Scholarly article on topic 'What Kind of Contact is Needed to Promote Integration? A Study with Primary School Teachers'

What Kind of Contact is Needed to Promote Integration? A Study with Primary School Teachers Academic research paper on "Economics and business"

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Abstract of research paper on Economics and business, author of scientific article — Daniela Damigella, Orazio Licciardello, Oriana Bisicchia

Abstract Contemporary multiethnic contexts lead to focus on the processes that are at the basis of integration and of mutual respect and social recognition. Simple contact is not a guarantee of harmonious intergroup relationships, but it could be if inspired by the Contact Hypothesis (Allport, 1954) and if mediated by empathy (Batson et alii, 1997; Stephan & Finlay, 1999; Voci & Hewstone, 2007). Focusing on school as a ‘potential place’ to a positive contact, teachers’ attitudes become relevant. This issue involves the need of professional training for teachers based on “how to be” in addition to the “know”, questioning, first, themselves (Licciardello, 2001, p.136).The aim of our study was to explore the attitudes that a group of primary school teachers has on migration processes and on North-African immigrants. Our hypothesis is that empathy is associated with a reduction of prejudices and that the EU innovative intercultural Comenius project affects the representations of those teachers involved in it in terms of attitudes more oriented to integration. Results seem to delineate a complex framework. Even though our sample expresses positive attitudes towards immigrants, on an implicit level an aversive form of racism (Dovidio & Gaertner, 2000) seems to emerge. The data also seem confirm the first hypothesis and not the second.

Academic research paper on topic "What Kind of Contact is Needed to Promote Integration? A Study with Primary School Teachers"

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Procedía - Social and Behavioral Sciences 141 (2014) 1121 - 1126

WCLTA 2013

What Kind of Contact is Needed to Promote Integration? A Study with Primary School Teachers

Daniela Damigella a *, Orazio Licciardello b, Oriana Bisicchia c

a University of Messina, Department of Human and Social Sciences, Via T. Cannizzaro 278, Messina, 98121, Italy; b University of Catania, Department of Educational Processes, Via Biblioteca 4, Catania, 95124, Italy; b University of Catania, Department of Educational Processes, Via Biblioteca 4, Catania, 95124, Italy.

Abstract

Contemporary multiethnic contexts lead to focus on the processes that are at the basis of integration and of mutual respect and social recognition. Simple contact is not a guarantee of harmonious intergroup relationships, but it could be if inspired by the Contact Hypothesis (Allport, 1954) and if mediated by empathy (Batson et alii, 1997; Stephan & Finlay, 1999; Voci & Hewstone, 2007). Focusing on school as a 'potential place' to a positive contact, teachers' attitudes become relevant. This issue involves the need of professional training for teachers based on "how to be" in addition to the "know", questioning, first, themselves (Licciardello, 2001, p.136).The aim of our study was to explore the attitudes that a group of primary school teachers has on migration processes and on North-African immigrants. Our hypothesis is that empathy is associated with a reduction of prejudices and that the EU innovative intercultural Comenius project affects the representations of those teachers involved in it in terms of attitudes more oriented to integration. Results seem to delineate a complex framework. Even though our sample expresses positive attitudes towards immigrants, on an implicit level an aversive form of racism (Dovidio & Gaertner, 2000) seems to emerge. The data also seem confirm the first hypothesis and not the second.

© 2014 Publishedby ElsevierLtd.Thisis anopen access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of the Organizing Committee of WCLTA 2013. Keywords: Promote, integration, social recognition

1. Introduction

The focus on intercultural relationships fits in the more general question related to the complexity of contemporary society where the relationships with the diversity become a key element. A similar change addresses to the educational processes in relation to their important role in promoting a cognitive and relational change in

* Corresponding author: Daniela Damigella. Tel.: +39-3288374204 E-mail address: ddamigella@unime.it

1877-0428 © 2014 Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of the Organizing Committee of WCLTA 2013. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.05.189

favour of positive intercultural attitudes. Specifically, a key role can be played by teachers in relation to their activities; they, indeed, mediate between students with different ethno-cultural backgrounds (Di Nuovo, 2000). In fact, the climate underlying ethnic relationships in the classroom is also related to teachers' social representations on migration and on immigrants (Damigella, Licciardello & Eterno, 2011). Therefore, teachers can play a key part in the educational transformation processes.

Moreover, the growing presence of multi-ethnic classes in the current educational system means that school should be the ideal place in which it is desirable to improve intergroup relationships and to reduce ethnic prejudices and stereotypes. This indicate that is necessary to create the conditions for a successful 'contact' based on equal status, common goals and intergroup cooperation, institutional support, opportunities for long lasting and intimate contact (Allport, 1954). In addition, several studies provided consistent support for the idea that empathy is associated with a reduction of prejudices and with improved intergroup relationships (Batson et alii, 1997; Stephan & Finlay, 1999; Vescio, Sechrist & Paolucci, 2003, Voci & Hewstone, 2007). However, there is evidence concerning the generalization, named 'secondary transfer effect' (Pettigrew, 2009), of positive attitudes developed during contact from an outgroup to another one not directly involved in the encounter situation.

In line with these conceptual theoretical framework, our study regard an EU educational project: the Comenius programme. It is part of the EU's Lifelong Learning Programme and concerns all levels of school education in order to support students and educational staff to increase their understanding on European cultures, languages and values through international activities and mobility in the European Union.

2. Method

2.1. Aim and hypothesis

The aim of this study was to explore the attitudes that a group of primary school teachers has on migration processes and on North-African immigrants. Specifically, it intended to test the hypothesis that: a) empathy is associated with a reduction of prejudices; b) the implementation of the EU innovative intercultural Comenius project, promoting a contact with European diversity, affects the attitudes of those teachers involved in it in terms of less prejudices towards migration and North-African immigrants.

2.2. Participants

Research was carried out with a group of primary school teachers (N. 70) mainly female (F=95.7%; M=4.3%;) and aged between 27 and 64 (M=48.79). They have taught for an average period of 21.53 years (range 3-39 years) and their subject areas are humanistic in 54.8%, scientific in 20% and both areas in 11.4%.

The sample was divided into two groups: 1) an experimental group of teachers (54.3%) belonging to a school where the Comenius project was being undertaken; 2) a control group (45.7%) of teachers belonging to a school where the Comenius project (or another intercultural project) was not being undertaken. With regard to the fact that they were involved in the experience of emigration (in first person or in relation to the family of origin), data reveal that three quarter of the sample (75.7%) never had this kind of experience. Moreover, only a small percentage of participants (32.9%) states they have contacts with immigrants (just 14.3% of them with North-African immigrants) and only little more than a-third (35.7%) has second generation students in their classroom.

2.3. Materials and techniques

Data was collected by a semi-structured questionnaire containing:

I) background questions (Licciardello, 1994) aimed at drawing an appropriate profile of individuals' socio-cultural features, useful for the construction of possible research variables; II) a set of item (Giovannini, 2001) treated as a seven-point Likert scale (1=total disagreement; 7=total agreement, with 4='mead point' ), in order to measure the representational framework related to migration and to North-African immigrants, grouped into five areas: Social Distance and Stereotypes; Culture and Identity; School and Education; Immigrant Policies; Economy; III) the empathy scale (Voci & Hewstone, 2007) consisting of 19 items each of which is treated as a five-point

Likert scale (0= not at all; 4=very much), in order to measure the more immediate reactions towards North-African immigrants' difficulties and discrimination conditions, grouped into 4 factors: Parallel empathy; Reactive empathy; Cognitive empathy; Distress; IV) six items of the Latent Prejudice Scale (Manganelli Rattazzi & Volpato, 2001): a) four of them (range 1=they are very different; 6= they are very similar) related to the cultural differences perceived between ingroup (Italian people) and outgroup (North-African immigrants) b) two of them (range 1=never; 6=always) related to positive emotions towards North-African migrants: V) four Semantic Differentials (Di Nuovo & Licciardello, 1997) concerning the representation of: Actual Self; Italian students; European students; North-African students. The materials were administered by the researcher in small groups setting.

2.4. Procedures

Data analysis was carried out by SPSS 20 for Windows, MANOVA and Pearson's "r" for correlation analysis. We calculated: a) the mean values of each item for the data obtained with set of item on migration; b) the average values of the four factors considered in the empathy scale (parallel empathy, reactive empathy, cognitive empathy, distress); c) regarding the Semantic Differentials, the: 1)reliability with Cronbach's alpha: Actual Self (a=.863), Future Self (a=.832), Italian students (a=.834), European students (a=.822), North-African students (a=.839) which allowed us to consider each one as a scale; 2) and the average sum of each pair of opposite adjectives scores.

3. Results

3.1. Attitudes on migration and on North-African immigrants

Results obtained by a set of item aimed to measure the attitudes on migration and on North-African immigrants were grouped into five areas:

1)Social distance and Stereotypes- generally, data revealed the presence of positive attitudes towards migrants. Indeed, teachers showed high disagreement with the hostile attitudes that some people have on North-African migrants (M=6.11) and they rejected the negative stereotypes commonly directed towards them, more specifically those based on the idea that they: contribute to increase crime levels (M=2.93) and the cases of AIDS (M=2.59); demand our help without giving anything in return (M=2.81); are dirty and unkempt (M=2.94); give the neighborhood a shabby and poor appearance (M=2.93); annoy people by their insistence (M=3.17).

2) Culture and Identity- the sample expressed an agreement just above the mead point with the idea that the best societies are those that have many ethnic groups (M=4.49) and that the presence of North-African immigrants entailed a cultural enrichment (M= 4.87). Instead, they rejected the item regarding the fact that outgroup's cultural diversity threats ingroup's cultural identity.

3) School and Education- with regard to North-African second generation students, teachers showed attitudes of openness and acceptance towards them. More specifically, they expressed a positive agreement about the fact that the presence of North-African students enriches the class (M=5.73) and that it is a positive event for teachers (M=5.44) even when North-African students do not have the residence permit (M=5.40); they disagreed with the idea that their inclusion in the classroom is likely to worsen the quality of school (M=2.58).

4) Immigration Policies: in this area, there were some ambivalent positions. On the one hand, teachers were in favor of granting the Italian citizenship to regularized North-African workers (M=4.53) and they expressed clear disagreement about the fact that Italy have to close its doors to immigration (M=2.19); on the other hand they do not take positions for or against to repatriate the North-African immigrants who do not have a regular work contract (M=3.99) and they rejected the idea that companies should reserve a percentage of work places for them (M=2.97).

5) Economy: also in this area, the sample, even disagreed with the idea that North-African immigrants take jobs away from Italians (M=2.54), expressed an ingroup bias based on the priority that is necessary to give to Italian economic problems (M=4.71) and they did not take position for or against the idea that outgroup gives an useful contribution to our economy (M=4.04).

3.2. Empathy scale

Basically, data revealed that sample seems to experience, in fair measure, all three forms of empathy towards North-African immigrants: cognitive (M=2.63), parallel (M=3.12), reactive (M=2.76). Distress, however, takes scores significantly lower than all types of empathy (M=2.15) (in all casesp<.001).

In addition, the correlation analysis between the considered dimensions and the item of Latent Prejudice scale revealed that the more the three forms of empathy were assessed the more the sample experienced sympathy and admiration towards North-African immigrants (respectively cognitive r=.525; p<.001; parallel r=.540; p<.001; reactive r=495;p<.001 and cognitive r=.338;p=.004; parallel r=.254;p=.034; reactive r=258;p=.031).

Moreover, the correlation analysis between empathy dimensions and the item of migration scale revealed that: 1)the more the three forms of empathy were assessed the more teachers agreed with the idea that immigration has brought more advantages than disadvantages (cognitive r=.287; p=.016; parallel r=.331; p=.005; reactive r=295; p=.013); 2) the more were assessed parallel empathy: a)the more they are indifferent toward the fact that their daughter/son marry a person coloured or white (r=.254; p=.034) and the more they agreed with the idea that companies should reserve a percentage of work places for North-African immigrants (r=.324; p=.006); 6)the less they expressed an ingroup bias based on the priority that is necessary to give to Italian economic problems (r=-.239; p=. 046) and the less they thought that because of immigration there are spreading customs and traditions that do not belong to Italian people (r=-.255; p=.033); 3) the more the distress was assessed the more teachers agreed with the idea that North-African immigrants take jobs away from Italians (r=.275; p=. 021).

3.3. Latent Prejudice

Data obtained by the item of the Latent Prejudice Scale revealed that, in relation to cultural differences between ingroup (Italian people) and outgroup (North-African migrants), the teachers of our sample perceived that they are very different regarding the language (M=1.9) and, to a lesser extent, religious beliefs or practices (M=2.37). They perceived less a bit similar regarding the items about the values taught to their children (M=3.7) and a bit different on sexual values or practices (M=3.24).

Considering the effects of group variable, the multivariate analysis showed that the activation of Comenius programme affects in a statistically significant way (p=.015). In particular, the experimental group perceived to a greater extent than the control group the cultural differences concerning sexual values or practices (M=2.92 vs. M=3.63) (p=.023). Moreover, the sample stated to experience often sympathy (M=3.81) and, to a slightly lesser extent, admiration (M=3.3) towards the North-African outgroup.

3.4. Semantic Differentials and correlation analysis

In general, the data revealed a positive Actual Self representation (M=5.14) and a scant evaluation of Italian students (M=3.94) and, to a slightly greater extent, of North-African (M=4.24) and European (M=4.41) students (MANOVA with 4 Within factors DF=3,207; F=59.73; p<.001).

Moreover, statistical analysis showed that: a) Actual Self was assessed better than the North-African students (M=5.14 vs. M=4.24; p=.009 ); b) the European students were assessed better than the North-African students (M=4.41 Vs M=4.24; p<.001).

The correlation analysis between Semantic Differential dimensions and the items of migration scale revealed that: a)the more the North-African students were assessed the more teachers felt disgust at the hostile attitude that some people have towards North-African immigrants (r=.328; p=.006); b)the higher was the representation of the Italian Students the more they agreed with the idea that because of immigration are spreading customs that do not belong to us (r=.239; p=.045); c)the more they assessed the Actual Self the less they agreed with the fact that immigrants give an useful contribution to our economy (r=-.272; p=.023).

The correlation analysis between Semantic Differential dimensions and the items of the Empathy scale showed a positive correlation between the European Students representation and both cognitive and reactive empathy towards the outgroup of immigrants (respectively r=.280; p=.019 and r=.244; p=.042).

The correlation analysis between Semantic Differential dimensions and the items of Latent Prejudice scale revealed that: a) the more were assessed Italian Students the more were perceived the differences between ingroup and the North-African migrants concerning the language spoken (r=.336; p=.004); the higher was the assessment of

the European Students the more was the sympathy that teachers experienced towards the North-African migrants (r=.305; p=.010).

4. Conclusion

The research results seem to reveal an articulated and ambivalent framework. In general, the data showed a positive immigrants' representational framework, characterized by a rejection of the negative stereotypes most commonly directed towards them and by attitudes of openness and integration towards second generation students. However, with regards to the economic and politic dimension, teachers showed ambivalent positions. They did not take positions for or against the repatriation of North-African immigrants who do not have a regular job contract. They also rejected the idea that companies should reserve a percentage of places for immigrants. Instead, according with the ingroup bias paradigm (Tajfel, 1981), they stated that economic problems of ingroup (such as poverty and unemployment) should have priority in policies decisions.

It is possible hypothesize that, despite our sample expressed, on an explicit level, positive attitudes towards North-African immigrants, on an implicit level, an 'aversive' form of racism (Dovidio & Gaertner, 2000) seems emerge when there are ambiguous conditions as an uncertain normative organization or a conflict of interests (Sherif, Harvey, White, Hood & Sherif, 1961) between groups. In line with these observations, it emerged the tendency to exaggerate cultural differences with outgroups that is typical of the 'subtle' prejudice (Meertens & Pettigrew, 1997). Indeed, data related to Latent Prejudice Scale showed that the sample attributed low scores to the level of perceived cultural similarity between ingroup and outgroup (concerning language, values, religious and sexual practices). The hypothesis concerning the correlation between empathy and prejudicial attitudes seems to be confirmed. In particular, the three forms of empathy correlated positively with the affective dimension of the latent prejudice and parallel empathy seemed to have a predominant role in the reduction of attitudes ascribed to a possible 'aversive' form of racism (Dovidio & Gaertner, 2000). This last datum could be explained by the fact that parallel empathy (related to the sense of injustice, anger and sadness) may prevent the application of the theory of the just world (Lerner & Miller, 1978).

The data also seem to not confirm our hypothesis concerning the positive influence of the Comenius project. This result could be understood in relation to the absence of some of the contact conditions proposed by Allport (1954). Hence, the lack of an involvement at a deeper level of the whole educational community seems to result in a contact purely 'ideological' (Licciardello et alii, 2007), that is a positive orientation towards the immigrants based on ideological availability towards them, as common sense suggests, but inadequate to have a strong effect in reducing ingrained prejudices and stereotypes. Moreover, a change of attitude toward the European outgroup may not be generalized to North-African one.

Finally, the fact that the European students representation is positively correlated with both empathy and solidarity with North-African immigrants could suggest a Secondary Transfer Effect (Pettigrew, 2009) in terms of a generalization from European outgroup (students) to North-African one. Therefore, for the realization of a truly open and multiethnic school community, a professional training for teachers appears necessary. It should be based not only on the 'know' but also on the dimension of the 'how to be' (Licciardello, 2001).

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