About this paper

Appears in:
Pages: 4678-4686
Publication year: 2011
ISBN: 978-84-615-3324-4
ISSN: 2340-1095

Conference name: 4th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 14-16 November, 2011
Location: Madrid, Spain

EQUITABLE AND EMPOWERING SCHOOL SETTINGS: REDUCING THE GAP BETWEEN ADVANTAGE AND DISADVANTAGE

N. Conway, D. Paton

University of Tasmania (AUSTRALIA)
All things are subject to interpretation. Whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth. Friedrich Nietzsche

The negative impact academic difficulties can have for social, emotional and behavioural outcomes on children, adolescents, and adults is well documented. For example, chronic academic difficulties in children can lead to: low self-esteem and difficulty making and maintaining friendships; learned helplessness; reduced confidence in ability to learn and be successful; low achievement motivation; attention problems and maladaptive behaviours and increased risk of suicide. Attempts to remedy academic difficulties often target learning outcomes rather than the learning process and the social context in which learning occurs. However, the benefits of exploring the social contexts is evident in how areas such as psychological sense of ‘connectedness’ to school and parents is associated with diminished emotional distress, suicide attempts and violent behaviour among adolescents with learning difficulties. In light of the growing awareness for the need to address inequity in educational outcomes, the question is asked whether greater attention to social context can similarly influence academic outcomes.
In Australia, the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians outlines the need to provide high quality and equitable education to ensure all young Australians are equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st Century. Despite the intention implicit in recent policies, such as the implementation of the K-10 Australian curriculum, they fail to address how equity in regards to educational outcomes for socially disadvantaged groups is attained. The conceptualisation of these policies sees intervention as a top-down process and fails to accommodate the fact that equity is a social exchange process and one characterised by difference in the distribution of power.

Research is needed to clarify how equitable outcomes can be enacted within school settings characterised by diversity and to define ‘how’ the curriculum should be taught in ways that facilitate inclusivity and engagement in addition to ‘what’ should be taught. It is argued that understanding the ‘how’ identifies an issue missing in the academic achievement literature.

What is missing is an understanding of the personal learning experience of students and how individual characteristics (i.e., personal experiences and competencies) and social contexts interact with structures and processes within the school and impact on learning outcomes. Further, consideration should be given to how educational activities and policies (e.g., NAPLAN testing), which influence the social/cultural context, are developed and implemented within schools, and how school settings themselves influence equity and empowerment.

Drawing on empowerment theory, this paper discusses the development of an overarching theory that can guide decision making and inform policy development that facilitates equitable academic outcomes for all students by promoting the development and enactment of empowering academic settings that accommodate diverse needs and enable the mapping of targeted engagement processes that promotes sustainable learning outcomes.
@InProceedings{CONWAY2011EQU,
author = {Conway, N. and Paton, D.},
title = {EQUITABLE AND EMPOWERING SCHOOL SETTINGS: REDUCING THE GAP BETWEEN ADVANTAGE AND DISADVANTAGE},
series = {4th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation},
booktitle = {ICERI2011 Proceedings},
isbn = {978-84-615-3324-4},
issn = {2340-1095},
publisher = {IATED},
location = {Madrid, Spain},
month = {14-16 November, 2011},
year = {2011},
pages = {4678-4686}}
TY - CONF
AU - N. Conway AU - D. Paton
TI - EQUITABLE AND EMPOWERING SCHOOL SETTINGS: REDUCING THE GAP BETWEEN ADVANTAGE AND DISADVANTAGE
SN - 978-84-615-3324-4/2340-1095
PY - 2011
Y1 - 14-16 November, 2011
CI - Madrid, Spain
JO - 4th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
JA - ICERI2011 Proceedings
SP - 4678
EP - 4686
ER -
N. Conway, D. Paton (2011) EQUITABLE AND EMPOWERING SCHOOL SETTINGS: REDUCING THE GAP BETWEEN ADVANTAGE AND DISADVANTAGE, ICERI2011 Proceedings, pp. 4678-4686.
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