Who knows? (De)legitimizing knowledges in a refugee-serving school

Main funder

Funder's project number: 332390

Funds granted by main funder (€)

  • 438 874,00

Funding program

Project timetable

Project start date: 01/09/2020

Project end date: 31/08/2025


In order to succeed at school, students have to acquire not merely knowledges but knowledges that are recognized and valued, i.e. legitimate, in their context. This is an especially challenging task for students who belong to cultural minorities and have already undergone (partial) schooling in an educational environment that is different from their current one, such as refugee-background adults in Finland. The project "Who knows?" investigates the legitimacy of knowledges in a Finnish school that serves refugee-background adults. The project will (a) generate empirical data to understand which knowledges surface in a school, (b) examine how these knowledges do (not) become legitimate in this context, (c) critically revisit the concept “funds of knowledge” (FoK), and (d) support teachers in seeing and challenging knowledge biases.
The site for this ethnographic study is a rural Finnish community college that offers a two-year basic education program which is populated by refugee-background adults from mostly Middle Eastern and African countries. Data will stem from 80 hours of classroom/school observations, 60 hours of classroom/school audio recordings, 40 open-ended interviews with students and staff, and 10 hours of audio recordings and observations from on-site, PI-led teacher training workshops. These data will capture instances in which the legitimacy of knowledges is addressed, e.g. by students or teachers referring to policies or norms, emphasizing information, presenting themselves as knowledge authorities, or evaluating knowledges. Three years of data collection will be necessary to observe one cycle of the school’s program and one year-long teacher training course with bimonthly sessions. Thematic analysis will be applied inductively and deductively to identify themes and thematic clusters that speak to the legitimation processes of knowledges in this context; selected extracts will undergo fine-grained discourse analysis to identify discursive patterns that de/legitimize knowledges.
By bringing together foci on epistemology, legitimacy, and critical pedagogy and by producing new empirical evidence, theorizing it against the backdrop of the commonly used FoK approach, and feeding findings back into the field (teacher training), the study will be empirically, theoretically, and socially impactful. Ultimately, it is a step towards increased epistemological equity in educational settings.

Principal Investigator

Primary responsible unit

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Last updated on 2022-24-11 at 07:49