New report shows that teaching approaches can help young people build their resilience to extremism
For immediate release 26th May 2011
There is growing recognition of the need to combat extremisms and develop young people's resilience to potentially harmful ideologies to prevent them from being radicalised. Teachers and others working with young people have been identified as having a key role in providing a safe environment and opportunities for young people to build up their resilience to extremism. The challenge for those in education is how to successfully fulfil this responsibility in their everyday practice.
A new report, Teaching approaches that help to build resilience to extremism among young people, from the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) and the Office for Public Management (OPM) on behalf of the Department for Education (DfE), helps those in schools and other education settings to meet this challenge with growing confidence. It highlights the factors that can help to either push or pull young people towards extremism and/or violent extremism, such as a sense of injustice or feelings of exclusion. The report goes on to identify, from an in-depth study of case studies of effective practice, a number of key ingredients which are important for effective resilience-building teaching approaches and interventions, as well as support factors in schools and other settings that help to maximise the impact and benefits of such interventions.
Key report findings include:
Interventions work best where they are young person centred and young person led.
To create a dialogue conducive to building resilience, facilitators, whether teachers or other practitioners, need to be able to create a ‘safe space’ for all young people in a group to be able to take part in discussion, which may (and in fact often should) cover controversial issues.
A key aspect of building resilience is supporting young people to explore, understand, and celebrate their personal identity. Particularly effective seems to be enabling young people to reflect on the multiple facets of their identity, discuss the possible tensions and celebrate multiplicity as something which creates balance and ‘uniqueness’.
The importance of equipping people with appropriate critical thinking skills. Such skills are crucial for encouraging and helping young people to interrogate and challenge extremist ideologies head on.
What factors help to support a successful intervention?
Three sets of broader factors are important in schools and other education settings in enabling a successful intervention: They are:
effective partnership working with local agencies
supportive school leaders, and
good integration with the wider curriculum.
The over-arching message in the report is that whatever the setting and resources available, the principles of good design and facilitation are crucial and non-negotiable. Well-designed and skilfully facilitated interventions will provide a space for dialogue about sensitive issues and will help to build resilience to and understanding of extremist ideologies among young people.Teachers and other practitioners need to use their professional judgment in adapting, building on and applying these key ingredients and support factors to their particular contexts.
To be more confident of longer-term, sustainable resilience, it is vital that there is an additional focus, over and above good design and facilitation, on building the ‘harder’ skills, knowledge, understanding and awareness, including practical tools and techniques for personal resilience among young people both in and beyond schools.
Professor David Kerr, Research Associate at NFER, said:
'Building resilience to extremism among young people is a new and challenging area, and one that has proved difficult for school leaders, teachers and other practitioners to get to grips with. This report and its findings provide practical advice and examples which will help those in education settings to approach the issue with growing clarity and confidence in their everyday practice. I hope that it leads to a strengthening of interventions for the benefit of all young people.'
Phil Copestake, Head of Research at OPM said:
‘The strength of this research comes from the fact that it casts a light on the direct experiences of teachers, school managers, youth workers, other professionals and young people. It shows that excellent teaching delivered by sensitively attuned and well prepared teaching practitioners has the potential to help young people resist the pull of violent extremism. The findings pinpoint some of the specific practices and approaches that really make a difference. Building resilience to extremism is first and foremost about great teaching. But building resilience to violent extremism over the longer term means building the capacity, confidence and life skills of young people too.’
The full report is available at:
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Notes to editors
The study was commissioned by the former Department for Children Schools and Families (DCSF), now the Department for Education (DfE), with support from the Home Office. The Office for Public Management (OPM), an independent public service research and development centre, conducted the research in partnership with the National Foundation for Educational Research(NFER), which is the UK’s largest independent provider of research, assessment and information services for education, training and children’s services.