Detailed Program of the Conference

Parallel session - D.11.1 Schools as a potential source of inequalities reproduction: how, where and why?
Wednesday, 02/June/2021:
3:15pm - 5:30pm

Session Chair: Gianluca Argentin
Session Chair: Marco Romito
Location: Room 5
Session Panels:
D.11. Schools as a potential source of inequalities reproduction: how, where and why?



Simone Seitz1, Michaela Kaiser2, Petra Auer1, Rosa Bellacicco1

1Free University of Bolzano, Italy; 2University of Paderborn, Germany

An inclusive education system is considered a central structural prerequisite for sustainable, high-quality education and the reduction of inequality (UNESCO 2015). In educational practice, this implies meeting all students with high expectations in inclusive classrooms (Booth & Ainscow 2011). At once, the international discourse increasingly focuses on performance enhancement and (self-)optimisation in education (OECD 2019). It is, therefore, necessary to ask more precisely how an orientation towards achievement and performance relates to inclusion and educational equity (Seitz et al. 2016).

Many current studies address the connection between the promotion of achievement and giftedness and a reflective approach to diversity (cf. Mazzoli Smith & Campbell, 2016; Veas et al., 2018). However, an overarching analysis of the scientific discourse on the connection between inclusion, giftedness, and achievement is still lacking.

We have taken up this desideratum and used sociological discourse analysis (Keller, 2013) to work out how giftedness and achievement are negotiated in relation to inclusion and diversity in educational discourse. The data corpus comprises contributions from the last decade (2009-2020) and thus the period of intensive debates around the results of the Programme of International Students Assessment (PISA) and the ratification of the UN CRPD (United Nations 2006), as these set important impulses regarding diversity, inequality, and achievement. From a corpus of 93 reference texts, 21 comparable key texts were selected through theoretical sampling.

Our analyses first show a striking polarisation of high-achieving and low-achieving students and specific risk constructions of giftedness promotion linked to this. Furthermore, three dispositifs were identified: elite formation, economic usability, and educational equity.

By analysing the narrative structure, we uncover the tensions between institutionalised practices of promoting giftedness and the simultaneously proclaimed reduction of social inequalities. We specifically show how differences are produced and hierarchised by the construction of risk groups in the discourse on giftedness and achievement, thereby effectively perpetuating inequality. Based on these findings and their critical evaluation, we present for discussion upcoming ambivalences and future-orientated considerations under the idea of a sustainable education system and its relationship to achievement, performance, and inclusion.


Booth, T. & Ainscow, M. (2011). Index for Inclusion. Developing Learning and Participation in Schools. Bristol: CSIE.

Keller, R. (2013). Doing discourse research: An introduction for social scientists. London: SAGE.

Mazzoli Smith, L., & Campbell, R. J. (2016). So-called giftedness and teacher education: issues of equity and inclusion. Teachers and Teaching, 22(2), 255-267.

OECD (2019), PISA 2018 Results (Volume II): Where All Students Can Succeed, PISA, OECD Publishing, Paris,

Seitz, S., Pfahl, L., Steinhaus, F., Rastede, M., & Lassek, M. (2016). Hochbegabung inklusive. Inklusion als Impuls für Begabungsförderung an Schulen. Weinheim: Beltz.

United Nations (2015). 17 Goals to Transform Our World.

Veas, A., Castejón, J. L., O’Reilly, C., & Ziegler, A. (2018). Mediation analysis of the relationship between educational capital, learning capital, and underachievement among gifted secondary school students. Journal for the Education of the Gifted, 41(4), 369-385.


Mariagrazia Santagati

Università Cattolica, Italy

Italy is one of the first Western countries that, at the end of February 2020, decided to close all the educational institutions during Covid-19 time. After few weeks, following the recommendations of the Ministry of Education, schools implemented a sort of “forced” Distance Learning (DAD), proposing various activities to be carried out through ICT (INDIRE, 2020). During this emergency, school-family relationship appears essential in compulsory education. However, working with parents remains a complex challenge for schools (Dusi, Addi-Raccah, 2020) and DAD create unusual situations of cooperation and conflicts, with negative implications on disadvantaged children (Bordalba, Llevot, 2019).

This contribution aims at investigating the school-family interactions in Italian primary and lower secondary schools during Covid-19 time: these interactions are considered crucial mechanisms to manage emergency, but they could assume many other functions in the educational process. I suppose that families’ and teachers’ role in reproducing social inequalities at a micro-level in educational outcomes and paths (cf. Argentin, Pavolini, 2020) is strictly intertwined. And it becomes evident in different and unexpected ways of interacting, yet to be explored in depth.

Therefore, how family-school interactions reproduce, produce or amplify inequalities in the educational pathways of pupils? To answer to this question, I will present a qualitative research still in progress (Santagati, Barabanti, 2020). Parents, teachers, pupils have answered to a brief grid of interview through vocal messages via Whatsapp and to a questionnaire on Qualtrics, giving socio-demographic data and general information about home schooling. Nearly 300 vocal messages have been collected from April 2020 to April 2021, mainly coming from some Northern areas.

In the analysis I focus on three critical issues concerning family-school interactions. 1) Focusing on online interactive lessons, parents and teachers describe the disappearence of boundaries between classroom and home, with the consequent possibility of observing inside these two spaces. Boundaryless interactions between school and family allow to know more each other, exacerbating tensions and critical attitudes towards noninvolved parents and unprepared teachers. 2) The possibility of staying constantly connected online also lead to a condition of unlimited interactions, with an intense and frequent interlocution between teachers and parents. Boundaries between school and extra school time, work and family time, disappear, generating distress, workload, role shifts. 3) Finally, in some cases teachers or pupils and families have no contact and disappear from the educational scene during lockdown. These contactless situations – without any kind of audio-visual contacts –amplify the distance created by forced home-schooling. Many pupils disappear from the screen, due to temporary or prolonged suspension of contacts. Some teachers do not look for direct contacts, immediate communication, systematic feedback from families. Disadvantaged families, families with many children, children with disability or special needs, children with an immigrant background, etc. get lost in this period, and schools are not able to preserve a yet fragile educational link and to protect the most vulnerable pupils from this irreversible school detachment. In-depth analysis of these three critical dynamics producing educational inequalities will be developed.


António Raúl Sitoe1, Carlos Alberto Leite da Silva2

1Universidade Federal Fluminense, Brasile; 2Universidade Federal Fluminense, Brasile

ABSTRACT: The Brazilian educational system provides for the promotion of quality educational policies with opening for the integration of social layers that all along were excluded from the teaching and learning process. In the face of social inequality resulting from socio-historical circumstances, the Federal Constitution of Brazil as well as the introduction of educational programs and quota laws have opened more space for school inclusion for those who are far from schools or even with an income well below the minimum wage. Even with these educational policies, the white supremacist class has defrauded the vacancies reserved for self-declared indigenous, black and brown people, filling these vacancies in educational institutions in their name. The purpose of this research is to discuss the Brazilian educational system presupposed to understand the inequality and school inclusion. In the research we take in examination text of authors who deal with the Brazilian educational policies, federal constitution, decrees and education programs. The qualitative research with descriptive approach.

Keywords: Brazilian educational system, social inequality, social inclusion


Giuliana Parente

Sapienza, Italy

This study analyzes the phenomenon of guidance and school choices of students in their third year of lower secondary schools in Rome, linking them to the reproduction of inequalities in schooling.The theme of inequalities and differences in educational processes became central when the 1960s witnessed the expansion of schooling and participation in second and third grade education in industrialized countries.In fact, with new categories of students belonging to the poorest and most disadvantaged groups accessing the educational system, the conditions were created for the experience of social inequality (Cavalli & de Lillo 1988).In this study we adopt the Bourdieusian perspective (Bourdieu & Passeron 1970) which, through the concepts of habitus, symbolic violence and field, emphasizes the influence of class of origin on academic achievement and career duration.The Bourdieusian theoretical apparatus, however, also takes into account the distinction of linguistic codes elaborated by Bernestein (1977) and the economic conditioning and cost-benefit calculus of Boudon (1974), up to the point of using the concept of governmental device of Foucauldian memory (Mac &Ghaill 1994; Romito 2017).Most of the relevant literature emphasizes the influence of extra-curricular factors (economic, cultural and social) in school choice. Few studies focus on the role of teachers and guidance activities.The study proposed here aims to understand both the influence of extracurricular factors, mostly those related to social class, and school factors, (such as guidance advice that teachers give to students).The research work started from the hypothesis that alongside the primary effects (link between family background and outcomes) and secondary effects (the influence of background on choice) resulting from class, the existence of a tertiary effect of school is also affirmed (Schneider, 2014; Esser, 2016; Argentin & Pavolini 2020).The latter in particular is studied through the more general consequences of school practices related to the institutional habitus of each school (Ingram 2011) and the symbolic violence exercised by teachers that is expressed in the guidance council, when biases aimed at lowering students' aspirations are applied unconsciously (Boone & Van Houtte 2013; Romito 2016).A mixed-method research design was used that included both quantitative (semi-structured questionnaires) and qualitative (interviews) data collection tools. Five secondary schools belonging to different areas of the city of Rome participated in the study, from which some third classes were randomly drawn.Two questionnaires on school choice and orientation were administered to the students in these classes and, finally, some non-directive interviews were conducted with their teachers. In summary, the results of this work state that: 1) social background conditions students' school choice, 2) institutional elements of the school context shape teachers' assessment and guidance practices, and 3) the latter in turn reinforce the classroom conditioning on which students' choice intentions are based. In the various school contexts, therefore, diversified chances to continue studies are activated and school careers are promoted that strengthen inequalities in terms of social composition, thus encouraging scholastic and territorial segregation.All this, in a broader perspective, tends to reproduce the class dynamics already existing in society and, therefore, social immobility for certain categories of students.


Beatrice Eleuteri

University of Roma Tre, Italy

Motivation has risen as a crucial variable when investigating reading behavior, especially among children and adolescents. In the past few years studies have multiplied trying to find a shared definition of what appears to be a multidimensional construct which has been proved to correlate with reading comprehension and literacy skills and appears to be very context influenced.

Using debate as a qualitative methodology to stimulate the emersion of spontaneous self-reporting thrusts gives the chance to better adapt quantitative instruments to the cultural context and give educators a way to better understand what inequalities lie underneath the classroom as a whole.

In 2018, an experimental qualitative study has been conducted in seven classrooms of Rome’s outskirts, with a sample of 100 students aged from 11 to 20. The researcher was formally introduced as a debate expert, expected to conduct a Rhetoric workshop with the students. “Reading” was presented theme to argument on.

The study came out to produce significant results concerning students beliefs on books, reading and readers, their awareness and attitudes towards reading, especially among the older kids, which family context really influenced in choosing reading as an activity to embrace or avoid. New motivations emerged, next to the ones that were already included in larger quantitative studies conducted by ISTAT, and that proved the methodology to be an important instrument to deeper analyze and understand reading motivation.

The study, which will be taken as a base for further investigations, aims to introduce the methodology as a instrument both for researcher and educators, which allows to enhance communication awareness, investigate feelings of frustration, anxiety or embarrassment, understand young readers perception of reading and stimulate local agencies to act against what the technique can underlie to be the main causes of reading avoidance and often school dropout in the specific context.

Introducing this practice in a wide range of classrooms would also allow to collect a large number of data that could be used to build valid instruments to measure and monitor the phenomenon or adapting existing ones to the Italian context.


Alessia Mastropietro, Giovanna Leone

Sapienza Università di Roma, Italia

This paper aims at observing how social inequalities among primary school pupils may be either reproduced or challenged by teachers’ helping. A recently renewed tradition of observational studies convincingly showed how school routines may risk confirming the existing power inequalities among students. It overtly conflicts with declarations of the Italian Constitution, that school’s responsibility is to remove all impairments opposing a full development of students’ capabilities. Among the many facets of teacher-pupil relation, our research focuses on the primary school teachers’ helping, assuming that, if teachers help pupils belonging to socially stigmatized groups even beyond their actual needs, their benevolent overhelping will implicitly signal to these children that they hold poor expectations from them. Theoretically, this idea is rooted in two research traditions. First, in his classic works Vygotsky described how children’ development originates from their social interactions, when capable others help children to solve those problems that they cannot cope with autonomously, yet can successfully face when cooperating. Second, since the end of Seventies social psychologists have showed how helping strategies may either reinforce receivers’ autonomy or lead them to become dependent from donors. More in particular, dependency-oriented help was proved to be used for those who are socially disadvantaged, to help them “to stay where they are” (Nadler & Cheryak-Hai, 2014), i.e. at the bottom of the social ladder. Merging these two influential research traditions, we tested the hypothesis that in primary school children of socially stigmatized groups could be helped by their teachers also for problems they can easily solve by themselves. To provide empirical evidence of this phenomenon’s occurrence, and to enable teachers to perceive it, an original methodology was set in place. In a game simulation setting, dyads composed by one teacher and his/her pupil (aged 8-10 years, either belonging to the ethnic majority or to a Romani group) were invited to play a two steps game, where the child was asked to face a task of growing complexity and the teacher had to side with their pupil. Data show that when the task is complex, siding strategies chosen by teachers are the same for children belonging both to the ethnic majority and to Romani families. On the contrary, when the task is easy enough to be autonomously solved by the child, children issued from Romani families were more frequently helped beyond their actual need by their teachers. Finally, teachers received a video-feedback of their helping behaviour, designed to increase their self-awareness about this bias towards disadvantaged children and to discuss with researchers on detrimental effects of benevolent overhelping. Observations during the video-feedback allowed to understand that oftentimes teachers were unaware of their overhelping towards Romani children, and more in general were not familiar with the concept of negative effects of overhelping.