).
Considering the situation of vulnerability of institutionalized adolescents, it is essential to ensure at least a medium-level study certificate. The more educational level they achieve, the more opportunities of professional and social success they get, decreasing their vulnerability (Dixon, 2007). According to scientific evidence, half of the institutionalized children and adolescents are affected by educational failure and consequently, only a minority of them access higher education (Institute of Education, University of London, 2008-2010). Interest towards science has demonstrated to be a strong predictor of the election of university degrees. For this reason, enhancing scientific learning will increase scientific vocations among youth (Christidou, 2011). Furthermore, according to relevant research, boys and girls who choose scientific university degrees are engaged to science through extracurricular scientific activities that promote personal connections and experiences (Van Meter-Adams et al., 2014; Thiry, Laursen & Hunter, 2011).
Extended Learning Time (ELT)
ELT is one of the Successful Educational Actions identified in the 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 enhance learning and coexistence. 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 improving participants’ interest towards science and, consequently, promoting successful educational careers.
The present case study was carried out following the Communicative Methodology of research (CM), which is based on an egalitarian dialogue between researchers and participants. Within this egalitarian dialogue, the knowledge is built when contrasting scientific evidences provided by researchers with the experiences and daily-knowledge from the end-users (Gómez, Puigvert, & Flecha, 2011). In ECER2019, we presented the results of the first case study. It was conducted in a residential care center that participated 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. Considering the good results obtained in this first project, FECYT request a second edition of the project, increasing the number of institutional cares centers, as well as the number of participants and the number of researchers who carried out the workshops. The participants of this study are 24 adolescents aged 10 to 17 that live in a three institutional care centers in Spain. All adolescents had been institutionalized due to a family helplessness situation, which in most of the cases was related to parental alcohol consumption or drug abuse or poor mental health, among others. This experience consisted on seven scientific workshops and one visit to a paleoecology research center, which were carried out during out-of-school time. During these sessions, participants could deepen on issues such as chemical sciences, scientific research and human paleoecology. The implementation of these activities lasted four months. The researchers conducted 8 communicative observations and 16 standardized open-ended interviews to the participants and 5 open-ended interviews to the social workers who work in the residential care centers. The communicative observations compiled data regarding interactions among the participants and relevant aspects occurred during the sessions. After taking part on the scientific workshops, the adolescents participated in semi-structured interviews, which deepened on their personal future academic expectations, among other relevant topics. The researchers registered the interviews via audio and then analyzed the results using a communicative approach. This approach provides evidence about those aspects of reality that hamper the egalitarian access to science (exclusionary dimension) and, on the other hand, those that promote equal opportunities (transformative dimension). Thus, all information is always presented to detect barriers to the egalitarian access to science and key elements to overcome it (Gómez, Puigvert & Flecha, 2011).
This experience in three residential care centers contributes to extend adolescents’ learning time, by providing high-quality extracurricular activities. Thus, these sessions promoted academic expectations and scientific vocations among adolescents. According to participants and their social workers, the sessions increased adolescents’ interest in studying beyond compulsory education. The role of the professionals was key in promoting adolescents’ interest during the workshops, as they taught scientific concepts combining theory and practice. On the other hand, adolescents who participated in the scientific workshops provided positive evaluations. Specifically, they highlighted that this project, which was 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 leisure and learning new concepts. Furthermore, the adolescents expressed they never met a biochemistry or archeologist before the workshops and hence, they did not know about the work of these scientific professionals. Their participation in scientific workshops allowed the adolescents to discover new professionals and their scientific contributions, facilitating meaningful encounters. These encounters were 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 demonstrated impact on participants’ interest in scientific areas and their personal well-being through their participation in scientific workshops. Aligned with the main evidence provided in the state of the art, these results are strong predictors of successful academic that may contribute to reduce their later situation vulnerability.
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. Casas, F., & Montserrat, C. (2009). Els itineraris educatius dels joves extutelats a Europa. Butlletí d'Infància 29. Department for Education and Skills (2006). Care Matters: Transforming the lives of young people and children in care. London: The stationery office. 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. Flecha, R. (2015). Successful educational actions for inclusion and social cohesion in Europe. Berlin: Springer. Gómez, A., Puigvert, L., &Flecha, R. (2011). Critical communicative methodology: Informing real social transformation through research. Qualitative Inquiry, 17(3), 235-245. Farruggia, S. P., Greenberger, E., Chen, C. S., & Heckhausen, J. (2006). Perceived social environment and adolescents' well-being and adjustment: Comparing a foster care sample with a matched sample. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 35(3), 349–358. Jackson, S., & Cameron, C. (2014). Improving access to further and higher education for young people in public care: European policy and practice. London and Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers. Naccarato, T., Brophy, M., & Courtney, M. E. (2010). Employment outcomes of foster youth: The results from the Midwest evaluation of the adult functioning of Foster youth. Children and Youth Services Review, 32(4), 551–559. Petrowski, N., Cappa, C., & Gross, P. (2017). Estimating the number of children in formal alternative care: Challenges and results. Child abuse & neglect, 70, 388-398. 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. 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.
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