Getting to know you- an integration conundrum : A boundary crossing change laboratory in a Home-School project in Switzerland

by Denise Shelley Newnham

Institution: University of Bath
Year: 2014
Record ID: 1392643
Full text PDF: http://opus.bath.ac.uk/43264/


In Developmental Work Research and its Change Laboratory methodology, development is understood as being when a group of people collaboratively change their material object. This study argues that this understanding ignores personal zones of proximal development and personal history as a beginning, and functional concepts as an outcome. Perceiving the subject of an activity as a homogenous group, I claim, is tantamount to an assimilation model of integration. Integration models that aim at homogenization rely on abstract concepts of others and require retooling in order to be more empathetic and expansive. Switzerland in 1998 adopted an acculturation model of assimilation that was thought to be the only possible solution for the maintenance of national unity. The model has been referred to as a national capitalistic ‘steamroller’ based on homogenization and exclusion. Under this perspective, migrant and refugee parents are categorised by mainstream educators as desisting from their children’s formal education, and national parents represent the perfect model. The empirical work was carried out within a home-school project in a French-speaking canton in Switzerland. The project was designed by a group of special education teachers. The study explores the potential of Developmental Work Research and Change Laboratory methodology, as developed by Engeström (1987), to produce radical and sustained organisational change in a social context. Through the inclusion of an analysis of subject positioning, the findings show that Change Laboratory offers a solid background for retooling new concepts of immigrant people to one that is more empathetic and expansive. The conflicts that ensued within the Change Laboratory sessions opened a developmental zone in which the concepts of being a national or a foreigner were reconstructed. The study suggests ways of improving Change Laboratory methodology for better understanding of subject positioning.