Creating social hope is a way of being - but how does it happen?

Year: 2019

Author: Carter, Susan, Abawi, Lindy

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

As educational leaders we raise the question: how do you use ‘the school’ to change society? It is not a question of ‘can’ but a question underpinned by moral purpose and agency. Perhaps it is better worded as ‘how do we create social hope using education as a way of being transformative?’ To explore this concept of social hope we share our research findings based on school stories where peace, harmony, respect for diversity, and inclusion are evidenced. National test results for these schools signal how ‘social hope’ impacts learning.

A qualitative case study was used with data collected over a three year period, from nine schools and three educational districts, across two inter-linked studies. Data included interviews, dialogical and behavioural data, and documents related to school structures and operations. The findings include descriptions of what Principals, Heads of Special Education, teachers and students believe inclusion to be and how leaders worked with staff to embed inclusive practices.

The voices of these crucial stakeholders highlight the noticeable expectations and understandings underpinning high quality inclusive education. Some schools created an inclusive school community with an explicit focus on the positive learning achievements of every student. Others made remarkable advances in understanding and accepting difference as just a part of everyday life and society - to be acknowledged and celebrated. What was occurring in these educational settings is a very small part of the change we seek in society, for diversity and inclusion to be mainstream.

Study one in our research revealed that some school communities accept diversity and become inclusive through the enactment of six fundamental principles. The second study supported this finding and helped us to refine a conceptual model of the cultural indicators of an inclusive school, indicators connected to concepts such as: informed leadership; moral and collective commitment; and, getting it right from the start. This research is significant. It evidences a way of leading transformative engagement leveraged through social justice leadership. This way of leading has been proven to be effective in a number of diverse and complex school contexts.

It is this creation of social hope, a way of being inclusive and accepting diversity that we seek to share. We also anticipate engaging in reciprocal learning so we can further develop and refine the effective ways of working that emerged from our research and that leads to the creation of peaceful, sustainable schools full of hope.