The multicultural classroom – students with an immigrant background in upper secondary school

The objective of the PhD project of Charlotte H. Hancock is to study factors in the learning environment that may be of significance for mastery of school subjects and sense of belonging among students with an immigrant or refugee background.

This topic is relevant in terms of truancy, mental health and inclusion. The project is based on a qualitative research design where both students and teachers will have an opportunity to share their experiences. The sample group will consist of students and teachers in upper secondary school. There has been little qualitative research on the experience of educational mastery and sense of belonging among this student group.

The theoretical framework will consist of research and theory addressing the interplay between social support, sense of belonging and educational mastery. The main focus is on school belonging supported by recent research into academic competence closely associated with educational mastery (especially academic/emotional engagement). A sense of belonging is related to a number of positive academic and psychological factors such as self-image, interpersonal skills, motivation and school results. A sense of belonging is also associated with less depression, stress and social rejection (Kia-Keating and Ellis, 2007; Allen and Bowles, 2012; Osterman, 2000). A recent study by Ming et al. (2012) showed that teachers in multicultural classrooms who support their students, contribute to educational development and better school results. This finding is viewed in light of previous research showing that teachers who support students, help them develop their academic resources (Osterman, 2000).

The Centre for Learning Environment has started the work on developing a scheme to strengthen the inclusion and sense of belonging for students with an immigrant or refugee background. The plans for this work include a test of FuelBox' Nye medborgere (New Fellow Citizens) at two upper secondary schools. New Fellow Citizens is a conversational tool adapted for use in language cafés or conversation groups. This tool has never before been tested in school. Over the course of nine weeks, teachers will use this conversational tool in the programme subject Communications and Collaboration at the VG1 level. The development of a future scheme may take place in parallel with this pilot project to ensure participation and involvement by students and teachers.

Charlotte Hancock. Foto: Jeanette Larsen.

Charlotte Hancock. Foto: Jeanette Larsen.