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A systematic review of the effectiveness of school-level actions for promoting participation by all students

What do we want to know?

This review aims to identify and evaluate the empirical evidence around the question of what schools can do to maximise the participation of all students in their cultures, curricula and communities. The concern is with responses to student diversity per se, and with what schools can do, not merely to maintain the presence of students in school but to maximise their participation in school life. The review also investigates the wide-ranging actions which schools can take to make themselves more inclusive in this sense.

Who wants to know?

Policy-makers, governors, teachers, parents, students, those involved in teacher education.

What did we find?  

  • Some schools are characterised by an 'inclusive culture'. There is some degree of consensus amongst adults around values of respect for difference and a commitment to offering all students access to learning opportunities. There is likely to be a high level of staff collaboration and joint problem solving, and similar values and commitments may extend into the student body and into parent and other community stakeholders in the school. Leadership styles are also likely to be inclusive and participatory.
  • The extent to which such 'inclusive cultures' lead directly and unproblematically to enhanced student participation is not entirely clear from the research evidence. However, such schools are also likely to make specialist provision in the ordinary classroom rather than by withdrawal, and use constructivist approaches to teaching and learning.
  • The local and national policy environment can act to support or to undermine the realisation of schools' inclusive values.

What are the implications?

  • Schools should pay attention to the development of 'inclusive' cultures and, particularly, to the building of some degree of consensus around inclusive values in the school community.

  • School leaders should be selected and trained in the light of their commitment to inclusive values and participatory leadership.

  • The external policy environment should be compatible with inclusive developments.

  • Schools should remove structural barriers between different groups of students and staff, dismantle separate programmes, services and specialisms, and develop pedagogical approaches which enable students to learn together rather than separately.

  • Schools should build close relations with parents and communities based on developing a shared commitment to inclusive values.

How did we get these results?

Six key studies were synthesised.

This summary was prepared by the EPPI-Centre

This report should be cited as: Dyson A, Howes A, Roberts B (2002) A systematic review of the effectiveness of school-level actions for promoting participation by all students In: Research Evidence in Education Library. London: EPPI-Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London.

  
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