04 SES 02 C, Parents’ Views II
Parallel Paper Session
This qualitative research combines grounded theory with a phenomenological approach (Mortari, 2007).
There were 35 research participants: 20 immigrants parents, (primarily mothers from South America, North Africa, Eastern Europe and the Middle East) and 15 children, aged 10 to 11, attending primary schools. These children were born outside of Italy and primary school was their first encounter with the Italian educational system. We observed their processes of integration through their stories and those of their parents. The investigation tried to understand what factors support them in their encounter with school and what factors create obstacles. Although there are many studies examining the relationship between immigrant families and schools and the processes of educating their children, the data regarding educational failures of immigrant children in Italian schools require further investigation. Despite the widespread tendency to attribute the responsibility of school difficulties to the families of immigrant students (Perregaux et al., 2006), we thought it would be useful to hear from these families and their children (MacNaughton et alii, 2007) in order to understand the processes of socio-educational integration from their points of view and to develop some useful reflections (Rorty, 1991).
This study adopts an ecological research paradigm, proposing a vision of knowledge as rooted in natural life contexts, thus giving great value to subjectivity and subjects’ encounters with learning processes. Research from this perspective takes the complexity of the real world into account and attempts to find adequate tools to get closer to subjects’ experiences, keeping faithful to all their nuances and contradictions. Phenomenological research is oriented to answer questions of meaning, and a phenomenological approach can be particularly useful when the research aims at understanding an experience as it is lived and perceived by participants (Polkinghorne, 1989, p. 45). Consequently, participants are asked to describe an experience rather than making abstract considerations (Giorgi, 1985). The participants’ comprehensive descriptions of the phenomenon are the basis for an analysis that can draw out the essence of the experience (Moustakas, 1994).
The acceptance of others, recognizing differences, and listening to one's recounting of the world are crucial dimensions of the phenomenological approach in order for one to experience recognition/confirmation of his values and of the social significance of his point of view (Honnet, 2002). For participants, interviews represent an opportunity to retrace their own lives and turn them into experiences, and a possibility to take part in the process of identifying strategies to resolve situations that are problematic or that lead to an improvement in quality of life (Maxcy, 2003). In an attempt to carry out useful research (Carr & Kemmis, 1986) , our fundamental criterium was faithfulness to participants' descriptions, in order to understand their experiences and the supporting and opposing factors in their processes of educational integration, and the lived experiences of their families who are considered agents of transformational processeses in real life contexts. The essay presents the structure of the research and results, and compares them with data collected in a similar contexte in Quebec, Canada.
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