This project is positioned at the crossroads of educational and social sciences, as well as urban studies. Combining these fields LEE aims to bring new academic insights into daily practices in schools and the social, mediating mechanisms of local schools in the lives of young people, as well as into life in disadvantaged urban neighbourhoods in the Helsinki metropolitan area.

Building on a strong base of studies on the dynamics of education

Academically, LEE aims to tackle at least three main problems that persist in the previous studies on disadvantaged schools:

  1. There seems to be a lack of theoretical ambitiousness, it is still typical to construct arguments based on interpretations of the relatively stable characteristics of well-performing schools, rather than analysing the attributes of relations.
  2. The focus of many studies is on the end products rather than processes, which does not necessarily enhance understanding of the development and dynamics of a specific school.
  3. Although the problem of complexity is widely accepted on the general level, it seldom appears to reach empirical studies.

Previous research raises certain empirical questions:

  • What is significant, meaningful and relevant learning, and for whom?
  • What do well-being, comfort and satisfaction in schooling mean, and for whom?
  • What are the central mechanisms, mediators and outcomes of the relationship between schooling and the neighbourhood?

Building on the team’s decade-long research on dynamics in education politics, we aim to capture the complex, fluid and contingent nature of the local educational ethos. Our main scientific objective is to develop a holistic understanding of how it functions and how it is constructed.

A multidisciplinary approach combining various data sets

The project is multidisciplinary and methodologically ambitious, and the analyses combine different data sets.

The methodological approach will be to pursue enquiry on different levels and to seek interrelationships between them. The LEE team has adopted a multi-level, interrelated design incorporating document analyses, interviews, ethnography, and surveys, going beyond the juxtaposition of qualitative and quantitative methods. The contributions to knowledge will be achieved by making comparisons, assessing impacts, developing comparative methodologies across different types of data.

The empirical data of LEE are divided into three main categories:

  1. Document analyses of pupil-allocation policies and financial-support practices.
  2. School-specific quantitative data on pupils’ performance and well-being in comprehensive education, as well as the pupils’ admission procedures to upper-secondary education
  3. Extensive ethnographic fieldwork in selected schools, as well as thematic interviews outside the schools with other actors in the neighbourhood.