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Ricerca per l'innovazione della scuola italiana

Small schools

Loghi PON 2014-2020 (fse-fesr) corto

Codice progetto: 10.1.8.A1-FSEPON-INDIRE-2017-1
Project Code: 10.1.8.A1 – ESFNOP- INDIRE-2017-1
PUI: B59B17000010006
Axis I “investing in competences, education and lifelong learning”
SO 10.1 – “Reduction of early educational failure and dropout rates”
Action 10.1.8 – “strengthening the analysis of school population and key factors of school abandonment with reference to gender, socio-cultural and economic and local contexts


Duration of the project: from 01/01/2016 to 31/12/2018
Extension of activities until 31/12/2019
Referent for the project and the line of research Giuseppina Rita Jose Mangione

Since 2016, the research project “Small schools” has been included in the multi-fund National Operational Programme (2014IT05M2OP001) “For schools – competences and learning environments” 2014 – 2020, financed under Axis I – “investing in competences, education and lifelong learning”.

In line with SO 10.1 – “Reduction of early educational failure and dropout rates” – Action 10.1.8 – “strengthening the analysis of school population and key factors of school abandonment with reference to gender, socio-cultural and economic and local contexts, the project intends to support the permanence of schools in geographically disadvantaged territories, in order to keep intact cultural and educational strongholds and combat depopulation. It also tries out online working methods, thanks to the internet and video conferencing systems.

The project started actions to promote processes of renovation of small schools providing them with resources and useful tools to keep pace with change while at the same time enhancing their competences and distinctive elements.

The main objectives of the projects are:

  • devising and testing didactic models suitable for the management of mixed age classes and functional to overcome isolation;
  • offering specific training to teachers who operate in geographically disadvantaged contexts, with particular attention to internal areas;
  • designing interventions for professional enhancement of teachers;
  • disseminating good educational practices;
  • promoting the Small Schools Cultural Movement and network collaboration between schools;
  • improving synergies between local government and research bodies.

During the two-year period 2016-2017, some networks of small schools were directly involved, supported by Indire researchers. Each network facilitated the involvement of small schools, through training and dissemination activities in the rural schools where teachers serve. The networks supported Indire researchers’ observation and analysis of small schools from the organisational and didactical point of view. The study of the networks, compared with international works, led researchers to select the key elements for innovation in small Italian schools and propose some models to support teaching in mixed age classes and in augmented classrooms, to expand the connection between the inside and outside of the school. Training workshops, video club meetings and focus groups, with contact people of the schools helped define methods and formalise them.

In June 2017, the National Movement of Small schools was funded in Favignana through the signing of a “Manifesto” by 60 head teachers of Italian small schools. The movement is open to all the small schools, wishing to commit to play a full part in the national educational system, and start an innovation process avoiding the risk of marginalisation. The movement’s intensions and objectives are listed in its manifesto that the adhering schools committed to support and promote.

The key points of the manifesto are mainly 3:

  1. Memory, community and learning quality;
  2. the experience of mixed age classes, as a resource and not a limit;
  3. technology and social inclusion.

In 2018 the national movement included an increasing number of schools trying to establish a dialogue also with those mapped in the 71 internal areas of the national territory.

The documentation material produced as part of the networking activity aims to render the complexity of the actual status of geographically isolated schools, proposing intervention lines, and also stimulating the enlargement of the network through constant training on effective and replicable didactic methods for small schools.

The documentation materials produced as part of the network activity will constitute a very important source and may be of various types:

Descriptions of experiences that allow to highlight critical issues typical of mixed age classes and potentials of methods and possible variations;

didactic planning for mixed age classes, structuring of didactic activities designed and pre-worked for teachers’ use;

documentation tools and analysis of the dynamics that can occur in the classrooms when testing specific methods.

These materials aim, on one hand, to provide a clear picture of the condition of isolated schools in their complexity, outlying their specific characteristics and creating a collection of programmes and significant practices, capable to suggest intervention lines in similar conditions; on the other hand, they can be useful as a stimulus to the enlargement of the network of the schools of the movement, through continuous training on effective didactical methods replicable in the small schools.

Next to and in parallel with the work carried out online, training laboratories on methods and practices capable to improve the educational offer in a small school will be also proposed. The Small school movement acknowledges the importance of taking care of the professionality of teachers operating in contexts of cultural isolation and is committed to guarantee their development and visibility.

Laboratory training is carried out in blended mode: activities supported by an online environment are accompanied by in person meetings, organised by the reference schools selected on the Italian territory.

The training has a twofold objective:

  1. supporting the acquisition of knowledge and tools on specific methodologies applied in the context of isolated and mixed age classes;
  2. accompanying the teachers trained upon entry into a first National Register of Tutors of small schools to ensure innovation cascades.

As far as the objectives of training and widespread improvement of didactics are concerned, it is foreseen the creation of training toolkits able to allow the teacher to put into practice educational proposals, elaborated by the Indire research group, during laboratories. An area of in-depth study of the promoted educational principles is integrated with a video section documenting the experimentations, with comments and reflections by the teachers who have validated their quality in their classes. The Toolkits will include tools, rubrics and teaching units that provide examples and models useful for replicating and supporting the diffusion of the proposed methodologies in all the small schools of the national territory.

Through continuous scientific dissemination and the realization of national and international agreements, the research project may also encourage working tables between political and research subjects allying themselves to promote actions aimed at giving real representation to all Italian schools characterised by isolation and mixed age classes. This also supports the spreading of networked working models and good teaching practices, and experimenting innovative paths in rural and mountain areas and small islands. Collaboration with neighbouring and representative bodies of small and isolated communities is essential to maintain quality educational coverage and to combat depopulation.