How students’ attempts to contribute to a better society impact the school?

School project

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How students’ attempts to contribute to a better society impact the school?

The previous year in NEMESIS, 8 schools, 56 teachers and 1030 students around Europe used a new and experimental educational approach to empower young people. This involved the creation of social innovation projects within schools. Co-creation labs were set up to promote collaborative relations between students and adults where they were tasked with jointly address social challenges in their school or the wider community.

The results of the first pilot period demonstrated that students can benefit from their involvement in the NEMESIS co-creation labs in terms of their emotional, cognitive, behavioral and agentic engagement:

In terms of emotional engagement, students felt that their voice was heard, valued and acted upon. This made them feel important to their school, increasing their sense of belonging there. As a result of the redefined relationships that were formed with adults, students’ confidence was boosted, making them feel like they were not being treated simply as children, but as skilled individuals capable of fulfilling their goals.

“It’s like getting out of the classroom, it’s more real. We are not treated like kids but as people” (pupil, CEIP los Albares).

This increase in their self-confidence also manifested itself as an increase in the children’s maturity.

“I like that I feel more grown-up because I am talking to adults” (pupil, Rockingham) 

On top of that, students came up with the ideas for the projects themselves, making them feel more autonomous and empowered. 

“NEMESIS gave us more independence to do things that we wanted. It made us more able to carry out our projects.” (student, IES El Batan)

The fact that the projects were of tangible benefit to their community further reinforced this emotional engagement. It positively impacted their feeling of connectedness to their communities as well as strengthening their sense of collective efficacy as a result of the new relationships that were formed with adults and peers.

“If the task assigned to the children was to start a business, it wouldn’t have the same emotional charge. It becomes even more evident these days, that we need to give back to the community. Getting children to understand this can have serious emotional benefits” (Teacher, 6th Intercultural school of Kordelio)

In terms of cognitive engagement, students greatly understood the real purpose of their learning. They took ownership of their ideas to drive their projects forward and thus felt more motivated to perform in class because it felt personal, important and relevant to them.

“I can now see my student’s willingness and passion to perform activities that they found boring before. Now they suddenly all want to become “readers” and “writers” because they see the practical importance these skills can have.” (teacher, 6th intercultural school of Kordelio) 

In terms of behavioral engagement, the inclusive environment created by the co-creation labs as well as the support from adults helped shy students to come out of the woodwork and generally built confidence among the class. Moreover, the way students behave towards each other in school has also been positively affected by NEMESIS. In working together towards a common goal, students were required to act maturely and put aside their differences.

“In some cases, I felt NEMESIS was really changing the school culture. Students that didn’t normally speak now behave differently … they have ideas, ask questions… I did not know they had their own ideas; that they thought so critically.” (Teacher, AE Maia) 

Finally, with regard to agentic engagement, it has been observed that students have been very proactive, making constructive suggestions. Such an increase in the students’ agency is connected to the strong sense of ownership and enthusiasm that they have developed in their social innovation projects and the collective effort of the co-creation Labs.

“It’s our project, we make decisions. Before we were told what to do.” (student, AE Maia) 

“We will improve the school. And I will be helping to do it. We will change it. If we all assume our responsibility, we will make it! I believe it!” (Student, AE Maia) 


Do you want to learn about other school projects in NEMESIS? Click here.

Are you a school willing to learn more about NEMESIS or thinking about joining the project? Feel free to surf the web and drop us a line (hello@nemesis-edu.eu) or fill our contact form.

Are you a social innovator who would like to collaborate with the schools in your area? Click here for more info on how to become a mentor.

The assessment of Social Innovation Competences at CEIP Los Albares: qualitative and quantitative tools

Authors: Ana Cristina Blasco-Serrano (Zaragoza University), Teresa Coma (Zaragoza University), Ana Echevarría (Los Albares School)

CEIP Los Albares is a state school of  Early Childhood and Primary education, situated in La Puebla de Alfinden, a small town, close to Zaragoza city. The educational identity of the school is based on the values of democracy, respect, solidarity, critical thinking and commitment to the community. 

Through its participation in NEMESIS, a European project, the school aims at developing social innovation skills in pupils and, therefore, improving the social innovation responsibility. To do so, teachers have worked together to integrate and embed social innovation principles in their teaching practice.  

With a strong focus on co-creation and other participatory methodologies, teachers, students and parents have joined forces to develop a set of social innovation competences: vision for a better world, responsible and critical thinking competences, empathy, self-efficacy, collective and creative problem solving, embracing diversity, collective efficacy, social resilience, digital social innovation competences, take the leap for value creation, organisation and mobilisation of resources, social communication competences, reflective learning, collaborative planning and democratic decision making. 

Teachers want to understand their practices and improve them. For assessing pupils’ competence development, the teaching team collaborates with Zaragoza University researchers in what qualifies as an action research project (Kemmis & Mctaggart, 1988). 

The research is a mix of qualitative and quantitative methodologies that complement each other, favoring the triangulation of information.  Qualitative data is mainly collected through participant observation (Merrian, 2009) and a questionnaire yields quantitative information. 

Qualitative tools

The qualitative research includes a wide range of tools. Teachers, as natural participants, and external researchers observe the action taking place in the Co-Lab sessions and in other NEMESIS activities. The external researchers keep a low profile so as not to disturb the interactions between participants. Teachers and researchers collect data in a field diary, in a reflexive way, analyzing the data from the first moment (Gibbs, 2012). 

Data collection is complemented with semi-structured interviews. This tool allows in-depth exploration of the data collected by participant observation (Kvale & Brinkmann, 2009). In the interviews,  teachers, pupils and families express their perceptions, experiences, insights and feelings, and delve into the issues raised during the investigation (Spradley, 1979). 

In this study, children are active agents, so narratives are another important tool to collect data (Prout, 2002; Punch, 2002). The narratives give children the opportunity to freely express their opinions and perceptions about the NEMESIS project (Hyvärinen, 2016). In combination with narratives, this study will also analyze children’s drawings and productions so that all children, even if they can not write, can express their perception of reality.

Quantitative tools

From a quantitative approach, a questionnaire (Creswell, Plano Clark, Gutmann, & Hanson, 2003) will be used to analyze the development of social innovation competencies at the beginning and at the end of NEMESIS project. The questionnaire will measure children’s self-perception of their competences, and this information will be compared with teachers’ perceptions. 

The questionnaire has been co-designed with the management team of CEIP Los Albares. During 5 sessions we defined indicators for each competence and converted statements to pupil-friendly language.

The survey was created using Google Forms, which allows viewing and managing responses in a functional and immediate way. This research instrument could be used by other schools to, in this way, generalize the findings.


References

Creswell, J. W., Plano Clark, V. L., Gutmann, M. L., & Hanson, W. E. (2003). Advanced mixed methods research designs. In A. Tashakkori & C. Teddlie (Eds.), Handbook of mixed methods in social and behavioral research (pp. 209–240). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Hyvärinen, M. (2016). Narrative and sociology. Narrative Works, 6(1), 38-62.

Kvale, S., & Brinkmann, S. (2009). Interviews: Learning the craft of qualitative research interviewing. Sage.

Kemmis, S. & McTaggart, R. (1988). Cómo planificar la investigación-acción. Barcelona: Laertes

Merrian, S. B. (2009). Qualitative Research. A guide to Design and Implementation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Prout, A.  (2002). Researching  children as social actors: An introduction to the children, 5 -16 programme. Children & Society, 67 -76.

Punch, S. (2002). Research with children. The same or different from research with adults? Childhood, 9 (3), 321-341.

Spradley, J. P. (1979). The ethnographic Interview. N.Y.: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.