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FINNUT-Forskning og innovasjon i utdanningssektoren

Speaking up for the quiet ones: Voicing the perspectives of shy students in middle schools

Alternative title: Stille og innadvendte elever i ungdomsskolen - elevenes egne erfaringer

Awarded: NOK 12.0 mill.

The project will examine the experiences of shy students in middle school (ungdomsskolen). Shyness is a temperamental trait that comprises the disposition to be wary and self-conscious in situations of perceived social evaluation. Middle school can be a particularly challenging environment for shy students, where stressors include working with different teachers, group work and speaking in front of the class. Shy students are therefore prone to school-related difficulties, such as lack of engagement, less positive teacher-student relationships, and poorer academic performance. The project is divided into three phases. Phase one will identify the processes that contribute to shy students’ successful engagement as learners, as well as risk and protective factors that may impact upon this success. The data collection will consist of qualitative interviews based on observations of the students in school. Non-shy students will also be interviewed, which gives an opportunity for comparison between groups of students. The second phase is a large-scale quantitative study. A survey based on the first phase will be applied a well as other assessments. The purpose of the second phase is to find out how different school environmental and student variables, such as academic achievement, social participation, school refusal, and loneliness, influence shy students’ school adjustment. Based on knowledge from the first and the second phases of the project summaries will be made of the findings. These summaries will be used in the third phase to design pedagogical strategies to assist shy students. Seminars for a limited number of middle school teachers will be held where the results will be disseminated, ideas exchanged, and strategies tried and evaluated. The project will ensure relevance for schools and the teaching context by employing teachers and school leaders as consultants in the different phases of the project.

Shyness is a temperamental trait that comprises the disposition to be wary and self-conscious in situations of perceived social evaluation. The project will examine the experiences of shy students in middle school (ungdomsskolen). School can be a particularly challenging environment for shy students, where stressors include working with different teachers, group work and speaking in front of the class. Shy students are therefore prone to school-related difficulties, such as lack of engagement, less positive teacher-student relationships, and poorer academic performance. However, there is very little research on shyness in early adolescence and none on their adjustment to school. Early adolescence is a stressful period for most young people. In contrast to elementary school, where students may receive support from a single class teacher, in middle school students need to move from teacher to teacher, navigating expectations and creating their own learning pathways. The project starts with a qualitative element to elicit the perspectives of shy students as they navigate the demands of the school day. The insights gained will directly inform a large-scale quantitative study with students from across Norway, which will reveal the processes that underlie their school adjustment (i.e., mediators), and identify risk and protective factors (i.e., moderators) for them to be successful learners. This is the first study to identify shy students’ viewpoints on school adjustment. We will address recruitment of participants with the help of a Teacher Panel, which will support the study from the outset and will assist the team with translating findings into useful strategies for engaging shy students as learners and with sharing them with education professionals at the study’s completion.

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FINNUT-Forskning og innovasjon i utdanningssektoren