14 SES 07 A, Communities Participation
Schools as Learning Communities are schools that engage the community in school decision-making processes aimed at transforming education and arising educational outcomes for all (Gatt, Ojala & Soler, 2011). With an evidence-based approach, they implement educational actions that have been identified in research as being effective for providing high-quality education for all students regardless of their socioeconomic background, and are universal and transferable (Flecha, 2015). These successful educational actions (Family involvement in learning activities, interactive groups, dialogic literary gatherings, extension of learning time, Dialogic Model of Prevention and Conflict Resolution, Family Education) have in common the active participation of parents, other relatives, neighbours, and other members of the community.
There is a great number of published scientific articles that analyse the implementation, outcomes and impact of successful educational actions and/or learning communities (e.g. Aubert et.al. 2017; García, Morlà & Ionescu, 2018; Valls & Kiriakides, 2013). However, and despite the initiative has been recreated in more than 800 schools in Spain and other European and non European (Latin America) countries, less is known about the processes of the transferability and scalability of these actions into new contexts.
This lack of knowledge on the scalability coincides with the need, as recognized by several researchers (Cohen-Vogel et al, 2015), to improve the knowledge of approaches and mechanisms for the successful scaleup of evidence-based projects in education. The problem that already Elmore (1996) pointed out on the replication of the success of particular projects on a larger scale remains understudied twenty-five years later.
In this framework, this paper wants to contribute to the analysis of cooperation among social actors to promote school-family-community links. In particular, it explores the scalability of the implementation of successful educational actions and learning communities in Portugal. The Ministry of Education started in 2017, with the involvement of CREA researchers, a pilot project for the implementation of successful education actions in 11 school groups within the TEIP Programme (that stands in Portuguese for Educational Territories for Priority Intervention). After the positive evaluation of the pilot in 2018, the Portuguese Ministry of Education obtained support from DG-REFORM of the European Commission to scale up of the project to new 50 school clusters (CREA, 2019). This project started in 2019 and is expected to last until December 2021. 139 schools and more than 13.000 students are currently involved in the implementation of the Successful Educational Actions. We seek to respond here one main research question: which are the strategies that facilitate the scalability of these actions and the overcoming or mitigation of difficulties?
This study has consisted in qualitative research done through the development of the scaling up in Portugal. We have used three instruments for collecting empirical data. First, a documentary research of reports and recorded information (grey literature) from the pilot and scale up project development, provided by the research team and the Directorate-General for Education between 2017 and 2020. We have conducted also 23 communicative observations in meetings, trainings and other spaces of discussion of the scale up during the period 2017-2020. Finally, we also interviewed 4 teachers involved in the scaling up. Two of them have been specially trained as promoters of the project in school clusters, and two of them participate as teachers in the project. Both data collection and analysis were developed under the communicative methodology of research (Gómez et.al, 2011). This approach involves an egalitarian dialogue between the researcher and those who participate in the research, reaching a real co-creation of scientific knowledge. Besides, the communicative approach distinguishes transformative versus exclusionary dimensions in the analysis of the data, orienting research to the search for solutions for improving the educational reality.
Our data reveal as a main finding that during the scale up process there has been a permanent communication that goes beyond the frequent unidirectional flow of information from researchers to governments, governments to pilot schools (through external trainers or experts) and then to a widespread number of schools (Datnow et al., 2002). In our case, documents, observations and interviews reveal diverse and numerous spaces for dialogue that involve researchers and teachers but also schools that have already implemented research results and schools willing to replicate them, and between schools that are starting the implementation. This dialogue occurs in formal structures as evaluation meetings, specific events and training, and also through informal contact promoted by the schools and trainers like WhatsApp groups, reciprocal visits, or video exchange. Importantly, dialogue is encouraged not only for sharing ideas and perceptions among the participants but for discussing the experiences in the light of scientific evidence. Dialogic Pedagogical Gatherings are a key strategy. This permanent dialogue has helped to mitigate the difficulties encountered in the process, including the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic that broke through at the beginning of 2020, which has inevitably conditioned the priorities of the schools and the formats, times and spaces for involving the community. Our findings contribute to the understanding of educational scale-up, which is methodologically sophisticated and analytically complex" (McDonald et al., 2006, p. 19). We hope they will serve to better understand and better enlarge the efforts of teachers, families and communities for transforming education.
Aubert, A., Molina, S., Shubert, T.,& Vidu, A. (2017). Learning and inclusivity via Interactive Groups in early childhood education and care in the Hope school, Spain. Learning, Culture and Social Interaction, 13, 90-103. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lcsi.2017.03.002 Cohen-Vogel, L., Tichnor-Wagner, A., Allen, D., Harrison, C., Kainz, K., Socol, A. R., & Wang, Q. (2015). Implementing Educational Innovations at Scale: Transforming Researchers Into Continuous Improvement Scientists. Educational Policy, 29(1), 257-277. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0895904814560886 CREA (2019). Support to address school failure and drop out in educational areas of priority intervention (TEIP) in Portugal. Ref number N° SRSS/S2019/057 Datnow, A., Hubbard, L., & Mehan, H. (2002). Extending educational reform: From one school to many. Routledge/Falmer. Elmore, R. F. (1996). Getting to scale with good educational practice. Harvard Educational Review, 66(1), 1-26. Flecha, R. (2015). Successful Educational Actions for Inclusion and Social Cohesion in Europe. Berlin: Springer Publishing Company. Garcia Yeste, C., Morlà, T., & Ionescu, V. (2018). Dreams of Higher Education in the Mediterrani School Through Family Education. Frontiers in Education, 3(79). https://doi.org/10.3389/feduc.2018.00079 Gatt, S., Ojala, M., & Soler, M. (2011). Promoting social inclusion counting with everyone: Learning Communities and INCLUD-ED. International Studies in Sociology of Education, 21(1), 37–47. doi: 10.1080/09620214.2011.543851 Gómez, A., Puigvert, L., & Flecha, R. (2011). Critical communicative methodology: Informing real social transformation through research. Qualitative Inquiry, 17(3), 235-245. McDonald, S.-K., Keesler, V. A., Kauffman, N. J., & Schneider, B. (2006). Scaling-Up Exemplary Interventions. Educational Researcher, 35(3), 15–24. https://doi.org/10.3102%2F0013189X035003015 Valls, R., & Kyriakides, L. (2013). The power of interactive groups: how diversity of adults volunteering in classroom groups can promote inclusion and success for children of vulnerable minority ethnic populations. Cambridge Journal of Education, 43(1), 17–33. https://doi.org/10.1080/0305764X.2012.749213
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