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Inclusive Education for an Inclusive Europe: Examining Social Interactions, Dynamics and Friendship Networks of Students in Mainstream Primary Schools

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - IE2 (Inclusive Education for an Inclusive Europe: Examining Social Interactions, Dynamics and Friendship Networks of Students in Mainstream Primary Schools)

Reporting period: 2017-09-01 to 2018-08-31

The general aim of this project was to examine the social interactions, dynamics and friendships of all students, with an emphasis on those identified as having special educational needs, in mainstream primary schools. The Inclusive Education for an Inclusive Europe (IE2) project sought to understand how inclusive education is being implemented across three countries (US, UK, Cyprus) and, in doing so, to contribute to the debate on how to create a more inclusive European society by providing rigorous research evidence and recommendations. Additionally, the second main objective of the project was to develop a social network analysis toolkit for schools to enable practitioners to understand the social dynamics, friendship patterns and other social relationships within their settings. The third objective was to begin developing a platform for visualizing large datasets within inclusive and special education in Europe.
Creating a more inclusive and welcoming educational system is key in addressing the numerous challenges that the modern European and global societies are facing. Student populations are increasingly diverse and highly mobile, with distinct needs and multiple identities. In particular, students identified as having special educational needs and disabilities are at higher risk of social isolation and exclusion. It is imperative that those risks are identified and dealt with as early as possible so these students can achieve their full potential and without the risk of isolation and segregation. Understanding how children interact and form friendships has various wider implications into how society operates in general. Tackling social exclusion and discrimination at the school/educational level is critical in our attempt to reduce inequalities and transform society. Therefore, to serve the best interests of these and all students, a more inclusive education system is urgently needed. Our project has identified a number of ways that may contribute to how we build a more inclusive, responsive and welcoming educational system that provides opportunities for success to all of its members. For example, educators expressed the urgent need for more tools to be provided to them, such as the toolkit, to enable them to understand and transform their everyday practice. They also highlighted the important role of education researchers working with them to improve practice.
In line with the Work Plan for the reporting period (first 24 months) the following work has been performed:
Months 1 to 6: The tasks set for this period were: 1. To carry out a comprehensive literature review in the following areas: inclusive and special education in the US, inclusion legislative context, inclusive pedagogy in the US, social network analysis in education, innovative methods in childhood studies. 2. To submit an article on ‘Social Network Analysis in Education’ to a leading, international, peer-reviewed journal. 3. To register on a course on social network analysis. 5. To gain approval from UCSD’s Ethics Board and 6. To prepare the 1st six-month evaluation of the progress in the work plan. MILESTONES: 1. To gain ethical approval for project and 2. To complete a course on social network analysis. Major deliverables: 1. Journal article. 2. Six-month evaluation report.
As reflected on the first 6-month evaluation report of the project, all of the above have been completed successfully.
Months 7 to 12: The tasks set for and completed within this period included: 1. To refine data collection instruments and undertake data collection from five elementary schools. 2. To prepare a conference paper using the initial findings from data collection. 3. To compile the 2nd six-month evaluation report. 4. To receive further training in advanced network analysis and R software. 5. To begin designing the social network toolkit. MILESTONES: 1. To complete the first phase of US-based research. 2. To complete a course on social network analysis. Major deliverables that were executed successfully were: 1. conference presentation. 2. 2nd six-month evaluation report.
Months 13 to 18: the specific tasks for this period included: 1. To begin undertaking data collection from further ten elementary and middle schools. 2. To compile the 3rd six-month evaluation of the progress in the work plan. 3. To start piloting/testing the social network analysis toolkit. The major deliverable for this period was the 3rd six-month evaluation report, which has been completed and uploaded onto the system. The work undertaken during these six months is fully described in this report.
Months 19 to 24: 1. To complete data collection in the US. To upload the social network analysis toolkit onto project’s website. 3. To complete the social network analysis dataset. To publicize the toolkit to US elementary schools. 5. To organize one workshop to train teachers and trainee teachers in using the toolkit. To prepare a conference paper. To submit a paper to an international journal of inclusive education. 6. To complete the 24-month report for the project. MILESTONES: 1. Completion of data collection in the US. 2. Development of the social network analysis toolkit. Major deliverables: 1. Social network analysis toolkit. 2. Social network analysis dataset. 3. Journal article. 4. Conference presentation. 5. 24-month evaluation report.
As planned, all work has been undertaken and completed successfully. Data collection from schools in Southern California has been completed. More than one thousand students across 35 classrooms took part, 25 teachers, administrators and district leaders.
The project is progressing as intended and the fellow is well on track on achieving all the project’s objectives and beyond. As part of the project, the fellow has formed partnerships with practitioners, researchers and district leaders that helped the project to expand its impact. For example, data from two additional European countries have been collected during the first 24 months of the project because of partnerships established with other researchers in the field. Additionally, this process has led to collaborative work, including publications, conference presentations, and grant applications. This progress is beyond the state of the art objectives of the project.
By the end of the project, the fellow is confident that the project will generate more and sustained socio-educational impact through the use of the toolkit by practitioners and other researchers. There has been a great deal of interest in translating the toolkit in other languages as well as increased interest from educators to use the toolkit in their classrooms. We expect to compile a much larger dataset within the next 12 months which will enable a better understanding of our objectives and research questions. We are excited to find out about how students with additional support needs and disabilities are included in mainstream education settings across different countries, levels of education and demographics. All this taken together is expected to have positive wider societal implications.