Contexts characterised by resilience : an illuminative study of schools and classrooms
This is a school context study seeking to illuminate classroom and school
processes underlying pupil resilience in primary schools in Malta. The traditional
definition of resilience has been broadened into a more proactive, inclusive and
relational construct, relating to socio-emotional competence and educational
engagement for all pupils. The main objectives of the study were to describe the
processes taking place in classrooms and schools characterised by pupil resilience
and to develop theory on how these processes were related to resilience in school.
The answer to the research questions was sought through an interpretative, case
study, dialectic approach focusing on complexity and contextuality. Three Maltese
state primary schools and three classes in each school identified on the basis of a
purposely designed teacher framework, were selected as illuminative cases. Data
was collected through extended participant observation, analysis of documents
and interviews with various school and classroom members. Theory was
developed through a constructivist grounded theory analysis of data.
Various processes were identified at both school and classroom layers, including
sense of belonging, caring and supportive relationships, meaningful participation
in school and classroom activities, a collaborative stance in working and learning,
commitment to teaching and learning, positive beliefs and expectations, an
inclusive culture, recognition, and shared beliefs and values. These processes were
supported by various intra, inter, and outside layer contextual forces. Together
they constituted caring, supportive, inclusive, prosocial and learning-centred
school and classroom communities. It was indicative that the processes were
stronger within the classroom context. The study underlined the need to examine
both school and classroom layers in seeking to understand pupil resilience, and
suggested that while processes at the two layers might be reciprocal and
complementary and thus additive, they did not coincide automatically.
The understandings and meanings that emerged from the study led to the
development of a theoretical model of schools and classrooms as resilience
enhancing contexts for all pupils.