National R+D+i Plan (2015-2017). Schools in socio-economically challenging contexts: An approach from education for social justice

  • Reference: EDU2014-56118-P
  • PI: F. Javier Murillo
  • Participating entities: Autonomous University of Madrid
  • Duration: 01/01/2015 – 12/31/2017

This study arises from Thrupp and Lupton (2006) words that argue that one of the most powerful ways to move towards a greater social justice in education is to consider further the context in the practice, in the policy and  in the research. According to them, a unitary and homogeneous vision of education and schools helps to deepen inequalities not only in the process but also in the outcomes.

The economic crisis in Spain is causing an increasing sharp gap between the people who have more and those who have less, that creates poverty and exclusion pockets unknown for decades. This situation is touching the schools, that makes that in short time we have passed from being one of the fairest systems in the world to have serious problems of educational equity. This study aims to deepen the knowledge of Primary and Secondary schools located in socio-economic “challenging” context from Education for Social Justice perspective (Distribution, Recognition and Participation). It represents a prolongation of the research group previous work in which schools committed with Social Justice were analysed.

Three objectives arises:

  1. To know the situation and development of school segregation in Spain (the schools polarization according to the families’ socio-economic status) and the impact on student learning.
  2. To understand the culture of schools located in socio-economically challenging contexts, as well as the specific challenges to be faced.
  3. To deepen especially in the leadership of these schools in challenging contexts, differentiating between the schools with results “above” and “below” expectations,

To achieve them three complementary studies are proposed:

Firstly, an especial exploitation of PISA and the Spanish General Diagnostic Evaluation database will be done. To determine segregation, the Gorard index will be used, and to appreciate the segregation evolution, the curves will be studied in order to analyse changes, and for studying the impact on learning in Language, Mathematics and Science outcomes multilevel statistics models will be used.

Secondly, a case study with 6 schools in especially in challenging contexts will be conducted (3 Primary schools and  2 Secondary schools). In the research about school culture ethnographic techniques will be combined with in-depth study of teachers with a biographical-narrative approach.

The third study will delve into the principals’ characteristics and behaviours working in challenging contexts in above and underperforming schools. Thus, it means to conduct the research that will be run by 23 countries worldwide through the International Successful School Principals Project (ISSPP). Specifically it is a multiperspective case study with 2 underperforming schools and other 2 with aboveperforming schools in challenging contexts thart will be studied.

This work has two defining features: a clearly applied approach by seeking to influence in the decision-making process to promote a differentiated treatment to the schools depending on the context where they are located; and international perspective, with the participation of four international high-level experts, by integrating study in an international project, thus this research claims to be the seed of a more ambitious future European proposal.

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