Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg

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01.01.2022 – 31.12.2026
Understanding and co-designing (new) orders of childrens’ “education and care landscapes”: (reducing) educational and social barriers to include disadvantaged children in peripheral areas

Project Description

Objectives and history

The aim of the joint project is to study the conditions which enable or prevent the participation of 5 to 10 year old disadvantaged children in education and society, both with a basic theory perspective and an applied perspective. In the context of five sub-projects, the ‘education and care landscapes’ (ECLs) in two disadvantaged urban quarters and two peripheral rural communities in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany, are examined. By means of multi-perspective and comparative case studies generated in five sub-projects, we aim to initiate a professionalisation of all involved educational actors in these ECLs. Accompanied by developing a joint ‘theory of change’ we will address the question: how can barriers to education and care for disadvantaged primary school children in peripheral areas be reduced?

In a research-practice dialogue in annual 'case laboratories', results from the five sub-projects will be discussed. On that basis, potentials for shaping the four ECLs are jointly identified. Measures are co-designed and implemented, and their (un)intended effects are reflected upon. Four of the five sub-projects study these (new) orders of the ECLs at different levels: at the level of children; parents; education and care institutions; and local administration and politics. A fifth sub-project looks at the transformation potential in the ECLs through the interplay between research and practice. All sub-projects work on the basis of a practice-theoretical framework and follow a longitudinal design.

Sub-project 1:
Ethnographic case portraits of educational, upbringing and care arrangements of children.

How do children of primary school age participate in the co-production of their ECLs in the light of the local infrastructural possibilities? How does this (re-)produce social inequality?

In ‘ethnographic case portraits’ (Bollig et al. 2016; Machold 2017), eight selected children will be accompanied to their educational and care institutions as well as other relevant social spaces that they visit throughout a week. Institution-based (i.e. daycare, special needs school, [inclusive] elementary school, [no] after-school care, etc.) and socio-structural, child-related criteria will be used for the sample. Contacts with the legal guardians will be initiated through day-care centres.

This synchronous analytical perspective on the whole day of the children in the sense of a multi-sited ethnography (Marcus 1995; Bollig et al. 2016) will be combined with a diachronic, longitudinally oriented ethnography (Machold 2017) that reflects on the children’s educational biographies.

The fieldwork will be conducted in the children’s 1st, 2nd and 3rd school year (12 weeks each time) and the analysis will draw on Grounded Theory (Charmaz 2014). In the fourth year of the project, this approach will be expanded through the reconstruction of the children’s educational and care-related biographies, including their 'objectified' educational pathways, and evaluated with Rosenthal (2015) in a comparative way, so as to generate a case typology.

We are interested in the question of how children position themselves when they are faced with performance expectations in school, or when such demands are rather avoided in order to provide independent (educational) spaces. In addition, the focus lies on how attributions to the children within one institutional context translate into other contexts and influence one another.

Head of sub-project 1:

Research Associates of sub-project 1:

Sub-project 2:
Educational expectations and decisions of parents

This sub-project focuses on the role of parents in shaping local ‘educational landscapes’. What upheavals pose particular challenges for parents of elementary school children in risky ECLs? What role do the civil society activities of parents, their use of after-school care, and their perception of special educational needs play for parents’ aspiration levels and educational decision-making?

For this purpose, SP2 will carry out a written survey (mixed mode) among the parents of all children in the primary and special needs schools in the four project regions. The surveys will take place once in grade 2, then in grade 4, and then after the transfer from primary into secondary school to grade 5. Alongside the target cohort, intercohort comparisons will be carried out in the first year of the study by means of a survey of parents in grades 4 and 5, which will then be supplemented by a follow-up on the parents of the fourth graders in grade 5 in the second year of the study.

In addition, 3 secondary data analyses will be carried out:

(1) Analyses of existing small-scale statistical data concerning the four project-regions; additionally, structural data on equipment and social structure will be collected for schools and after-school care centres.

(2) Analysis of data on district-specific cohesion effects in the two urban project-regions in Halle through a special evaluation of the regional panel "Social Cohesion" (1st survey: 2021).

(3) Comparison of results with NEPS data (National Educational Panel Study) on parental aspiration dynamics, perception of after-school care and the handling of special needs using a comparison data set from waves 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 of the NEPS parent survey of starter cohort 2.

Head of sub-project 2:

Research Associate of sub-project 2:

Information in accordance with Article 13 GDPR (ger)
Information nach Artikel 13 DSGVO.pdf (90 KB)  vom 05.11.2023

Subproject 3:
Norms and practices of schools and after-school care centres for breaking down educational and participation barriers

This sub-project is dedicated to the design of educational and care landscapes with a focus on the organizational facilities in the project’s two urban and the two rural regions of study. Specifically, we refer to the primary schools and special needs-schools in these areas, the respective care services (after-school care centers, etc.), as well as other selected civil society actors who (could) have a significant impact on the practices of schools and after-school care centers. Portraits are to be created for these organizations (Kramer 2017), which will offer reconstructions of what programs and practices for breaking down educational barriers they offer in cooperation with other organizations / actors in the social space. Another question will be how the human right for inclusive education and the all-daycare are interpreted and handled over time in the everyday organizational practice.

The empirical basis for this comprises of interviews with organizational leaders as well as group discussions with organizational management teams, with professional / civil society actors (e.g. teachers, trainers). These will be repeated annually (4 times in total). In addition, the organizational programs will be analyzed in terms of their self-image. Evaluation with the Documentary Method (Bohnsack et al. 2010) reveals the implicit action-guiding knowledge of the actors.

The portraits will be analyzed longitudinally with regard to the interplay between the organizations / actors in the four project regions with regards to reducing educational disadvantage within the project period. In addition, cross-case comparative analyses of the habitual practices (see e.g. Bohnsack 2017; Kramer 2018; Sturm 2015) of the institutions and actors with regards to the ECLs will be conducted.

Head of sub-project 3:

Research associates sub-project 3:

Subproject 4:
Local Education Management Practices: Challenges for Municipal Education Administration and Policy Actors

Subproject 4 analyses the complex and sometimes paradoxical challenges as well as the strategies and scope of actions of municipal actors in addressing educational barriers. The rescaling and redistribution of state tasks, territorial reforms, coping with demographic and structural changes, as well as the economisation of educational policy responsibilities present a number of new challenges to municipalities which affect the municipal educational management. These challenges differ between rural regions and urban environments. The research questions that subproject 4 pursues are: what are the challenges and structural conditions that municipal actors deal with when aiming to reduce educational barriers? What strategies do they use and what scope of action do they have?

By means of a (trans)local ethnography of the state ("stategraphy", Thelen et al. 2018), the sub-project examines the paradoxical effects that different municipal boundaries and the active creation (or rejection) of political areas of responsibility are having on the local educational landscapes in the four project regions. The aim is not only to study the educational context steering in municipal administrative practice, but also to get a better sense of their scope of action and how it might be broadened, e.g. through factors that are revealed by cross-case-analyses and the work in the case laboratories.

For each of the four project regions, two ethnographic field visits which each last several months will take place, two years apart from one another. We understand municipal administration to be an organisation made up of interrelated, changing “bundles of practices and arrangements” (Schatzki 2006). While the focus in the first field phase will lie on understanding municipal administration and education management as an organisation, the second phase will be increasingly focused on the networks, dependencies and relationships of the municipality and its education management with other actors outside of the municipal administration.

Head of sub-project 4:

Research Associate of sub-project 4:

Subproject 5:
Effect-oriented Reflexivity in the Research-Practice-Transfer

The research-practice-transfer defines the horizon of what changes are evoked on breaking down educational barriers in the four project regions. Therefore, the transfer process within the project is an own object of study in the sub-project 5. The transfer process is significantly structured by the annual "case laboratories", in which local strategies for breaking down educational barriers in the four project regions are to be developed and implemented in a joint dialogue between science and practice on the basis of the research data.

The aim of sub-project 5 is to examine the knowledge and strategy development in this transfer process in more detail and to subject it to a self-critical reflection with regards to its (assumed) effects. It is geared towards making the Theories of Action and Theories of Change (henceforth: TOA / TOCs), which are explicitly and implicitly co-produced - visible and reflects on their performativity. Thereby, a special focus will lie on the (material and non-material) working contexts of each of the actors and the project itself.

Subproject 5 asks what selectivities, but also productivities, emerge against what backgrounds through the consensus- and decision-making in the course of the project, e.g. through certain requirements, conditions, the selection of the participating actors, power structures, logics of action, mediating artefacts / media and affects. By reconstructing the local TOAs/TOCs and their selectivities and productivities, conclusions will be drawn on the local (im)possibilities of reducing educational barriers. At the same time insights will be generated about a more successful use of the existing scope of action which shall be fed back into the ongoing science-practice transfer. The overall aim is to gain a better understanding of the potential for transformation through the research-practice-transfer and the conditions it is tied to.

TP5 applies an (auto)ethnographic longitudinal research design. To collect its data, it draws on participatory (self-)observation and audio recordings from the project meetings and case laboratories as well as ethnographic interviews and relevant documents. For data evaluation, the methodology developed in Schmachtel-Maxfield (2013) for the analysis of collective strategy-building processes will be drawn upon.

Head of sub-project 5:

Forschungsethik und Hinweise zum Datenschutz in Teilprojekt 5 .pdf (187 KB)  vom 05.11.2023

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Project Coordination:

 Supported by the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)

Supported by the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)

Supported by the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)