More Trust and Cohesion for Secondary School Classes – Experiences of the Implementation of the Express Yourself! Programme in Four EU Countries
Journal of Education, Society and Behavioural Science,
Aim: The article describes and evaluates the implementation and impact of an inclusive grouping programme in the secondary school context, and how best practices can be established in different contextual and cultural conditions in Ireland, Germany, Lithuania, and Spain. The article is part of the Express Yourself! project and the European Union’s Erasmus+ Programme.
Methodology: The theoretical framework of this study is based on the self-determination theory. Following the PDCA Cycle, the project team developed a programme scheme (fitting for the broader European context) based on an experienced Finnish model as well as a research perspective. The participating school types ranged from secondary public schools in cities to vocational schools in inclusive settings and gymnasiums with students (approx. 12-20 years) from mainly rural areas. The Express Yourself! sessions include five meetings of 60 to 120 minutes over several weeks. Each session focuses on a different topic, but building up on each other. The training was held in the facilities of the schools and mainly carried out by external pedagogical staff. A 3X10D questionnaire, mainly gathering data on the well-being of the participants (N=677), and a trainer questionnaire, focusing on the content on perception of the session content, were used for the analysis.
Results: The article provides evidence that the Express Yourself! programme is a practical way of stimulating social inclusion in schools in different cultures and contexts. The research indicates a positive impact on students’ experienced overall well-being, especially in life-as-a-whole, managing daily activities, friends, and self-esteem. Deeper analysis of the results indicates that there were differences between the success of the project in cooperation countries. The main influencing factors were gender and age.
Conclusion: The Express Yourself! programme was experienced as a low threshold and effective way to positively influence students’ well-being and inclusion. Promising results were promoted by the motivation and cooperation between the trainers and teachers, which was indirectly reflected in the atmosphere in the class. Based on cooperation, sessions were tailored to the needs of each class.
- Social inclusion
- formal education
- social group work.
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