The Development of Inclusive School Environments in the Community

Mel Ainscow

August 2001

These notes summarise two procedures used with groups of coordinators from eight schools involved in the project, 'The Development of Inclusive School Environments in the Community', in Romania, August 2001. The aim was to help the groups to use participatory inquiry processes in order to review processes and outcomes of the first phase of action research in their schools. My impression was that both approaches worked well in terms of helping colleagues to share their experiences and perceptions, and to summarise their learning.

Activity 1 - A Timeline

This was used in a way that attempted to construct both group and individuals records of processes used in the school. During the first stage groups designed a twelve month timeline on a large sheet of paper, noting key events in their schools. This was introduced using an example drawn on the blackboard. Once the overall timeline was designed, each group member was asked to draw a summary version of their own on a small piece of paper. Then pairs of participants were formed from different schools. Before the individuals talked to each other they were asked to record their personal 'highs and lows' along their school timeline. Again, this was illustrated with an example on the blackboard. No talking was allowed whilst individuals completed this step. Then each person talked to their partner about their personal experience and feelings during the year. It was stressed that active listening was required, only interrupting if it was necessary to seek clarification. Each person had five minutes to explain their timeline. The next stage involved school groups in entering their highs and lows lines on the school poster version of the timeline. Here attention was placed on the need to recognise that school learning involved personal learning. It was also noted that differences can be a useful resource for facilitating deeper understanding of change processes. The final stage in the activity involved the school groups in summarising the outcomes of these processes by completing two sentences, as follows:

  1. We make progress when…
  2. Things are difficult when…

During a plenary session each school group read out their two completed sentences.

Activity 2 - Mind Maps

During the year action research in each school has been focused on a small number of indicators chosen by the coordinating groups (e.g. "students are valued equally"; "The school has an efficient policy for decreasing student absences"). They have been encouraged to collect and analyse various forms of evidence in relation to these indicators. This activity was used to help school groups to carry out an audit of evidence in order to review progress. The technique was demonstrated on the blackboards and groups were asked to be creative in finding visual ways of illustrating their ideas. Each indicator was written in a circle on a poster. These were spaced apart. Groups then noted any evidence they have that suggested progress towards this indicator. No guidance was given as to what was meant by 'evidence' so as to encourage creative thinking. It was suggested that the relative 'strength' of evidence should be indicated in some way and that efforts should be made to illustrate how particular evidence might relate to more than one indicator. The posters were displayed on the wall and colleagues were asked to go and look at the work of other schools. Here it was emphasised that schools might borrow ideas from one another. Finally, school groups discussed the following questions:

  1. What other evidence do we need to evaluate our work?
  2. Do we need to change our indicators for the next phase of action research?

Click here to see the mind map.


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