Teaching that Matters for Migrant Students: Understanding Levers of Integration in Scotland, Finland and Sweden

How school systems respond to migration has an enormous impact on migrant integration. Schools can be a vehicle for social integration and mobility, and for developing a sense of belonging to the local community. But schools can also be an isolating and discriminatory place and act as a barrier to integration. Within schools, teachers are key for creating opportunities for learning and participation, especially for migrant students.

However, teachers may also inadvertently reinforce the barriers due to the assumptions embedded in the institutional structures, or their own unexamined beliefs. Our project addresses the urgent need to understand and help teachers meet the needs of migrant students. It employs social network analysis and ethnographic research across six school sites in Scotland, Finland and Sweden to examine how teachers interact with students, their families, school colleagues, specialists and external agencies to address risks of exclusion, underachievement or other forms of marginalisation.

A comprehensive, mixed-method analysis of both the structures and nature of teachers’ day-to-day interactions over three school terms will help us understand how they build inclusive school communities, which are critical for building ‘protective networks’ to address barriers to learning for migrant students. The cross-country design allows us to gauge the impact of particular policies and strategies that facilitate migrant integration across contexts.

TEAMS involves interdisciplinary collaboration between four teams from the Universities of Edinburgh, Stockholm, Jyväskylä and Turku, and engages school staff and migrant students from the outset to co-design material that will be used both during and beyond the project. The outputs include: four articles and one special issue in academic journals; project website; one short film and six school exhibitions that show migrant students’ experiences through their own artefacts such as photos and videos; three policy briefs, one for each country; and visualisations of social networks in each participating school. These outputs will be presented in workshops with research participants and disseminated widely through our international networks to academic and non-academic users.