Many children and adolescents go to school not only to learn math and grammar, but to be part of a social group. In their unstructured free time (e.g., school breaks), children meet, play, or "hang out". Such informal group activities at schoolyard is a rich opportunity for youngsters to develop emotional and social competence.
However, not all children have access to informal group encounters. Many youngsters miss this vital learning opportunity on a daily basis, because they have difficulties joining their peers during their leisure time at school. This includes children with barriers to communication, such as hearing loss and autism. Their social participation in schools is concerning, given that most of the children with special needs have been blended into mainstream education since the implementation of “Passend Onderwijs” (Dutch law for tailored education) in 2014.
Funded by NWO and Leiden-Delft-Erasmus (LDE) affiliated fellowships, this large-scale project aims to create an inclusive school setting for children and adolescents, including those with hearing loss or autism, during their unstructured leisure time at school, thus increasing the quality and quantity of their social interactions with peers. We focus on analyzing and adapting the physical (built), social, and cultural environment at schools outside the classroom. To achieve this, a multidisciplinary collaboration is established that combines Psychology, Computer Science, Architecture, and Governance, and involves the LDE Centre for BOLD Cities, professional organisations (INTER-PSY & Rivierduinen), and patient associations (NVA).
The unstructured leisure time at school is important for children and adolescents to learn the skills that also prepare them for later life. Youngsters, including those with autism or hearing loss, need an environment in which they feel safe and accepted, so they can participate in group activities, interact with peers, teachers, and mentors, and learn the skills necessary for optimal emotional and social development. The psychology discipline focuses on the relation between schoolyard behaviors, sociometric measures, and social-emotional functioning.
Researchers: Carolien Rieffe, Lisa van Klaveren, Adva Eichengreen, Brenda Sousa da Silva, Yung-Ting Tsou
Traditionally, research on playground dynamics is based on parents’ and teachers’ observations. To obtain a broader perspective on children’s play without intruding their space and affecting their behavior, this project uses wearable sensor technology, which reveals proximity, duration, and location of social interactions at schoolyard. Moreover, based on the sensor data, algorithms will be developed for extracting patterns representing individual and social behaviors of pupils, and their use of space; thus exploring the complex interaction patterns over time and in space of prosocial behavior and its links with structural and functional changes in development.
Researchers: Mitra Baratchi (Leiden Institute of Advanced Computer Science), Marvin Meeng (Leiden Institude of Advanced Computer Science), Maedeh Nasri (Leiden University and Centre for BOLD Cities)
The architecture discipline focuses on a spatial interpretation of the data. The analysis will unravel the particular features and aspects of a built environment that support or impede social interaction (e.g., spatial layout, acoustics, furniture, light, colour, texture, temperature, user density and proximity, green etc.), and how these features and aspects relate to other users and hence to potential social interactions. These explanations can support the analysis and evaluation of school environments and can be further used in the design of such environments.
Researcher: Alexander Koutamanis (Faculty of Architecture & the Built Environment, Delft University of Technology)
The policy team focuses on the implementation of Passend Onderwijs (PO) in the Netherlands, targeting implementation bottlenecks in the context of two key developments in recent years linked to Dutch education and youth policy: (1) achieving an integrated model for special needs education by placing special-needs students in mainstream schools in combination with an individual support structure, and (2) decentralizing responsibilities in the context of youth policy towards municipal levels. In the context of these policy changes, teachers and school administrators are both policy subjects and policy actors. They are the key connection between policy and practice by implementing changes while interacting with students and parents.
Special attention is being paid towards this policy-practice dichotomy and the challenges inherent to this when looking at upward- and down-ward accountability in the education context. This entails questions around who has the resources and knowledge to appropriately support autistic youth in regular schools and who is accountable when it is not working. The goal is to analyze the current challenges when implementing PO in schools as well as identify strategies based on best-practice scenarios for how to move forward.
Researchers: Sarah Giest (Institute of Public Administration, Leiden University), Gyeorye Kyeorei (Reia) Lee (Institute of Public Administration, Leiden University)