14 SES 11 A, Status and Perspectives on Researching in Small and Rural Schools Practices
In the Italian educational system, multigrade classroom is mainly a “fallback” solution (Lodi, 1982) for schools with a low number of students: there are about 2000 multigrade classrooms all over the country, located in small rural communities. In Italy "small schools" with "multi-classes" are decreasing in number also due to the policies that have favored the grouping of students in large urban complexes. As highlighted by Indire in the Manifesto delle Piccole Scuole, multilevel classes can be a privileged place for teaching innovation, a laboratory that could question the simultaneous and collective teaching model still well rooted in school tradition. Despite the research has shown that, if well organized through an ad hoc pedagogy, these classes guarantee better success in learning as well as in the development of social and collaborative skills (Cornish, 2010;Ronksley et al., 2019), teaching in a multigrade classroom is a challenge for more teachers (Mangione et al., 2020; Erden, 2020). Today, Italian teachers who serve in small schools are not prepared to manage multi-grade contexts. Training is not provided during initial training and is not called up in induction programs (Mangione et al., 2016). An open-ended questionnaire has been addressed to teachers working in 232 multigrade classes, mainly from primary school, collecting 122 complete answers. The first level analysis of data, performed through a combination of grounded theory and phenomenological approach (Mortari 2010), will identify the main critical issues and the opportunities for teachers to improve the teaching and learning process in the multigrade classrooms (Smit et al. 2015). At the second level, the answers will be subsequently clustered according to identify emerging types of practice referring to the organization of learning spaces, the design of curriculum and learning activities, group management and the use of digital technologies in multigrade classes. At the third level, a selection of cases, regarded as exemplary of typical situations, will be deepened through individual and group interviews, in order to generate a repertoire of practices to share with the Italian Small school Movement. Based on the results of three levels of investigation, the work intends to report documentation that is effective for the dissemination of practices and the training of teachers.
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