01 SES 14, Symposium: Responding to Diversity
Across Europe a challenge facing teachers is that of responding to learner diversity (Booth and Ainscow, 1998; UNESCO, 2010). Increased population movement between countries has added to the urgency, with schools in most countries admitting more young people with ethnic, cultural and linguistic differences. There is also widespread concern regarding the progress of students defined as having special educational needs and those from economically poor backgrounds who tend to lose out most starkly, achieve the worst results and attend the lowest performing schools.
This symposium is focused on this crucial agenda. It will be based around findings from the first phase of a study being carried out in Spain, Portugal and the UK, funded through the European Union Comenius Multilateral Projects programme. The overall aim is to develop an innovative approach to in-service development that will support teachers in developing inclusive classroom practices by engaging with the views of students in such a way so as to ensure that personal and social circumstances – for example gender, socio-economic status or ethnic origin – are not an obstacle to participation and learning. Therefore, the aims of the study relate directly to the conference theme by illustrating how research can champion education and development for all.
The study sets out to address the following research questions:
- How can an engagement with the views of students be used to stimulate inclusive practices amongst teachers?
- What techniques and strategies can be used as part of teacher development activities? and
- How can these techniques and strategies be used in different national contexts?
It involves two cycles of collaborative action research, carried out by teachers and researchers in the three countries. It involves a total of eight secondary schools and four universities. Each team is experimenting with ways of collecting and engaging with the views of students in order to foster the development of more inclusive classroom practices (Ainscow and Kaplan, 2005; Messiou, 2012). The use of ‘lesson study’ approach is used to foster teacher development (Hiebert, Gallimore and Stigler, 2002; Pérez, Soto and Servan, 2010). Then, through processes of networking they share their experiences and findings. Earlier work indicates that this will provide potentially rich opportunities for learning, as practitioners reflect on similarities and differences between the various contexts (Ainscow et al., 2012).
The university researchers support these activities, particularly in respect to the writing of evaluative accounts. From a methodological point of view, triangulation is ensured by comparing and contrasting evidence from different sources - teachers, students, researchers -. In this way validity of the findings is ensured. Use is made of audit trails that explain how evidence has been used to support claims in respect to the impact on teacher thinking and practice, and on student outcomes. An external evaluator interrogates these audit trails, offering a written critical evaluation of their trustworthiness. The papers will report initial findings in regards to the processes involved in the project in a way that is intended to stimulate debate within the symposium.
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