The problem of school failure and early school dropout in Portugal still persists, despite the continuous policies developed in the last decades of the twentieth century in order to promote academic success. These policies had little impact on educational practice, maintaining school grammar unaltered. This means continuing to organize schools in the logic of the standardization of learning situations, which is incompatible with the diversity of students schools have to face nowadays. In the beginning of the twenty-first century the Ministry of Education launched “Programa Mais Sucesso Escolar” (More School Success Program), with the objective of preventing school failure and dropout in primary education. This program is based on the alteration of the traditional school model, making it possible to group students and to manage time and space for instruction in a flexible way. This was the beginning of a new generation of educational policies, more centered in supporting the local initiatives of each school, that made it possible for schools (on a bottom up logic) to organize themselves in order to find answers for their problems and enabled school based projects to emerge. In this scenario, we sought to better understand the reality of these initiatives, developing a multiple case study of three different projects: Fénix (Phoenix), Turma Mais (Plus Class) and Área de Desenvolvimento Individual (Individual Development Area). In the attempt of understanding if the way schools have reorganized themselves within these projects has been perceived as learning promoting, we intended to study the organizational variables mobilized to promote learning amongst students as well as their impacts in schools. In order to do so, we revised the theoretical lenses that would enable us to outline an integrated conceptual framework, which made it possible for us to look at the different structures of school organizations, namely in what concerns to educational policies, school grammar, organizational variables (leadership, student grouping, instructional time, professional cultures and support networks) and key classroom variables (pedagogical relationship, teaching strategies, classroom climate and assessment). In this process we convened the theoretical perspectives of bureaucracy, new institutionalism and school as a loosely coupled system. The analysis of the collected data leads to the conclusion that in general, the different actors involved in the projects (principals, teachers and schoolchildren) perceive them as generating positive impacts on learning. We identify, however, some areas for improvement, such as the institution of pedagogical supervision practice that enables a more accurate reflection on the act of teaching with direct impacts in the pedagogical practice; a more intelligent curriculum management , more attentive to the children’s developmental stadium and based on more collaborative curriculum development practice; the activation of true learning cycles, leveraged by pedagogical differentiation processes and formative assessment mechanisms to the service of learning.
|Published - 2013