The main objective of the three-year project (January 2013-December 2015) was to draw lessons from success stories of individual immigrant students and whole school communities at different levels that have succeeded in developing learning contexts that are equitable and socially just. Learning spaces refer to school communities as well as other learning environments and practices than schools, which may be important or instrumental for the young immigrants’ participation and success. In the project, students’ success is defined as social as well as academic. By identifying success stories and good practices our aim was to provide guidelines for teaching and school reform based on these strategies.
Two main aims of the study are to 1) understand and learn from the experiences of immigrant students who have succeeded academically and socially and 2) explore and understand how social justice is implemented in equitable and successful diverse Nordic school contexts and other learning spaces. The project integrates the following four subthemes and main research areas that are clearly interrelated:
A. Students: Experiences and aspirations of immigrant students.
The main aims of this research area are to identify and describe the experiences and aspirations of children and young adults of immigrant background in each country who have been successful academically and socially. Key research questions are:
What learning environments and practices (schools and other) seem to be instrumental for young immigrants’ participation and success in their schools and society and how do they describe their situation, motivations as well as obstacles? What are the young immigrants’ expectations of teachers and curriculum? How do students experience belonging to different groups and what are their aspirations in these settings? What are the immigrant children’s and young adults’ language backgrounds, language learning environments, and attitudes towards their culture of origin and their majority Nordic culture and society?
B. Teachers’ professional development, pedagogy and teaching practices: Teachers as agents and facilitators of inclusion.
The main aim of this research area is to identify how schools engage with students and society to promote, develop and sustain inclusive teaching practices based on social justice. Furthermore, to explore how teachers create inclusive spaces within their classrooms that allow them to identify, respond to and build on the multiple experiences, linguistic and cultural background of their students, including the main obstacles the students face. Key research questions are:
What particular roles and practices can be identified in teachers’ work with diverse groups of children and parents? What sort of professional development do educational authorities offer teachers to help them to work with children of multiple backgrounds and how effective is it? What are the common pedagogical characteristics of teachers who meet diverse students’ expectations and actively promote social justice and equality? How do teachers of immigrant background identify their role in particular as facilitators in empowering immigrant students? How does student diversity influence teachers’ work?
C. Leadership, collaboration and school cultures: Promotion of democratic participation and collaboration of students, teachers, and parents.
The main aim of this research area is to explore how leadership promotes and sustains democratic participation, inclusive practices and collaboration of students, teachers and parents and to identify the main obstacles for forming a collaborative school culture. Key research questions are:
How does democratic participation and involvement of teachers, students and parents represent itself in the schools and how is diversity reflected in the school communities? How do teachers, students and parents experience their school community in terms of chances for involvement and access to decision-making? How is diversity regarded in their school community and how is it reflected in school policy, curricula and practices? How are the visions of leaders and the stated policies of the schools consistent with and reflected in the experiences of the teachers, parents and students? How do the schools ensure that adequate resources are available to students, so that equal opportunities for learning are created?
D. Policies and curricula: Main criteria relating to equity, inclusion and social justice in educational policy, national curriculum guidelines, school policy and curricula.
The main aim of this research area is to identify the main criteria relating to equity, inclusion, democracy and social justice in policy documents of the participating schools as well as in national educational policies and national curriculum guidelines. The key research question is:
How are equity, inclusion, democracy and social justice reflected in policy documents and curricula on national and school levels?
In this report we introduce and discuss the main findings within the four research areas from all four countries.