The priority research focuses are based on the goals set within the framework of partnership agreements.
Researchers must propose projects that address one or another of the needs presented under each focus and clearly indicate, in their letter of intent and funding request, the need (e.g. 2.3) their critical summary of research findings will meet.
As in the first competition, one grant will be awarded per need, according to scientific excellence (ranking based on scientific evaluation criteria).
FOCUS 1: Increasing graduation and qualification rates among students under the age of 20
The current development of a first Politique nationale de lutte contre le décrochage scolaire (provincial policy to encourage students to stay in school)9 demonstrates the importance of this issue for Québec society. Dropping out of school is a complex phenomenon resulting from a host of factors.10 Combatting it will thus require timely intervention at different levels with regard to several of these factors (students, teachers, classrooms, schools, families, the community). Along the same lines, the measures implemented to ensure that two thirds of students obtain their diploma within the required time, and to increase the number of students earning a first diploma or other qualification before the age of 20, must be, from this perspective, just as diversified.Many different factors affect the graduation and qualification rates,11 including the teacher-student relationship, teaching practices, school climate, the organization of educational services and the support provided by the community and the family. Taking account of the differences and similarities between the English12 and French school systems could doubtless be very useful for the purpose of updating approaches and practices that promote student retention and academic success.
THIS FOCUS INVOLVES THE FOLLOWING RESEARCH NEEDS:
Need 1.1 Family-school-community collaboration practices
What conditions and effective practices are most likely to foster collaboration between the family, the school and the community at the elementary, secondary, adult education and vocational training levels for all clients and particularly for Aboriginal students, immigrant students, and students from disadvantaged areas?
Need 1.2 Helping students between the ages of 15 and 19 who are enrolled in vocational training or adult general education to stay in school
What practices and approaches can encourage students aged 15 to 19 to stay in adult general education or vocational training? These practices and approaches may concern school organization or the services available to students, such as complementary educational services, ways of learning, the school or family environment (including, for example, family or parental involvement).
Need 1.3 The teacher-student relationship and student support practices
Which approaches and practices focused on the teacher-student relationship influence the student's involvement in school in elementary and secondary school, in adult general education and in vocational training on the cognitive, affective and motivational levels? Which socioeducational services provide better support for students and help them to persevere and succeed in school (e.g. support and guidance, coaching, tutoring, mentorship, etc.)?
FOCUS 2: Increasing proficiency in English or French, language of instruction
It is important to improve the quality of the students' English or French, as proficiency in the language of instruction is one of the key determinants of academic success. More specifically, "comprehension of written material is the foundation of learning in all subjects."13 The actions taken by the Ministère14 are appropriate given the important contribution of learning and mastering the language of instruction to retention and academic success. The numerous data produced by research in this field15 support the need to identify at-risk students as soon as they enter school, to rapidly implement appropriate measures and to provide suitable follow-up. Research also underscores the key role of teaching, both in developing students' competency in reading and in motivating them to read. The research also presents the practices considered effective for developing competency in reading. Learning and mastering a language of instruction may pose many difficult challenges, especially for students who have accumulated problems in this area since the beginning of their schooling and who enroll in adult general education or vocational training in order to earn their first diploma. Proficiency in the language of instruction also represents a major challenge in the educational experience of Aboriginal and immigrant students, as it does for anglophone and allophone students. To sum up, all those already experiencing such difficulties confront major challenges to obtain their first diploma or occupational qualification. So do the teachers who work with these students.
THIS FOCUS INVOLVES THE FOLLOWING RESEARCH NEEDS:
Need 2.1 Training and support for teachers and non-teaching professionals
Which professional development models are most effective in the teaching of French (as the language of instruction or as a second language), English (as the language of instruction), reading, writing and oral communication at the preschool, elementary and secondary levels? What impact does the participation of teachers and non-teaching professionals in training and support programs have on the diversification of their respective language teaching practices?
Need 2.2 Learning French as a second language
In the context of French immersion at the elementary level, which methods of teaching French as a second language are most effective? Which pedagogical approaches and practices allow for the creation of links between learning reading and writing in French as a second language, and in English as a mother tongue?
Need 2.3 Difficulties in English or French (as languages of instruction) experienced by students aged 15 to 19 who are enrolled in adult general education or vocational training
What approaches and practices can effectively reduce reading and writing problems in the language of instruction (English or French) of students aged 15 to 19 who are enrolled in adult general education or vocational training, particularly immigrant students and Aboriginal students? What do research studies say specifically about the effects of these practices on students?
FOCUS 3: Increasing student retention and academic success in certain target groups, particularly among students with handicaps, social maladjustments or learning difficulties
In recent years, the Ministere and its partners16 have prioritized the improvement of student retention and academic success among certain target groups, such as at-risk students,17 and students with handicaps, social maladjustments or learning difficulties. Many studies have shown that such students often have difficulties in school, which lead to academic delays, high drop-out rates and low graduation rates, whatever their educational path. Effective action is contingent on early screening and intervention and on the creation of continuity in the provision of services, particularly for students going into adult general education (AGE) and vocational training (VT). Consequently, students with handicaps, social maladjustments or learning difficulties who are grappling with academic delays when they embark on vocational training or adult general education require special support. In short, particular attention must be paid to at-risk students and students with handicaps, social maladjustments or learning difficulties in order to determine which corrective or preventive measures would be best suited to them.
Moreover, issues associated with student integration and academic success are more specific and complex among certain target groups, including students from disadvantaged areas, immigrant students and Aboriginal students. Cultural differences and a poor command of the language of instruction are among the obstacles most often encountered by immigrant students18 and Aboriginal students.19 It is important to draw up a list of promising teaching practices that are already being used in disadvantaged areas and that foster the integration and academic success of immigrant and Aboriginal students.
THIS FOCUS INVOLVES THE FOLLOWING RESEARCH NEEDS:
Need 3.1 Service organization models for students with handicaps, social maladjustments or learning difficulties
What are the different service organization models and effective practices currently being used in the English and French school systems to organize services and effective practices for elementary and secondary school students with handicaps, social maladjustments or learning difficulties? What effects do these models and practices have on the student retention and academic success of students with handicaps, social maladjustments or learning difficulties? These services and practices can include school organization, student grouping, the organization of complementary educational services, support and supervision, early screening for problems, differentiated instruction, collaboration between the school and the family, and the resources allocated.
Need 3.2 Issues associated with the integration of immigrant and Aboriginal students in the schools
Which interventions foster the integraton and academic engagement of Aboriginal and immigrant students (e.g. psychoeducational approaches, activities in connection with the construction of identity, pedagogical support, support and guidance for parents, innovative projects)? What are the effects of these interventions?
Need 3.3 Effectice practices in disadvantaged areas
Which conditions and effective practices used in elementary and secondary schools in disadvantaged areas produce the best results in terms of academic success and graduation levels (e.g. communities of practice, entrepreneurial projects, support for teachers and vulnerable students, teacher/student relationships, teaching strategies, collaboration between schools and families)?
Need 3.4 The services provided to students with handicaps, social maladjustments or learning difficulties in vocational training and adult general education
Which different service organization models and effective practices are used in the English and French education systems for students with handicaps, social maladjustments or learning difficulties who are enrolled in vocational training or adult general education? How do these models and practices impact student retention and academic success?
FOCUS 4: Creating a healthy and safe environment in educational institutions
It is important to ensure that students have a safe and healthy school environment. Indeed, research data indicate that the environment has an important influence on students' perception of their school experience and could, in some cases, have direct or indirect consequences on their retention and academic success. What the research shows is that the more students are accepted in their class and feel that they are integrated into a social network, the greater is their engagement in school.20 Moreover, participation in secondary school extracurricular activities does not appear to be a good indicator of higher graduation rates21 (even though the students often enjoy these activities) and apparently has a very limited impact on the academic and social integration of students from disadvantaged areas.22
Drawing on the policy framework Going the Healthy Route at School, many initiatives have been used in elementary and secondary school.23 In the same vein, the green book, the first step toward the future Politique nationale du sport, du loisir et de l'activité physique 24 is in line with the government's objective to improve the quality of individual and collective life.
For some years now, MELS and the school boards have taken many measures to prevent and combat violence at school.25 This issue constitutes the focus of a research chair on safety and violence in educational institutions,26 funded by MELS. One of its missions is to strengthen the connections between research and practice in order to orient educational (school) and social (community) measures as well as actions regarding safety and violence. As a result, the research themes addressed in the present context will concern the creation of a healthier environment in the schools.
THIS FOCUS INVOLVES THE FOLLOWING RESEARCH NEED:
Need 4.1 The creation of a healthier environment in the schools
What are the essential conditions and most effective strategies for creating a healthier environment in our elementary and secondary schools? These conditions and strategies may be organizational or pedagogical (e.g. daycare services, food services, extracurricular activities, cooperation involving school staff, training for teachers and non-teaching professionals, alignment with the programs of study, measures for fostering healthy life habits, stress management, the prevention of mental illness among students and school staff).
FOCUS 5: Increasing the number of students under the age of 20 in vocational training
In the context of growing demand for skilled labour, it is extremely important27 to increase the number of students under the age of 20 in vocational training. Their underrepresentation in vocational training has been a major concern for some years. MELS, the school system, and university researchers have all focused on this problem, whether by documenting its causes or by proposing concrete solutions. New paths are offered to increase the appeal, diversity, fluidity and accessibility of vocational training (e.g. the Applied General Education Path, school projects preparing students to enter vocational training, concurrent-program option which allows students to take general education and vocational training concurrently, the provisional bridge between training for a semiskilled trade and certain vocational training programs).
Too few young people choose vocational training, notably because they have a negative perception of its value, are unfamiliar with the trades to which it leads and unaware of the possibilities it affords with regard to continuing their education. It must be understood that the decision to enroll in it is the concrete result of an often complex process of educational and career guidance, in which parents, peers, teachers and non-teaching professionals exercise a major influence on students under the age of 20, especially those in the 16-to-18 age group.28 More specifically, the students' knowledge of themselves, their personal interests, aptitudes, values and personal requirements with regard to a career also plays a role in the process. Earning a Diploma of Secondary Studies (SSD)—whether in general education in the youth sector (GEY) or in adult general education (AGE)—and sometimes spending some time in CEGEP are now among the paths leading to vocational training. Without denying the fact that some students interrupt their studies, drop out and change programs, it must be admitted that graduation rates in vocational training are extremely high, especially among students who are enrolled full-time.29
THIS FOCUS INVOLVES THE FOLLOWING RESEARCH NEEDS:
Need 5.1 The influence of parents and peers
Given that parents and peers have a major influence on the academic and career choices of young people under the age of 20, it is important to establish the practices that are most likely to make parents and peers more aware of their influence. What effective practices can they adopt?
Need 5.2 Actions related to academic and career guidance
As regards academic and career guidance, which of the approaches currently used in elementary and secondary schools or by other partners outside the schools are most likely to have a positive influence on the academic and career choices of young people under the age of 20, particularly on the decision as to whether or not to enroll in vocational training? For example, in Secondary Cycle Two, what impact do professional development programs have on the students' academic and career choices? How do these practices and programs affect the development of vocational training students' occupational maturity and continuity in training?
Need 5.3 The issues of training leading to qualifications
What means have been established to identify the factors that motivate students and encourage them to start or continue studies in vocational training? What have we learned from research study findings on the effectiveness of these means in enabling young people to not only enroll in vocational training but to continue in it? These means may concern student guidance, their sensitization to the realities of the labour market, innovative programs, partnerships with employers, collaboration between the schools and the community, the matching of training and employment opportunities, etc.