First online focus-group interview – report

In the afternoon of October 24th we held our first online focus group meeting that focused on the relationship between school inequalities and teacher education. The focus group included six participants from Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén county (Hungary), representing both higher education and teacher training, as well as regional schools. The project consortium was represented by three project members. The event was held online and lasted two hours.

The discussion was truly engaging and covered a wide range of topics within our thematic focus. The participants all agreed that there is a pressing need for better equipping future teachers for their work with disadvantaged students. As they pointed out, both their personal experiences when training to be teachers, and their experience of welcoming new colleagues to their faculties confirm that currently teachers are not properly prepared to lead successful lessons in disadvantaged schools and it is up to their own personality and skills to develop a teaching strategy that will enable them to create the necessary relationships with students and to effectively work with them. The participants highlighted the need to develop a prejudice-free, flexible and open-minded personality as professionals, but also pointed out that the necessary institutional infrastructure and support is also needed for effective work with disadvantaged students. They were all interested in the idea of developing closer ties with teacher training institutes in order for them to collaborate together in a way that reflects both current theoretical knowledge and the practical experience and needs of the schools. The importance of supporting segregated schools to become resilient schools was also an important point during the discussion. Participants had all different ideas about what success actually means in working with disadvantaged students, but developing a good personal relationship with, and understanding of, the students was a general belief. Furthermore, participants agreed on the importance of creating closer ties to students’ families was another key factor: parents’ involvement in their children’s education, in the school can also mean a huge impact in one’s schooling. Some participants had drawn attention to legislative and structural anomalies that result in further challenges at a systemic level.

Our next focus group discussion will take place during the second half of November.