Deeper sense of community at school by means of community art

The aim of this three-year (2015–2018) research and development project is to promote collective participation and wellbeing at school by means of community art. Community art refers to art in various forms and ways of doing things together with a community. What is Important is the process created within the community during the implementation, i.e. the activation of interaction, discussion and collaboration among teachers, students and other members in the school community.

Schools’ own development themes

The project involves four elementary schools with their respective school-specific development themes for participation, based on each school’s actual situation and goals. In each of these schools, a small working group of teacher students is planning the forms of action together with school-based contributors. For the class teacher students this project is part of their Master’s degree studies.

Action research framework

This research and development project builds on Ernest Stringer’s model of community-based action research. It proceeds from situational evaluation to action planning and implementation through cyclically repeated phases. During autumn semesters the student groups collaborating with the schools gather necessary background information in the daily school life. This prepares ground for various projects to be carried out during spring semesters on the basis of the collected and analysed information. The students design the projects, which are then reviewed and further elaborated in collaboration with school-based contributors. On this basis, further thematic activities will be developed and targeted. The aim is to develop existing and new forms and ways of action into possibly permanent forms of participation.

Benefitting parties

The project is carried out in collaboration between the Finnish Institute for Educational Research (FIER), the Department of Teacher Education (DTE) of the University of Jyväskylä (UJ), and the schools concerned. While the schools get support for the development of their activities, the teacher students get an opportunity to participate in authentic school development efforts as part of their studies. The Department of Teacher education gains experience from external and internal collaboration and as to how students’ learning assignments and graduate works can be linked and made a part of a long-term development project. Within the project, the FIER is engaged in cross-departmental research collaboration, which is also connected to university’s societal duties.

Research questions:

  • How can the sense of community and democracy at school be promoted through community art (structures, processes)?
  • What kind of support does the project yield to the development of teacher education activities (student involvement; instructional integration)?
  • What kind of support does the project yield to professional development (teacher educators, teachers)?

Operative project group:

University lecturers Marjo Autio-Hiltunen (UJ/DTE), Merja Kauppinen (UJ/DTE), Ulla Kiviniemi (UJ/DTE), Aimo Naukkarinen (UJ/DTE), Ulla Maija Valleala (UJ/DTE) and Senior researcher Leena Lestinen (UJ/FIER).

Background team: Senior project manager Tiina Karhuvirta (Development Centre Opinkirjo), Post-doctoral researcher Josephine Moate (UJ/DTE), Project researcher Perttu Männistö (UJ/DTE), and University lecturer Matti Rautiainen (UJ/DTE)