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International Conference Turin, September 17th and 18th, 2009. TO EARN OR TO LEARN ? IDENTITY IMPLICATION OF MICROTRANSITIONS FROM FAILURE TO SUCCESS IN WORKING CLASS ADOLESCENTS IMPLIED IN INNOVATIVE VOCATIONAL TRAINING. Laura Bonica & Viviana Sappa Department of Psychology

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laura bonica viviana sappa department of psychology university of turin italy

International Conference

Turin, September 17th and 18th, 2009

TO EARN OR TO LEARN ?IDENTITY IMPLICATION OF MICROTRANSITIONS FROM FAILURE TO SUCCESS IN WORKING CLASS ADOLESCENTS IMPLIED IN INNOVATIVE VOCATIONAL TRAINING

Laura Bonica & Viviana Sappa

Department of Psychology

University of Turin

Italy

slide2

INTRODUCTION (1)

ITALIAN VOCATIONAL HIGH SCHOOL PATHS

Low social class and poorest grades at school students (Pombeni, 1993; Bonica, 2007)

NATIONAL EDUCATION SYSTEM

REGIONAL TRAINING SYSTEM

3-5 years

1-3 years

20-35% failed

13% shift to vocational training

Qualification + Diploma

Qualification

slide3

INTRODUCTION (2)

In most developmental researches, the choice of vocational paths is considered a psychosocial risk for identity development, as it is interpreted as an avoidance of learning tasks and a desire for immediate autonomy at the cost of inhibiting exploration and greater ambitions (Tilton-Weaver, Vitunski, & Galambos, 2001; Bonino, Cattelino, 2002; Largie,et al., 2001)

However,

the pathways following dropping out of school

the teaching - learning characteristics of vocational learning contexts

and the perceived quality of learning experience,

have rarely been questioned in relation to these students’ motivational orientation, despite the recognised “excessively theoretical” nature of Italian schools, which especially has negative implications upon the vocational paths (Bottani, 2002).

slide4

an ambiguity arises:

both the institutional and the theoretical level seem to be implicated in this process, but the failure is often attributed only to the students themselves or to the characteristics of the social background from which they originate.

This seems to still confirm an interpretative model of the school failure inspired by the deficit model.

Given this ambiguity, it is difficult to ascertain if the working class adolescents choosing national vocational system and dropping out of these schools, must be considered at risk because they are mainly motivated to earn as soon as possible, at the cost of inhibiting exploration and greater ambitions, or rather they would like to better learn a job, but the cultural model adopted by the school left, did not fit with this aim (Bonica & Sappa, 2006, 2008).

slide5

INTRODUCTION (3)

In our hypotheses this ambiguity is founded on a poor consideration both of the plurality of intelligence and cultures(Gardner,1991) that converges in today's school, and of the increasing importance assumed by learning in the world of labour (Heinz, 2002, Engestrom, 2001).

with the consequence to:

1. Perpetuate the traditional dichotomic conception of the relationship among “learning” and “working”, “head” and “hands”, “thinking” and “doing”.

2. Interpreter the learning motivation of the young people choosing vocational schools in term of “weakness”

slide6

THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK AND AIM

Starting from this background, we believe that vocational identity development(Erikson, 1968; Heinz, 2002)must be addressed within:

  • a non-dichotomic conception of learning both in and outside of school(Lave, Wenger, 1991; Sennet, 2008; Resnick, 1987; Engestrom, 2001; Gardner, 1991; Pontecorvo et al., 1995)
  • and adopting cultural - ecological research approaches, alternative to the deficit model(Cresas, 1978; Bronfenbrenner, 1979; Bateson, 1972; Valsiner, 2002)that give greater visibility to the dynamics of interaction between subject and context(Bonica, 2008).

The aim of this presentation

is to contribute to overcome the ambiguities,

proposing a new approach to study vocational identity,

which starts from a pilot study designed on the basis of these theoretical and methodological premises.

slide7

RESEARCH DESIGN AND

METHODOLOGICAL OPTIONS

  • Our pilot longitudinal study, starting in 2000, involved 503 adolescents and young adults (15-21 years old, 89% male) belonging to working class families of Turin, while they were living a microtransition from school failure to success in two excellent vocational training centres in the metal mechanic field.
  • Two specific methodological options were valorised:
    • the opportunity of comparison among different contexts/models of teaching-learning, interpreted as a transformation experiment(Bronfenbrenner, 1979).
    • the adoption of a multi level reflexive approachbased on
    • self comparison between contexts over time(Bonica, 2008).
slide8

“Trasformation experiment” : significant variables

Comparison on the perceived quality of the learning settings

SCHOOL FAILURE

SCHOOL SUCCESS

INNOVATIVE TRAINING

Learning by doing

Apprenticeship,

Evaluation of pratical skills,

cooperative learning

(Pontecorvo et al., 1995;Resnick, 1987;

Ajello et al. 2000; Slavin, 1990; Bonica e al., 2007)

2400 hours,8 hours per day.

(1600 workshop-800 work experience)

TRADITIONAL

HIGH SCHOOL

Frontal lessons

Focus on theory

Abstract, individual and

decontextualised

knowledge

(IARD, 2009, Resnick,1987;

Bottani, 2000)

Similar daily

COMMITMENT

FORMAL CONTEXTS OF VOCATIONAL LEARNING

In metal-working filed

CFPA “work”: sure job

CFPR

no sure job

Continuity

discontinuity

Comparison on the dominant motivation

(to earn vs to learn a job)

slide9

Multi level reflexive approach

Self comparison between contexts over timeas a minimum unit of analysis

SCHOOL FAILURE

SCHOOL SUCCESS

Contrasting situations evoke emotional-cognitive mechanisms (for example, surprise) that stimulate the opportunity to make comparisons (Sclavi, 1989; Bonica, 2005, 2008). The comparison of one’s own experiences between contexts and over time encourages subjective reflection (Bruner, 1990) and causal exploration (Weiner, 1985), from which personal meaning and new constructs may emerge (Bonica, Sappa, 2008).

“diaries of surprise” in which subjects were asked to write freely about whatever surprised them in the new experience;

in-depth biographical interviewson their learning experiences.

itemsregarding the perceived quality of the learning experience(Bonica, 2001): the students were asked to compare their personal scholastic experiences on the basis of how many timesin both the training and the previous school contexts they had certain experiences

slide10

Research design

2005

Sept. 2000

Context 1 – Vocational Training Centre (CFPA)

Grant – entrance selection – connection with a metal mechanic company - certain job placement -technologically advanced simulated workshop – work experience at the first and second years

Vocational Training Experience

Total sample

Path following Vocational Training

Questionnaire

Follow up

Questionnaire

(125 subjects CFPA)

Diaries

“surprise”

Observations

VOCATIONAL

HIGH

SCHOOL

Education

Welcome

Workshop

Test

Work stage

Work stage

12 and 18 months after qualification

1st year

2nd years

Interview

Sub-sample

(10 subjects CFPA)

Sub-sample (30 sobjects)

Context 2 – Vocational Training Centre (CFPA)

Open to at-risk adolescents - religious educational institution - links with small local firms - work experience only in the second year – specific interest in personal education and rehabilitation

slide11

RESULTS

For this presentation, we selected those findings we considered more salient in order to overcome the institutional and theoretical ambiguity concerning vocational identity construction processes.

Starting from the reflexive perspective of the students, we selected data coming out from the analysis of both the questionnaire (extensive data on all the sample) (Bonica, 2001) and the narrative material (intensive data on part of the sample).

Analyzing the narrative material, particular attention was put to the “contrastive structure of the discourse” (here…there; now… before; I…they) interpreted as discursive expression of the process of self comparison between contexts and over time of our interest.

slide12

We have organized our findings in these 2 macro-categories:

  • Comparison of Self between contexts and over time. This set of findings reflects on personal change in terms of new identity positioning and questions the deficit presupposes of weakness attributed to these population.
  • 2. Comparison between contexts over time in which our focus shifts from the individual to the contexts. This set of findings reflects on the optimal conditions to overcoming the dichotomy between “school” and “work”, and questions the institutional fragmentation and rigidity.
slide13

Comparison of Self between contexts and over time

FROM AVOIDING LEARNING TASK……

73% of the whole sample dropped out of a high school at least once

I don’t have the brains to study …only my arms to work

slide14

Why did you choose this course?

TO PERCEVERANCE, COMMITMENT, AND LEARNING MOTIVATION……

85% promoted, 77/100 average marks of qualification

Motivational orientation

Paired sample t-test, t=14,309 Sig<.005

slide15

How do you define yourself?

75% claimed they wanted to resume their studies

slide17

Comparison between contexts and over time

The comparison between perceived learning settings highlights the relevance of founding a vocational identity construction on a significant learning experience embedded in a framework of “shared challenge”.

The optimal conditions in order to overcome the presupposed weakness of these students and the supposed dichotomy between learning and working seem, in fact, to derive fromthe perceived challenge shared with teachers and tutor who daily demonstrated their commitment in teaching, connecting “doing” and “knowing” and promoting students’ learning in a relational context of reciprocity.

slide18

Opportunity of personal experimentation

Emotional-cognitive and relational quality of the involvement in the learning activities

Recognition of a sense of belonging / alienation in the learningcommunity

slide19

EXP 1: PREVIOUS SCHOOL

Feel oppressed [r]

Ask yourself if it really makes sense to be there [r]

Not succeed in understanding the explanation given [r]

.819

.857

Worried and take care not to miss information

Feel wellcome

Stressed but satisfied

Fell afraid to ask for explanations

[r]

Perception of meaning

Put into practice

.664

.583

.730

.884

.817

.849

Wellcome and support

Put into practice

Cognitive engagement

NS

NS

NS

NS

Motivation to learning a job

EXP 2: TRAINING INNOVATIVE CENTRES

.320**

.382**

Fell afraid to ask for explanations

[r]

.593

Mastery experimentation

Shared objective

.777

.666

.744

Stressed but satisfied

.512

Feel oppressed [r]

.651

.580

.503

Not succeed in understanding the explanation given [r]

Put into practice

Ask yourself if it really makes sense to be there [r]

Worried and take care not to miss information

Feel wellcome

Bonica & Sappa, 2005

slide20

THE SHARED CHALLENGE FIND CORRESPONDENCE ON THE LEVEL OF ….

New model of emancipatoryidentification

slide22

DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS (1)

By our outcomes and narratives, we have tried to demonstrate that the image of “weakness” attributed to these youths , and the supposed dichotomy between “learning” and “working”, could be challenged.

Regarding the role of institution the self comparison between contexts over time, highlights the relevance of founding a vocational identity construction on a “shared challenge” (Bonica, Sappa, 2006), also in term of greater institutional flexibility between, at least, the different vocational pathways (Bonica,2007)

It is important to consider that AFTER THE QUALIFICATION THE NEW COMMITMENT AND HIGHER EDUCATIONAL ASPIRATIONS OF THESE STUDENTS, CHALLENGED A RIGID SCHOOL- WORK SYSTEM, which reintroduced the dichotomy between school and work, discouraging the young people from continuing their studies (Sappa, 2005).

slide23

When I started working in this factory...I really knew a lot...the director and the foreman were surprised too. (They said) “You attended a really good school”...

The skills acquired guaranteed good continuity between training and employment

The employer arrived and asked me to work immediately … a colleague whom I asked for help told me: “If they hired you, it’s because you can do the job and you know how to work … so you should just go there and do your work” (without any help)

But, their need to learning was often ignored or dismissed in the work context

I said to myself, “It’s up to me... if I want to improve myself “I can” .. and I enrolled in the evening school… butmy employer told me, “I need someone who works 8 hours, so you can

go to school or come here”.

institutional obstacles
Institutional obstacles
  • not recognition of the qualification by the educational system
  • difficulty in obtaining permission by the work context to attend evening classes, or time to learn on the work place (Sappa, 2005)
discussion and conclusions
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS
  • The effective continuation of studies after the qualification concerned mainly the youths who had the opportunity to continue within the same context (CFPR)

80% attended the 3° year of training

  • Further educational aspirations were harder to realize for the CFPA students, whose only option was to return to the national educational system, but without recognition for the two-year training course completed.

Only 8.2% of these actually resumed studying

slide26

DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS (2)

In conclusion, we believe that the aspects highlighted constitute, particularly with reference to the specific cultural features of this population, useful elements in order to study and to support the process of constructing vocational identity, trying to overcome the ambiguities described above. The theoretical and methodological choices appear to have been a good starting point.

Finally, our study of scholastic and school to work transitions is being extended to working class families, parents and their sons interviewed separately at home (Bonica & Sappa, 2009), and to populations involved in other trajectories, including other professional profiles and a female population (Bonica et al., 2007; Bonica & Sappa, 2009; Sappa, in preparation).

references
References

Ajello, A.M. (2002) (Ed): Orientare dentro e fuori la scuola. Roma: Carocci.

Bateson, G. (1972) tr. it.: Verso un’ecologia della mente. Milano. Adelphi, 1976.

Bonica, L. (2001): Io e la transizione scuola-formazione-lavoro, Questionario. Dipartimento di Psicologia, Laboratorio di Psicologia dello sviluppo, Università di Torino.

Bonica, L. (2005): “Credevo che”…Significati dell’incoraggiamento nei discorsi di adolescenti in transizione tra la scuola e la formazione professionale. In: C. Pontecorvo (Ed), Discorso e Apprendimento. Roma: Carocci, 214-221.

Bonica, L. (2007): Modelli di transizione scuola-lavoro:fattori di rischio e di protezione per lo sviluppo dell’identità. In G. Bozzeda, A. Magnabosco, S. Suzzi (Eds), Per una transizione sostenibile. Bologna: Carocci, 61-80.

Bonica, L. (2008): Transizioni e sviluppo nel ciclo di vita. In L. Bonica, M. Cardano (Eds), Punti di svolta e analisi del mutamento biografico. Bologna: Il Mulino, 49-96.

Bonica, L. e Sappa, V. (2005): “Cultura e contesti di apprendimento: un confronto tra percezioni e vissuti nella scuola e nella formazione professionale”. In: T. Mannarini, A. Perrucca , S. Salvatore (Eds),Quale Psicologia per la scuola del futuro?. Roma: Carlo Amore, 665-686.

Bonica, L., Sappa, V. (2006): The need for “shared challenges”: successful experiences among former school dropouts. In: A. Delle Fave (Ed.), Dimensions of well being. Research and intervention. Milano: Franco Angeli, 330-349.

Bonica, L., Sappa, V. (2008): “Io non ho la testa”. Transizioni precoci al lavoro e costruzione dell’identità. In L Bonica., M Cardano (Eds), Punti di svolta e Analisi del mutamento biografico Bologna: Il Mulino, 173-209.

Bonica L., Sappa V., Savarino L. (2007) Rapporto tra esperienze ottimali e percezione del setting nei diversi cicli di scuola, in Delle Fave A. La condivisione del benessere. Contributi di Psicologia Positiva, Milano, Franco Angeli, pp. 248-269.

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slide28

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