Ecological systems theory, school-community partnering and student development
How can an ecological systems theory help us better understand school-community partnering that promotes student development?
Redland Junior School (RJS) is a community school and lies in one of the most-studied districts in the country. The term of “community school” describes some collaboration between the local school, parents and community health and social service agencies. RJS has partnered with various businesses, such as New England Telephone Company and the larger local consortium of businesses called the Private Industry Council, which was assembled to support youth development and employment in the city. Other partners have included the University of Bristol, the Trefler Foundation, youth advocacy groups, the neighborhood health center and the Southwest Regional Educational Laboratory at University of West England.School improvement studies sometimes focus on leadership development or teacher development. Broad measures of student attendance, achievement, promotion and graduation rates were found in school and district records. Measures of emotional, social, or physical development were also estimated indirectly from artifacts such as yearbooks, student publications, or interviews.
A 10-year longitudinal survey showed that students in RIS achieved a better salary, career and family life and shaped their own future, compared to students who were not from a community school but had similar academic performance.
Apply theoretical background, previous evidence and various research methods to find results and discuss these points.
Initially build up clear understanding of the case.
Research the case, by basically conducting a literature review and share findings in the paper.
Link the case to the ecological systems theory. Data analysis method needs to be introduced and applied into investigate the material provided by the case description.
Present the case study in a form of report written in APA style.
a. The section of Abstract briefly summarizes what is investigated, the characteristics of the participant(s), the research method used and any findings or conclusions reached. In APA style, this paragraph should be 200 to 250 words in length.
b. The section of Introduction is the most important part in the case study report. It should be no less than 1200 words. Like any other research paper, many sources are required in order to strengthen the case study. Therefore, in addition to the case described, search relevant books, articles and websites and make a formal literature review, which comprises the main body of Introduction. This information will be the backbone of the study and determine the chosen data analysis method. Address hypothesis and research questions at the end of Introduction.
c. Analysis/Method is critical for the report. The section is not only for developing argument, but also for the purpose of assessment on critical thinking and knowledge of research method. Use previous empirical studies (using quantitative or qualitative data) to support the topic. Justify and describe one quantitative or qualitative method to analyze the case topic. Include a brief description of the results and support this section further with the related literature. Specifically, include:
1) in text citations and support points by comparing them with previous empirical studies
2) run one analysis on case study and
3) provide a brief description of results.
d. Report findings in the sections of Result and Discussion, which could be merged in one sub-heading of Discussion. The result presentation depends on the method chosen. More important, talk about what the results mean and link the findings to the previous literature (discussed in the section of Introduction). Interpret the findings, evaluate the hypotheses or research questions. Sometime, it is not unusual to discuss unexpected results.
Use supporting empirical research studies as reported in academic journals
Ensure that all discussion points are appropriately supported with empirical research from primary sources (ie: journal articles rather than textbooks). Care should be taken to ensure the relevance of such research also.
The content of the essay should go beyond descriptive material and key issues covered in the online materials.
Demonstrate broad reading and research, as well as showing knowledge of contemporary research studies.
Ecological systems theory, school-community partnering and student development
Ecological systems theory, school-community partnering and student development.
Course Code and Name
Ecological systems theory, school-community partnering and student development.
The value of school partnerships with the community often has awesome results, and the reasons for success and failure are not quite pinpointed. Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems model elaborates on an environment’s effects on a child. A 10-year longitudinal survey of students at Redland Junior School on the effects of the school partnerships with various stakeholders had several results like better salaries and positive career and family life. It shaped their future compared to students with similar academic performance and not from a community school. The value of the human ecology model provides a context for this study. Literature review from previous sources shows schools achieve good results for their children. This paper will thus discuss the framework for the human ecology theory and elaborate on how it fits in the case study. The model used will be the ecological model that takes into account the process and context. Literature review from previous research highlights the use of the ecological model in similar setups, and results suggest a great correlation between school partnering and the community has good results for students. A student’s prospects and future outlook will thus improve if more meaningful adult interactions exist in a child’s life.
Introduction and Literature Review
The study of relations between human and non-human nature in different cultures reveals a wide range of ideas and methods that interrelate to define specific traits. It focuses on the interaction between humans and the environment as biological organisms and social beings (Bulboz & Sontag, 2009). The Human ecology theory analyses the consequences of human activities that affect how an ecosystem works and looks. It focuses on the interaction and interdependence of human beings at various levels in the community and identifies varying group sizes. The ecological perspective is that the immediate physical environment influences human interaction as social beings, and the nature of the interaction in any social environment yields the ecological relationship between humans and the environment.
The human ecology theory by Bronfenbrenner falls under the ecological systems theory. It argues that human development is affected by what surrounds them and that development begins from childhood and extends through adulthood (Guy-Evans, 2020). The ecological environment shifts and changes depending on the active contributors that construct any social environment. The theory also critiques previous research and theories in child development, arguing that the studies conducted in unfamiliar environments with one person were invalid and could not be used to describe any child’s development. He thus argues that a comprehensive study of a child’s development involves studying the immediate and larger environment.
In 1977, Bronfenbrenner suggested that a child’s environment was akin to a structure that contains all the systems within specific thresholds (Roundy, 2021). He places the child at the centre of the developmental complex, and all other factors surround them depending on the level of influence. Bronfenbrenner divided the different levels from the immediate environment most influential to the extreme environment that influences the child’s development, albeit the least. In order of influence, he called them the microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, macrosystem, and chronosystem. These systems are interrelated, and the influence of one system on a child’s development depends on its relationship with the others.
The Ecological Systems
The microsystem is the first level after the child, and it contains the things that directly influence the child-like parents, siblings, extended family if they live together, teachers, and peers (Roundy, 2021). Modern-day interactions could also include social media, online gaming, and interactions in the ecological system (Guy-Evans, 2020). A child can also influence individuals in the microsystem, and the reaction of any child to the stimuli dictates how they respond to them. These interactions are personal and foster development. Additionally, siblings in the same microsystem could also experience different environments, which would result in different developmental outcomes (Psychology Notes, 2021) Strong microsystem relationship thus positively affects the child, and a weak one negatively affects the child. The mesosystem is the next system after the microsystem, comprising the interaction between the child’s microsystem. It could be the interaction between parents and teachers, siblings and peers, or extended family and peers. Simply put, the mesosystem is an interaction of microsystems. This interconnection will thus influence the attitude and development of a child towards the stimuli in the microsystem. For instance, if a child’s parents have a cordial relationship with the teachers, the relationship would positively influence the child’s development.
The next was the exosystem, composed of formal and informal structures that do not contain the child but influence development altogether because they influence a microsystem (Guy-Evans, 2020). An example is a neighborhood, a parent’s workplace, and friends. If a parent had a bad day, they could snap or yell at a child, which would affect their development. The next element was the macrosystem, composed of cultural elements that affect a child’s development. The components include wealth status, poverty, ethnicity, culture, geographical location, and socioeconomics. These shape the beliefs and perceptions about events that happen in life. The macrosystem does not refer to a specific environment of a developing child but an established environment and how it influences a child’s development. A practical example would be that a child’s struggles from a minority group would be different from one in a dominant group.
The last system is the chronosystem, consisting of all environmental changes that occur in a child’s lifetime, like historical events, moving from one country to the next, or even life transitions (Psychology Notes, 2021). It could also be life transitions like starting a new school, parents getting divorced, or even moving to a new house and selling one hat has countless memories. These changes seem inconsequential but affect the child’s development all the same. The five-layered environmental system, as described by Bronfenbrenner, was later named the Bioecological model. Bronfenbrenner later updated the ecological systems to include the process-person-context-time model, which elaborates on the development by emphasizing the individuality of any child, which plays a role in influencing the context of any situation.
The PPCT model adequately elaborates the complexity of any human interactions and emphasizes the role of context and time in influencing how the ongoing process will be. Bronfenbrenner often critiqued his work and said that for an individual to understand the effect of the processes on a child, one had to focus on the person, the context in which it occurred, and the outcome, whether desired on unintended.
Limitations of the Systems
Elliot & Davis find that the model is biased and ignores human-nature interconnections from a childhood stance (Elliot & Davis, 2020). They argue that the model overlooks the human-nature interconnections and that human-centred thinking is not sustainable for economic, social, cultural, and political growth. They thus propose a post-humanist theory that draws on the systems theory, which comes with a new lens, sociology of childhood development, and material. The alternative way of approaching childhood development would thus facilitate human connections, strengthen childhood connections, and facilitate nature connections that greatly impact early childhood education and stature.
Leventhal & Brooks-Gunn found limited research that examined and elaborated on the effects of the interactions between the mesosystem (Leventhal & Brooks-Gunn, 2000). This theory can also lead one to assume that a child developing in environments lacking positive environmental influence develops poorly. Those that are well-developed automatically come from environments with strong positive systems. While this might be true in some cases, multiple stories say otherwise. For these reasons, researchers cannot use this theory to make generalized assumptions about the developmental background of any child based on the outcome. Some researchers also chose to use earlier versions of the theory and overlooked the latest versions, which led to results that lacked academic consensus.
Rationale For Using Ecological Theory To Dissect School-Community Relationship
Other models explain the relationship between factors that influence child development. Epstein et al. offer a model of three overlapping circles of family, school, and the community and their influence on a child’s development. The theory is solid, but the shortcoming is that it fails to include the minority group in any population (Epstein et al., 2018) (Bower & Griffin, 2011). Other ecological models focus on school improvements and risk reporting only the positive performance. However, the case study at Redland Junior School runs from childhood to live after school; hence needs a complex model that not only focuses on performance at school but also on individual outlook.
The idea of a relationship that depends on other external factors elicits a theory that elaborates the outcomes. This modern era has several platforms for children to interact with adults and other members of the microsystem. Children interact with their peers, teachers, and other support staff like nurses in school. They shape a child’s developmental process and provide valuable emotional strengths. Without an immediate adult family, a child may result in wild antisocial and uncouth behaviour. Some may refer to the school and other adults in their lives who would provide a template for developing specific traits (Bulboz & Sontag, 2009). Thus, children develop new skills they apply in relationships with other members of the microsystem.
The paper’s focus would be on the partnerships on student development, which translate to better academic performance, student attendance, promotion to the next class, graduation from school and achievement in life (Leonard, 2011). The significant partners in the papers were businesses, foundations, health facilities, universities, parents, and teachers. The framework for the study focused on student development and the results associated with association with various stakeholders, which form the ecological systems. High school students were thought to have the mental capacity to understand the world around them and shape their choices actively.
The examination within the school context and outside reveals that an environment shapes any child’s development. A positive school culture of achievement, cultural identification and growth predictor of student development and success. The relationships in the different school setups all have a common structural setup that Bronfenbrenner explains. Shared beliefs, values and rules fall under the macrosystem element of the ecological systems. These qualities define a particular group through language, choices, and decisions. Bronfenbrenner’s theory is thus relevant for this study because it focuses on the relationship between a child’s development and the various layers within the environment.
Research Questions and Hypothesis
The research questions tested were
Is there a relationship between increased community engagement and future life outlooks?
Do the observations at Redland Junior School correlate with other studies?
Does increased interaction with adults increase a student’s prospects?
The researchers obtained informed consent for each type of data they collected. The respondents signed consent forms in duplicate, where one belonged to the research and the other with them. The forms also provided detailed information regarding any additional questions about the study that the respondents had. Each type of data had consent for the collection. The researchers also kept records securely and ensured the identity of the respondents was excluded from the final results. The researchers observed ethical considerations at each stage before proceeding with the data collection.
The sample group for the study was young children and adults. The researchers obtained the relevant consent from the parents and guardians of the children. In total, seven hundred children aged ten to twelve participated in the longitudinal study, which ran for ten years. The school regularly invited parents to attend annual participant recruitment events that provided information about the study and several reports on the findings. The researchers obtained consent for each new group of participants they enrolled in the study.
The researchers used a framework for the semi-structured interviews. They also used questionnaires that assessed performance. Researchers also obtained comprehensive records of logging face-time with parents that showed the presence of parents. Researchers also collected records showing school attendance in addition to yearbooks, periodicals, student publications, and graduation rates.
The case study of Redland Junior School was conducted using Bronfenbrenner’s theory of ecological systems and sought to identify factors that contributed to the positive development compared to students who were not from a community school but had a similar academic performance. The study used a mixed method to find the results by directly assessing student performance, asking questions, performing interviews, checking attendance and participation records, and indirectly engaging the community for qualitative data. They also sought social and emotional development data through student participation in publications, interviews, yearbooks, and focus groups.
The concept of the study was that the process of doing what they did was the basis for the quality of interactions. With the microsystem of teachers, adults in school, support staff, and the general community, the process of achieving the results included academic performance, involvement and achievement in sporting activities, involvement with the community in partnering and projects, social engagements, and other activities out of school.
The person in the study was considered using prior academic, sporting, social integration, and engagement records. Quantitative data like scores and awards elaborated the person. Student publications and awards categorized the participants. Structured interviews, group meetings, and adults in the school and community provide additional information to understand the student better. The study context was in several places; in classrooms, school activities, and partnerships with local institutions. Addressing time was during the longitudinal survey, which took ten years.
Analysis and Results
The data were analyzed using qualitative grounded theory and empirical theory. Chun Tie et al. (2019) identify grounded theory as a well-known methodology used by many researchers to make sense of their qualitative and quantitative data. It constructs theory from data and analyses it using comparative analysis. The method is complex and suitable for longitudinal data (Chun Tie et al., 2019). The grounded theory is also a way of unfolding theories, seeing data from a fresh perspective, and constructing the initial data analysis. The data analyzed from the theory generates the concepts under study (Charmaz, n.d.). The grounded theory follows specific methods that help researchers get started, stay involved, and complete projects within record times (Chun Tie et al., 2019). The methods have specific guidelines for collecting and analyzing data. It thus presents a method of inquiry and the results of the inquiry.
Grounded theory starts with data collection, constructed through observations, interactions and materials, followed by studying the empirical events and pursuing potential analytic ideas using the data. Various stages of coding, in conjunction with comparative analysis, follow to reach a theoretical saturation (Chun Tie et al., 2019). The result would be a grounded theory based on the initial assumptions at the hypothesis level. The theoretical sensitivity is the entire process of data collection and analysis. The use of grounded theory means that the study uses triangulation to obtain the validity of the research. Using empirical findings in the collected data from salaries, job perspectives, and achievements of RJS students compared to students who were not from a community school but had similar academic performance provide the results (Charmaz, n.d.). The comparison thus elaborates on the differences that exist between the two groups.
Students in RJS achieved a better salary, career and family life. They shaped their future compared to students who were not from a community school but had a similar academic performance. These results concur with what existing literature says about the socioeconomics theory. RJS students with higher levels of achievement, commitment, and devotion showed their interaction with adults in the school. Business partnering with RJS positively influenced the development and outlook of most students who interacted with the adults. An increased engagement in the community also positively influenced the development of students. The key to the development of students is thus to build relationships between the ecosystems and continue with the adult influence in their lives.
A previous longitudinal study on using Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems to understand community partnerships also found that partnering in a system with growth on both ends would yield positive results through building capacity and sustainability (Leonard, 2011). The researcher also found that partnering institutions evolve to provide the desired need. He also perceived that any short-term gains would translate to long-term sustainable goals in hopes that a short-term investment could yield more permanent improvements. These results resonate with the results at RJS.
In addition, students at RJS had exposure to more opportunities like volunteering and charity initiatives, platforms that have increased the number of adult interactions. These provide opportunities to form meaningful relationships with influential people that shape student decisions (Roundy, 2021). These results conform to Bronfenbrenner’s ecosystems theory, where when students show a greater engagement with the surrounding environments, the environments influence them positively. They influence the environment the way they do, which results in a strong, positive predisposition.
The students at RJS had increased face time with the adults within their ecological environments, which accounted for the positive results of the longitudinal study. The impact of secondary adults in a child’s life cannot be ignored because it shapes the outlook and the decisions children make. Generally, students at RJS who showed increased face time with adults displayed better results than their counterparts in non-community schools. The continuous presence of an adult in a child’s life significantly influences development. The role of teachers, educators and ‘secondary’ adults also shapes the child’s life. Ultimately, interacting with the child’s environment positively influences any child’s development.
The benefits of a community school cannot be ignored because a child’s contact with adults in after-school clubs, volunteering work, and other meaningful interactions reduce the number of students that participate in antisocial behavior and increases those that do good, help out, and perform well in class.
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