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Overcoming Inequalities in Schools and Learning Communities: Innovative Education for a New Century

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - SALEACOM (Overcoming Inequalities in Schools and Learning Communities: Innovative Education for a New Century)

Reporting period: 2016-07-01 to 2017-12-31

The main aim of SALEACOM Project. Overcoming Inequalities in Schools and Learning Communities: Innovative Education for a New Century is to create a wide collaboration between 6 research groups from Australia, Brazil, New Zealand, Hungary, Spain and USA, and 1 non-academic institution from Spain (Drom Kotar Mestipen) with a global scope to address educational and social exclusion in schools and learning communities.

SALEACOM seeks to create an International Research Network that has the following aims: (a) to increase worldwide cooperation in the study of successful actions with children and youth systematically underserved; (b) to provide high-quality training programs for teachers and educational researchers aiming at overcoming inequalities; (c) to develop interdisciplinary solutions for and with learners most heavily affected by inequalities, including access and quality of higher education; (d) to design strengths-based methodologies for international comparative research to further the impact of research on the lives of students who have been historically excluded (e) to create a global program of successful educational actions to be implemented across educational systems.

Access to quality and successful education for all has been placed at the heart of the inequality issue. Reducing inequalities and social exclusion in Europe is one of the crucial challenges for the future that needs to be addressed globally. SALEACOM is directly connected with the EU2020 targets related with education. The analysis of Schools as Learning Communities and the identification of Successful Actions internationally is addressed to identify which actions are contributing to reduce school-out rates.

SALEACOM includes a collaborative working plan (from January 2015 to December 2017) based on the exchange of research staff aiming at identifying and optimizing successful actions in schools and learning communities as well as in higher and teacher education that address social exclusion, discrimination and various forms of inequalities. To promote coherent and effective cooperation among the research team, it accounts for the inclusion of researchers across disciplines, stages in their careers and cultures, committed to conducting strengths-based international research to further impact the lives of students who have been traditionally unsuccessful in educational contexts. To maximize the research outcomes of this proposal, researcher exchanges are based on partners’ complementarities in skills, methodological expertise and knowledge of several excluded populations that face similar challenges globally (i.e. Roma, Indigenous populations, African American, among others).
This first reporting period refers to the Months 1 – 18 of the project (January 2015 until June 2016). During these months, the SALEACOM consortium has been focused on work packages 1 and 2, related respectively to the Successful educational actions for the historically excluded and the role of teachers and communities in the overcoming of social inequalities and educational success. It has been also looking at the methodologies of research as a cross-cutting issue, aiming to strength international comparative research to further the impact of research on the lives of students who have been historically excluded.

A total of 11 secondments have been conducted, involving the mobility of a total of 4 early researchers and 7 researchers among 4 countries. During the secondments, and in everyone country, the network of researchers have shared their knowledge and methodological expertise on the research related to the education of excluded populations. This has been done through theoretical and methodological discussions, literature review and exchange of contributions, visits to schools (13 visits have been done in fact), specific meetings to discuss relevant points (more than 30 meetings), and joint work in data collection and data analysis. Beyond identifying common paradigms and strategies, the secondments have enabled to deep into our complementarities and to make joint progresses towards comparative research with social impact.

The main results have been as follow:

- An extensive literature review on learning environments, classrooms and schools that are providing evidence of improving situations of exclusion affecting students from systematically underserved populations: Roma, Indigenous, African American, Latino, Afro-Brazilian, among others. This literature review has been elaborated in Report 1 and is the basis of publications and scientific presentations.

- An identification and deep exploration of successful practices and programmes. Two case studies of Learning Communities have been conducted within a communicative approach, as well a continuous exploration of other school interventions and teacher education programmes.

- A total of 23 training seminars and workshops targeted to researchers, PhD candidates, students and other stakeholders. These have promoted inter-generational, inter-institutional, interdisciplinary and international dialogue between scholars and also between scholars and non-academic agents.

- One Special Issue proposal on Successful Educational Actions, which is being submitted to a Q1 scientific journal.

- Symposiums and papers presented in 4 international conferences (World Educational Research Association Conference, European Conference on Educational Research, International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry, International Multidisciplinary Conference in Educational Research)

- Dissemination beyond the academia and synergies with relevant stakeholders and policy-makers in some of the countries involved.
SALEACOM project is strongly targeted to the EU2020 priorities at the educational level (to reduce school drop-out rate below 10% and reaching at least 40% of 30-34 year olds who have completed tertiary education or equivalent) and the worldwide importance of Education in the Sustainable Development Goals. Particularly, the partnership shares the goal of providing extended knowledge and sustainable solutions to provide quality education to specific populations that have been historically underserved.

The communicative methodological approach of SALEACOM assumes the potential of social agents (including those traditionally excluded) to co-lead and promote social transformations. Due to this, the activities in the project and during the secondments have enabled opportunities for establishing rich dialogues with teachers, professionals, NGOs and end-users.

The project is an outstanding opportunity to create an International Network with scientific, political and social impact, and sustainable beyond the end of the partnership. The consolidation of an International Research Networks of the WERA (WERA-IRNs) and the engagement of national stakeholders in different participant countries are key factors for the achievement of these impacts.