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Can inclusive citizenship skills be taught while building universities that are more socially engaged?

José Luis Álvarez Castillo, Hugo González González, Gemma Fernández Caminero, Luis del Espino Díaz and Carmen María Hernández Lloret, Universidad de Córdoba
Project selected in the Call for experimental research projects in the social sciences

As part of their social responsibility, universities are starting to give an inclusive, albeit timid, response to diversity in their philosophy and their practices. In the area of teaching innovation, this tendency demands the development of effective methodologies that train students in democratic and inclusive citizenship, not only in professionalising skills. With the aim of putting to the test two teaching methodologies with active and cooperative components, aimed at the learning of empathetic and moral competences, a field experiment was conducted whose results backed progression for moral competence in a low number of weeks. The same did not occur with empathy, a disposition that does not appear to respond to short-term learning patterns.
Key points
  • 1
       Students and teachers only show slight agreement with the statement that actions are being taken to promote diversity in the classrooms of Spanish universities (between the neutral position [3] and agreement [4], students and teaching staff scored an average of 3.46 and 3.63 points, respectively).
  • 2
       Prior to the start of the experiment, first-year students showed a notable degree of empathy (126.1 out of a possible 165 points), this being higher among women (127.9) than men (118.1). In any event, the answers to the empathy test might have been biased due to stereotyped gender roles.
  • 3
       Teaching methodology of an active nature and with cooperative components designed to strengthen empathetic capacity was not capable of modifying it during the period of the intervention (10 hours distributed across two and a half months). The average score stagnated at around 129 points in the group in which this methodology was applied exclusively.
  • 4
       Teaching methodology of an active nature and with cooperative components designed to facilitate the development of moral competence did show itself to be effective. In the moral development group, the score in moral competence changed from below average (13.5 points) to above average (29.2 points) in just two and a half months (20 points are taken as the level required for coexistence in a democratic society).
14_OS_1021_Grafico_0_ENG.jpg

The graph shows, firstly, that a teaching methodology based on perspective-taking, affective sharing, group reflection and introspection did not facilitate development of the empathetic capacity of first-year university students in the 10 hours of the intervention. A factor that might have made the teaching less effective would have been the high starting level of empathy which students said they possessed, this being related in turn with the mostly female composition of the sample.

Moreover, a teaching methodology based on posing dilemmas, debate between students adhering to opposing positions, mutual recognition of moral arguments of quality and introspection did promote the development of moral competence in a number of sessions equivalent to the empathy experiment. The improvement of moral competence was significantly greater in the group to which this methodology was applied exclusively, although an upwards tendency was observed in the moral judgements of the rest of the groups, probably due to the convergence of two factors: the life phase of the participants and the humanistic and social training components of the degrees being studied (Primary Education and Early Childhood Education).

Inclusive teaching in more socially engaged universities

The results of the ecological experiment represent an advance in the substantiation of the teaching of moral competence to first-year university students. From here, in this same sphere of innovation for inclusive teaching, it would be necessary to expand the research to other types of capacities (communication in contexts of diversity, attitude of social responsibility, ethics of care, etc.), as well as the integration of professionalising methodologies with those of training in citizenship, in both the university and community environments.

This line, in which research converges with innovation, would be integrated into the strategic plans of the universities, enabling them to give impetus to their social mission.

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