SUCCESSFUL EDUCATIONAL ACTIONS
The European research project INCLUD-ED identified and analysed a series of Successful Educational Actions – practices that demonstrably increase academic performance and improve the social cohesion and attitudes of solidarity in all the schools observed.
In Europe the outcomes of this study that was carried out in 14 countries have already been included in the guidelines and recommendations of the European Parliament to overcome academic failure and inequality in education.
1. Interactive groups
Interactive groups are a form of classroom organisation that so far has generated the best results. It consists of grouping all the students in the class into four or five small groups which are as heterogeneous as possible with respect to level of learning, gender, language, motivation, and cultural origin. Each one of the groups is accompanied by an adult volunteer from the school, the families and/or the community. This person enters the classroom to encourage interaction between the pupils. The teacher prepares as many learning tasks as there are groups (normally 4). The groups change activities every 15 or 20 minutes. The students do the tasks by interacting with each other through egalitarian dialogue. It is the adult’s responsibility to ensure that all the members of the group take part and contribute in solidarity to finding a solution to the task. The use of interactive groups diversifies and multiplies interactions and makes the work time more effective.
It is therefore a form of inclusive grouping that improves academic outcomes, interpersonal relationships and coexistence.
2. Dialogic Gathering
It is a collective building of meaning and knowledge through dialogue on the best creations of humanity in disciplines like literature, art and music. They are designed to bring the students closer – regardless of age, gender, culture or ability – to universal classical culture and scientific knowledge gathered by humanity over time.
The Gatherings are based on sharing – showing full respect of one’s right to speak – those ideas and sections of the project that the participants previously selected because they caught their attention or stimulated some kind of thought. This generates a very rewarding exchange that allows greater depths into the topics discussed and promotes the building of new knowledge based on an egalitarian dialogue. In the sessions, one of the participants assumes the role of moderator with the only idea of facilitating and encouraging the equal participation of all the students.
The most experienced Gatherings are the Dialogical Literary Gatherings (DLGs) where people meet to chat and share ideas on a work of classical literature. The classics option is used due to the fact that these works address the most central issues of people’s lives and therefore have stood the test of time; and because this breaks down the barriers of cultural elitists who considered classical literature as a heritage for specific social groups. Access to culture is thus democratised. Dialogical Literary Gatherings have been shown to increase vocabulary, improve oral expression, writing and reading comprehension. It is also an opportunity to boost confidence, reinforce mutual respect and generate solidarity. The DLG is a meaningful experience that helps to transform expectations and attitudes towards education.
3. Family Education
The offer of training and education is not only open to the student and teaching staff but also to families and community as well. This SEA differs to other training for families in that here, families themselves interact, engage in dialogue and decide on which training to aim for and how it will be undertaken.
Training activities can vary but always are orientated towards improving skills and essential knowledge for life in today’s society. This means families have an opportunity to help their children with their homework, to read together, to support them in academic issues and at the same time improve their skills and employability. Some examples of Family Training in schools that are Learning Communities are: Languages, Technology, Mathematics and Finances, etc.
INCLUD-ED research concluded, among other things, that the academic outcome of children and teenagers does not depend so much on the educational level previously achieved by the families but on the fact that the parents are also in a process of training. This increases meaning, expectations and commitment to education.
4. Educational participation
To ensure the educational success of all students, families and members of the community are encouraged to get involved directly in the processes and school learning spaces including the classroom. Families and community also take part in those decisions that concern the education of their children.
This is fundamentally realised in two ways:
With direct participation in the Successful Educational Actions as described (Interactive Groups, DLGs, Family Education, etc.) as well as in other forms of extended learning time especially in Tutored Libraries and by encouraging more dialogic reading and writing time in more places.
With the participation in the management and in the organisation of the school through mixed commissions. In a Learning Community, the school governance is developed by a management commission and various mixed commissions. The management commission comprises the management team and representatives of each of the mixed working commissions. These commissions (made up of teachers, relatives, volunteers and students) are responsible for carrying out the transformations decided on by the school in the dream stage. Approved by the school council, the commissions have autonomy to plan, make proposals and assess all those priorities that have been decided on by consensus. Some examples of mixed commissions are: learning, library, training, volunteering, coexistence, infrastructure etc.
5. Dialogic model for prevention and conflict resolution
An egalitarian dialogue and the solid participation of all in the search for consensus are the fundamental bases for this model. It is a preventative model because it involves the community in establishing a guideline for coexistence. Through equal dialogue, we build –in a joint and consensual way– the school rules that everyone must observe and those proceedings that shall be adopted if these rules are infringed. In this way, the framework of coexistence is accepted and is legitimate for all. The model encourages assemblies and more dialogue spaces where everyone participates and where all arguments are equally heard. The entire community is committed to the creation of a better space for learning.
6. Dialogical Pedagogical Training
To develop the Successful Educational Actions, it is important to be trained in its scientific bases, theories and the evidence endorsed by the international scientific community. Moving from assumptions to evidences is vital in education.
To achieve this, it is necessary to refer directly to the most relevant theoretical sources in the world and to the outcomes of the highest level of research into education. Teachers in particular have to be prepared to know how to argue for their practice and distinguish between opinions and scientific knowledge. This is how Successful Educational Actions are incorporated into the classroom. Likewise teachers will also begin to assess their training based on results obtained by their students.
To achieve this, a Successful Educational Action is the Dialogic Pedagogic Gathering. Knowledge is built up through books that the international scientific community has validated as a benchmark. In this way, they learn from validated and original sources avoiding interpretation, opinions and essays by other authors.
SEAS key features
Strong scientific base in line with the international theories that emphasize two key factors for learning in today’s society: interaction and community involvement.
Based on a dialogic approach of learning and teaching.
Oriented towards transformation of the context.
Built on high expectation for all the students.
Involving families and communities in the educational process and in the decision-making, creating meaning and making the most of the cultural intelligence of all.