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Pioneering Parents of Shared Education Programme

Pioneering Parents of Shared Education Programme


Outline, including interdisciplinary dimension

Complementing and extending the existing focus on intergroup contact among children in Shared Education Programs (SEP), this study would work with the ‘pioneering parents’ whose children are enrolled in such programmes. The research is rooted in Family Systems Theory and guided by a Social Ecological Framework and aims to investigate how the bidirectional intergenerational influences of contact among classmates affects not only the children in the program, but also their families and broader communities. Building on previous research on how parental attitudes affect school choice and youth intergroup attitudes, this study will also measure the alternative pathway; that is, to what degree do children’s interactions with outgroup peers influence parents’ intergroup beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours? This line of research fits within the extended contact literature, but will also consider the  developmental provocation perspective (i.e., what children learn in school they go home and talk to their parents about, provoking conversations, and potentially change, within the family unit). For example, Family Systems Theory suggests that the family functions as an emotional unit and that relationships within the family are interconnected and interdependent; when members act differently than the roles they are expected to play or do not follow the rules they are expected to respect, the family system responds and new patterns of behaviours may be formed. This process of equilibrium and disequilibrium in an intergroup context may be provoked as children enter SEP, particularly for younger children whose parents may be more involved in their social activities. The Social Ecological Framework, primarily created to understand the multiple pathways of influence on the developing child, is also a useful heuristic for conceptualizing how children, in turn, may have an impact on their families and communities.

This study will have implications for future development and extending the impact SEP across Northern Ireland.

Key words/descriptors

children and youth, intergroup conflict, shared education, family processes, prosocial behaviours

First supervisor

Dr Laura Taylor - School of Psychology

Secondary supervisor from a complementary discipline

Professor Joanne Hughes - School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work

Supervisors’ track record of PhD completions, plus excellence and international standing in the project area

Laura Taylor has co-supervised a student that is 1/2-way through her PhD at the University of Notre Dame, USA. As part of this mentorship, the student has presented at two international conferences and submitted one first-authored manuscript submitted to Peace & Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology and is second author on another publications submitted to Journal of Youth & Adolecence. In her own scholarship, Taylor is an emerging early career scholar who has served in leadership positions in professional associations, has a track record of publications in the area of youth risk and resilience processes in a developmental intergroup framework, and currently collecting new data on Altruism Born of Suffering in Belfast with the support of charities and the BA/Leverhulme.

Professor Hughes has a long-history of successful supervision PhD students with successful graduation and is a world-renown leader in the research on Shared Education Programmes (SEP), including a recent multi-million pound grant from Atlantic Philathropies. She leads a team with an extensive network of all of the SEP in Northern Ireland as well as a rich set of international collaborators in similar settings around the world.

Intersectoral exposure and/or international mobility

(e.g. secondments to/collaboration with partner organizations)

Both Taylor and Hughes have extensive international networks of colleagues that would benefit the in-coming student and enrich this area of research at QUB. For example, Taylor collaborates with colleagues at the University of Zagreb on a project examining school transitions between mono-ethnic and mixed-ethnic schools for Croat and Serb youth; an undergraduate thesis project she supervised in this area has been published (Reidy, Taylor, et al., 2015) which included supporting the student to visit Croatia and work with the team in Zagreb.

Describe briefly the international profile of the partner

Hughes is embarking on a multi-national collaboration with researchers in educational systems in divided settings such as South Africa, Israel/Palestine, Cyprus and Macedonia, and there would be the potential to involve the in-coming student in this line of international research.

Training that will be provided through the research project itself

Taylor would supervise the student's training in large-scale longitudinal data collection from a family perspective, including multi-level modelling that can account for the nesting of time points within child and children within classroom, as well as structural equation modelling that is designed to handle data from multiple-reporters. The student would also gain first-hand experience working with schools systems and administrators, as well as writing policy-relevant reports in addition to academic papers.

Examples of additional training in non-research transferable skills

The student would gain not only valuable quantitative skills, that could transfer to other setting such as program evaluation, but also important communication skills by writing summaries of the research findings for policymakers and lay audiences.

Expected dissemination of results: peer-reviewed journals, seminars, workshop and conferences at European/international level

(e.g. public talks, visits to schools, open days, QUB impact showcase)

The multiple outcomes from this collaborative PhD project would be peer-reviewed journal articles in psychology and education; attendance and presentations in national international conferences related to child development, political psychology, and education in divided settings; and policy-related reports on the findings that provide accessible summaries of the findings that can be shared with families, schools, and ministries in Northern Ireland.       

Expected impact activities

(e.g. public talks, visits to schools, open days, QUB impact showcase)

In addition to the dissemination activities proposed above, the student would also be active in the QUB recruitment days, participate in public events related to dissemination of the research findings (including inviting school administrators and parents from SEP schools). In addition, the aim of this initial project is to develop complementary intervention programs for parents of SEP which would have a potentially large-scale impact on families and communities across Northern Ireland.