Contributing to Social Inclusion: Using Arts-led Methodologies for Exploring and Promoting Cohesive Learning Environments

Year: 2019

Author: Peel, Julie, Sockhill, Margaret, Torr, Donna, Schweitzer, Robert

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

We are entering an age of rapid transition impacting the demographic composition of our larger society, as reflected in the education system. At the same time, we are witnessing changes in technology, learning processes, and the meaning of social relationships, each of which has implications for students from diverse cultural backgrounds. The current paper will report on an innovative project which aimed to explore and understand processes for fostering belonging for diverse student cohorts within a Queensland school setting. The methodology involved the use of creative, storytelling methodologies to engage with research participants as collaborators. By privileging the experience of participants we were able to gain insights into school-based processes which may either hinder of advance a sense of inclusivity within school communities. The presentation will be supported by examples of the digital stories created as part of the study. The stories drew upon the Milpera State High School (Milpera) community who acted as an exemplar for the research. Milpera provides English language and settlement services for young people of newly arrived migrant and refugee backgrounds. The digital stories explored the different cultural perspectives that parents, families and students bring to the meaning of belonging in a new country and school. The process of creating the digital stories revealed the following four key elements as integral to the teaching and learning work at Milpera: a student centred approach, acculturation, social support and belonging. The outcomes of the collaboration generalises the processes of building belonging and demonstrates has implications for developing belonging across educational settings. The research has implications for policy makers and educators within our multicultural society. A “Building Inclusive Schools” Professional Development resource for educators was an outcome of the project and is now available to other schools.