Extending Impact for Inclusion and Social Cohesion in Europe: Successful Educational Actions for All in Diverse Communities
Recently the social impact of research has emerged as one of the most pressing demands to all scientific fields. The social sciences, in particular, have been affected by this trend and questioned more lately on impact than have other sciences. This recent but powerful debate claims for the accountability of research in terms of social impact to lead for social improvements. Social impact has been defined as “social improvements achieved as a consequence of implementing the results of a particular research project or study” (IMPACT-EV, 2014-2017).
Educational research cannot be not left out of this debate. If our knowledge should go beyond the Ivory Tower and improve children’s learning and development, then advancing knowledge for its own sake is not enough (Ball, 2012). This common concern about how research contributes to improve peoples’ lives and provide concrete benefits to educational practices and policies is present in all dimensions of the public sphere. This paper aims at examining the social impact of the EU-funded research INCLUD-ED, Strategies for Inclusion and Social Cohesion in Europe through Education (2006-2011) achieved in schools and communities, and particularly its extension with the ChiPE project (2013-2015) in Spain and the UK as a result of implementing two interventions named: Interactive Groups and Dialogic Literary Gatherings. Following up this project, two ERASMUS+ grants (SEAs4All, 2016-2018; STEPS4SEAS, 2017-2019), and one Spanish National Grant, IMP-EXIT (2016-2018) have been successfully funded and are now on-going.
The theoretical underpinnings of these interventions, IG and DLG, include Flecha’s theory of Dialogic Learning (Flecha, 2000) articulated though seven principles on the basis that “learning primarily depends on the interactions and dialogues that the students have, not only with teachers but also with the other students, their families and other members of the community’ (Flecha, 2015, p. 71). This approach is eminently transformative building on Vygotsky’s socio-cultural theory wherein development is seen as a process of transformation (Stetsenko, 2016) or Freire’s dialogic action theory for overcoming oppression and injustice (Freire, 1970), amongst others.
Interactive groups (IG) and Dialogic Literary gatherings (DLG): DLGs were identified firstly as a Successful Educational Actions for improving achievement and social cohesion in the INCLUD-ED project, the only Social Science and Humanities (SSH) research selected among the ten success stories highlighted by the European Union. This project has been shown to achieve social impact according to the criteria defined by the Social Impact Open Repository (SIOR), launched by the European Commission and recently published in Nature (Flecha, Soler & Sorde, 2015). INCLUD-ED provides evidence on metrics such as social improvement, transferability to diverse populations or social contexts.
Through the analysis of the research results published in papers, reports and further research projects generated we aim to answer the following research question: in what ways can the social impact of educational research be measured, widened and expanded to benefit schools and communities in Europe?
Our sources include empirical data of the INCLUD-ED and ChiPE project, and two of the current grants that implement research-based knowledge from those projects: SEAs4All and IMP-EXIT.
Five schools have been selected within the SEAs4All project and one school within the IMP-EXIT project, to implement in primary classrooms Interactive Groups and Dialogic Literary Gatherings. Schools are located in Cyprus, England, Italy and Spain. Data collection has been conducted during the academic year 2016-2017.
25 children per classroom and 7 teachers have taken part in the project. Data collected include children’s questionnaires to measure their attitudes towards these interventions before and after the implementation of those two classroom strategies. Qualitative data have been gathered through interviews from participants (teachers and students), observational data from the classrooms and teachers’ post lesson meetings.
The analysis to measure social impact has been conducted according the three main indicators defined by the Social Impact Open Repository (Flecha, Soler & Sorde, 2015):
a) Percentage of improvement achieved in relation to the starting situation. (school-based indicators that reflect benefits as a result of implementing SEAs).
b) Transferability of the impact. Evidence of SEAs to have been successfully implemented in more than one context.
c) Sustainability. The impact achieved by SEAs, has been shown to be sustainable throughout time.
The implementation of SEAs had a positive impact in improving academic performance and fostering social cohesion in the schools analysed by INCLUD-ED. One of the schools in Spain showed an increasing in the percentage of students who passed the standardised reading test: from 17% to 85% in 5 years (2001-2006) while the number of immigrant increased (from 17% to 42%). Family participation in IG and DLG has been a crucial aspect to foster such improvements.
ChiPE project demonstrated that DLGs were implemented successfully in England and created a more inclusive dialogic space. Since almost all the children participated and offered contributions based on their personal choice, knowledge appeared to be distributed among all participants. In one of the schools, the percentage of students who obtained +2 levels progress increased from 33% to 57% in reading, and from 17% to 32% in writing.
Preliminary results from the data collected in SEAs4All and IMP-EXIT classrooms are ongoing. We expect children’s attitudes towards DLG and IG to improve. Informative feedback provided by the children along the implementation will help teachers to work on the possible negative aspects raised.
In 2016-2017, as part of the SEAs4All and IMP-EXIT projects, 13 new schools are benefiting from the SEAs in Europe. These projects enable recruiting of new schools, bidding for more local funds. 20 SEAs are going on involving 750 students participating and benefiting from it. Their parents and families are familiar with the SEAs and may support their children’s learning. 25 teachers engaged in the projects and researching their own use of SEAs.
Evidence on the potential transferability of SEAs across national and cultural contexts might contribute to achieve the promise of social inclusion and cohesion in Europe.
Ball, A. (2012). To Know Is Not Enough: Knowledge, Power, and the Zone of Generativity. Educational Researcher, 41, 283-293.
Flecha, R. (2000). Sharing words: Theory and practice of dialogic learning. Rowman & Littlefield.
Flecha, R. (Ed.) (2015). Successful educational actions for inclusion and social cohesion in Europe. Springer.
Flecha R., Soler M. & Sorde T. (2015). Social Impact: Europe must fund social sciences. Nature 528 (193). doi:10.1038/528193d
Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum.
IMPACT-EV (2014-2017). Evaluating the impact and outcomes of European SSH Research. 7th Framework Programme. European Commission. Accessed at: http://impact-ev.eu/
IMP-EXIT (2016-2018). Impacto de los Entornos Interactivos de Aprendizaje en el Éxito Académico y Social. Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad. Accessed at: http://imp-exit.deusto.es/
INCLUD-ED (2006-2011). Strategies for inclusion and social cohesion from education in Europe. INTEGRATED PROJECT Priority 7. 6th Framework Programme. European Commission. Accessed at: http://creaub.info/included/
SEAS4ALL (2015- 2017). Schools as Learning Communities in Europe: Successful Educational Actions for all. ERASMUS +. European Commission. Accessed at: http://seas4all.eu/
Stetsenko, A. (2016) ‘Vygotsky’s Project: From Relational Ontology to Transformative Worldview’, in The Transformative Mind: Expanding Vygotsky’s Approach to Development and Education. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 115–155