Developing resilience approaches for school children in Crete
Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, this project supported children with complex needs in Greek primary schools who have many difficulties but few resources to help with them. Support workers themselves are also challenged by the highly structured and demanding environments in Greek schools.
There is an urgent need to develop meaningful resilience models that can help teachers, parents and children overcome their difficulties. To address these issues, the Crete project established two Communities of Practices (CoPs) concerned with understanding, applying and developing resilience theory and practices to support school children with complex needs. One CoP was formed of teachers, social workers, psychologists, school counsellors, academic researchers, and other related specialists. A second CoP included parents of children with psychosocial difficulties and related complex needs.
The CoPs drew on the Resilience Framework and considered how the framework could be adapted to be effective in the Greek cultural context. They also supported members to develop reflexive insights into their own practice, attitudes and resilience. The emergent ideas from the CoPs were used to develop a series of workshops for children with complex needs. These workshops were facilitated by artists, counsellors, academic researchers and students.
This project commenced in September 2014 and ended in December 2016.
The aims of the project were to:
- help parents, children and teachers develop their own skills and potential to become resilient
- create a group of professionals, on the basis of resilience, community and inclusive education principles who
value trustful, partnership relationships and a space of dynamic exchange and free expression of personal fears and anxieties
- productively reflect on understanding the individual, family and school dynamics/factors that might hinder or enhance children’s potential
- explore resources and alternative ways of supporting students with the aim to transform the traditional teaching strategies and school culture.
- explore and highlight students’ experiences with internet use and connection to others through social media in order to deal with cyberbullying with a resilience perspective.
Project findings and impact
The work with teachers helped to promote insight into emotional and family-social, or interpersonal factors of children’s functioning, by creating ‘spaces of exchange and creative learning’. This study helped to enhance teachers’ overall professional knowledge and competence; knowledge and competence that has proved crucial in supporting their students’ who are at risk of social and school inclusion and for avoiding further mental health problems. It also helped with teachers’ own personal development.
The emerging findings shows that if helped to understand the complex social-emotional dynamics that are triggered in their relationships with the ‘challenging’ students and mainly with the parents, through a method that helped, teachers feel lees threatened and more confident in developing alternative methods of working with those students, their parents and their colleagues. By providing a safe and intermediary space for teachers in combination with the necessary professional guidance, the project helped them find meaningful ways to respond to challenging students. The project enabled the teachers to create their own narratives and new systems of meaning about children’s lives and themselves as well; new systems of meaning which might allow them to become more creative, receptive, welcoming and more resilient and inclusive with both their students at risk and their families.
Research team and partners
Elias Kourkoutas, University of Crete
Stephanos Plexousakis, Child Development Centre Rethymnon, Greece
Maria Georgiadi, Child Development Centre, Rethmyon, Greece
Lucy Sirinian, Rethymno Council
Elena Vitalaki, Rethnymno Council
Botha, J. & Kourkoutas, E. (2016) A community of practice as an inclusive model to support children with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties in school context. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 20, 7.
Kourkoutas, E., Eleftherakis, T.G., Vitalaki, E., Hart, A. (2015) ‘Family-School Professionals Partnerships: An Action Research Program to Enhance the Social, Emotional, and Academic Resilience of Children at Risk.’ Journal of Education and Learning, Vol. 4, No. 3; 2015. doi:10.5539/jel.v4n3p112
Kourkoutas, E., Hart, A. (Eds.) (2015) Innovative Practice and Interventions for Children and Adolescents with Psychosocial Difficulties and Disabilities. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. ISBN (10):1-4438-7250-4.