Academic journal article Outlines : Critical Practice Studies

Was It Useful? Multilayered Outcome of a Psychosocial Intervention with Teachers in East Greenland

Academic journal article Outlines : Critical Practice Studies

Was It Useful? Multilayered Outcome of a Psychosocial Intervention with Teachers in East Greenland

Article excerpt

Introduction

The expression "Helicopter Researchers" is scary to psychosocial researchers who want to support local resilience in Arctic communities. This action research study was conducted in a town of approximately 2.000 citizens in East Greenland. Similar to many other towns and settlements in Greenland, the town can be reached only by helicopter or by boat, when the season and weather conditions allow it. Here, the term Helicopter Researcher is used to define a character who basically flies in with a helicopter, looks around for a while and perhaps shouts out something that does not make much sense locally, about what needs to be changed in the community, and then takes off again with the helicopter, leaving not much more behind than a tarnished reputation for researchers in general.

Perturbed by the prospect of becoming "yet another Helicopter Researcher", this researcher strove to become useful in local practice. The research topic was vulnerable children in East Greenland, and important in the process was the uniqueness of, and relevance for, local interdependent relations. Collaboration with the local school was established during several visits to the area, and an action research project was conducted as part of a program, already in place at the local school, called Social Problems in the Town. By focusing on "the town" instead of just looking inside the school areas, the school program indicated a community psychological association that emphasizes the relations between the school and community in child development (Guzzo, Moreira, & Mezzalira, 2015). The school program had implemented several activities, such as improving collaboration between parents and the school, and reward systems for extraordinary student efforts. However, the school program did not incorporate the students' own perspectives on the issues of building up the students' resilience and their motivation for school. As a result, the core of the intervention in the action research was facilitated in two workshops that focused on how the students' perspectives ("the voices of the students") could guide the teachers' pedagogical methods in supporting the resiliencebuilding processes of especially vulnerable schoolchildren and supporting their motivation for schoolwork.

The intervention approach emerged from a community psychology theoretical foundation. This approach traditionally advocates for vulnerable groups, stresses the interdependent relations between people, community, structure, and change, and articulates a normative valuing of social justice, equality and transformation (Berliner, 2004; Berliner et al., 2009; Kloos et al., 2012; Nelson & Prilleltensky, 2010; Orford, 1999). The methodology usually consists of the establishment of alternative settings, case management, changed strategies, transformation processes, and social support in crisis situations, and the incorporation of ecological perspectives. In alignment with the values of community psychology, the process of successful implementation must be participatory (Kloos et al., 2012). An intervention program with children in Brazilian public elementary schools focused on assisting children who lived in exclusionary and unequal contexts by starting to understand their everyday life. The method of that program advocates an emancipation process in which psychologists focus on the children's reality with the children (Guzzo et al., 2015). In East Greenland, the purpose of the intervention with the children was to produce knowledge for the teachers to develop their practice of supporting and mobilizing vulnerable schoolchildren. Thus, a large part of the project involved the teachers. This paper elaborates on the intervention with the teachers.

From the community psychology approach, the method of action research was chosen to base the study intervention on, and make it sensitive to, local needs. Action research is often defined as a broad concept covering various change-oriented research approaches all having in common that researchers and practitioners ideally collaborate to initiate change in practice and produce knowledge about practice (Greenwood, Whyte, & Harkavy, 1993; Lewin, 1963; Plauborg, 2015). …

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