03 SES 04 A, Connecting School Curriculum with Social Contexts
The study that we are presenting focuses on the experience lived by the teachers of a primary school located in the Guadalhorce Valley (Málaga, Spain), in the attempt to implement a new innovative educational project, known as Learning Communities. In this process various problems arise preventing the project from developing properly, so they decide to implement only one of its components: interactive groups (IG). For this purpose they had the collaboration of students and teachers from the College of Education of the University of Malaga, who are involved in an innovation project in teacher education, based on volunteering and collaboration with schools involved on transformative educational projects.
For years, the research group Procie has established collaboration networks with schools that participate in the “learning communities” project, promoted by Junta de Andalucia. It has been done with the participation of students of the degrees in Pedagogy, Teacher Education and Social Education (Leite , Márquez and Rivas, 2018). One of the authors of this communication participated as a volunteer, and later as a coordinator, in the mentioned school. He was part of the process of implementing the “Learning Communities” project in the 2018-2019 academic year, which was analyzed in a qualitative and collaborative inquiry process, as it is shown in this communication.
This inquiry focused on the teachers' point of view and their perception of the process that was being developed. This was also done with the point of view of the educational community (families and students) and the volunteer students of the College of Education Sciences. The difficulties arisen in relation to the management of the project, and the obstacles emerged from the leadership team, which forced to modify its scope and the planned implementation phases, are analyzed. It is decided to limit the project in that academic term by doing only the implementation of the IG strategy and to postpone the rest of the project for subsequent courses.
IG rely on pedagogical traditions such as instrumentalism or learning from experience by Dewey (1967), and Freire's dialogic learning (1997). Regarding to the psychological perspective, they take into account the scaffolding and mutual learning theory of Bruner (1988) and the Zone of Proximal Development (Vygotsky, 1979). On the sociological level, they take into account the communicative competence inspired by the ideas of Habermas (1987). IG are a way of classroom structuring, which requires distributing the pupils into work groups of no more than 6 students. Each group does a different activity to explain the same concept, and every 10 or 15 minutes the students swap their activity. Each group must be followed by an accompanying adult, so volunteering is required, either from the university, from the community or from the family members of the students from the school. This way of teaching-learning
relies on the results of the INCLUDE-ED project (2006-2011), in which participated researcher´s groups from 15 European countries, being funded by the European Commission.
All this implies a relevant and new methodological change for teachers, which forces them to think about their teaching in a collaborative way with other educational agents. This entail uncertainty, resistance and insecurity, testing the training received previously to the implementation of this educational innovation, as well as their own conceptions as teachers and about the sense of the current curriculum implementation, considering now timing and different learning rhythms, it drove them to give now more importance to the student's learning process than to strict compliance with the curriculum. As a consequence of this process, the management of the school, the teaching work and the relations with the community are questioned.
This is a qualitative investigation, since this is a situated activity that places the observer in the world (Denzin and Lincoln, 2008: 4). It is presented as a case study, since "it is the study of the particularity and complexity of a singular case, to get to understand its activity in important circumstances" Stake (2005: 11). Tools used were: • Researcher´s diary: this tool was used from February to June, offering a space for the collection of information, but also for continuous reflection throughout the process. It also allowed generating strategies in the course of the investigation, as a result of this reflective exercise. • Semi-structured interviews: They were carried out in two phases: In the first one, the teachers - tutors of the school grades under study were interviewed. In a second phase, once the first data was analysed, the managers in charge of the school were interviewed. It is the case the head had medical leave and remained absent from the entire process. • Discussion group: it was carried out once the academic year was nearly finished and with the perspective of the lived process. Ten people participated, including the authors of this work. The people who made up the discussion group were; the academic head, 5 teachers, a volunteer student from the university, a mother who is president of the AMPA (the school's parents' association), and researchers. In this way, a broader perspective could be obtained, while the information could be valued from different points of view of the subjects participating in the experience. It must be taken into account that the strategy of interactive groups had the participation of these agents in its implementation, consequently, their participation in the discussion group was relevant.
The teachers felt a sense of emptiness with regard to the development of the IG without having carried out the different stages of forming the project “Learning Community”. They felt that the training received before undertaking the project was good, but lack of practice. The training received during the project was inappropriate, as they were taught things already known, and some of the workshops received were not related to the formation of IG, creating confusion among teachers. The academic impact of the Interactive Groups has been remarkable for a group of the teaching staff, and positive for the other group, adding that more time is needed to see the results. The most notable fact has been the improvement in behavior and the development of student social skills. The teaching staff has seen more valued their profession by the families that collaborated in IG. The implementation of GI has caused greater collaboration among teachers of the same level, but has generated the need to create more inter-level collaboration, to improve the distribution of work with respect to the creation of IG sessions, and also the need to share sessions already elaborated. It has also generated the need to create meetings where all teachers can comment about the development of the sessions, to share ideas, improvements, etc. Inclusion has been present throughout the process, indicating the teachers that students with some type of difficulty have achieved the objectives proposed in each session. The level of satisfaction of teachers and the educational community is high, despite the difficulties, laying the foundations to advance the full development of this innovative proposal, it is one of the most relevant conclusion of this work, as we can suggest to set up the IG as a previous step to the complete development of the learning communities project.
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