University of Sussex
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Violence as a complex problem in education in emergencies: developing and testing the Transformative Resilience Framework

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posted on 2023-06-09, 20:24 authored by Joel Eduardo Reyes
This thesis builds and tests a conceptual framework to study social change from adversity to wellbeing: The Transformative Resilience (T-RES) Framework. It is developed to guide the study of complex problems in the field of Education in Emergencies (EiE). Violence is used throughout this thesis as an example of a complex EiE problem. The EiE field is shifting from an initial focus on short-term humanitarian response to a concern with protracted social problems, such as violence. These problems are socially ingrained and require an understanding of social change. The development of the T-RES Framework was successfully applied and tested in a demonstrative case of school efforts to mitigate violence in El Salvador. The thesis aims to broaden the theoretical understanding of complex problems in the EiE field. It also adapts a research approach for explanatory causal analysis through qualitative methods. For EiE policy and practice, it shows the limitations of isolated interventions that do not consider the diverse, interdependent, and sometimes hidden drivers of social adversity. In Part A, the thesis shows that the study of violence solely with methods from a positivist paradigm, such as survey-based and Randomized Control Trials (RCTs), leaves complex causality questions unanswered. These include ignoring the causal relations of diverse social entities (agents and structures) and not explaining process, context and underlying mechanisms. The thesis argues that development agencies entering the EiE field adhere to standards for causal analysis that are not compatible with the inherent complexity of protracted EiE problems. To help close the complex causality gaps, Part B develops the T-RES Framework. It is grounded in more than 50 years of resilience studies and in the philosophy of science tenets on social change (from adversity to wellbeing) of Roy Bhaskar’s critical realism. The T-RES Framework proposes seven constructs to understand social transformation: (i) understanding the interdependence across diverse social entities (agents and structures); (ii) uncovering the hidden forces that sustain adversity; (iii) recognizing assets (strengths and opportunities) for change; (iv) seeking collective awareness and commitment; and contributing to (v) personal change and empowerment, (vi) collective change and community betterment, and (vii) institutional change and scaffolding. Part C tested the T-RES Framework and found it useful to guide substantive empirical research on social change in contexts of adversity. It helped to identify causal mechanisms explaining how and why youth violence was mitigated in the three schools studied. First, findings noted the school-level outcomes related to students’ non-violent behaviors, including protection, psychosocial wellbeing, and positive educational experiences. Then, the T-RES Framework helped to trace the causal process linking personal empowerment of principals and teachers to their efforts to form alliances with community and gang leaders. This created a collective commitment to mitigate violence in schools, and for community betterment. Teachers’ own experiences of recovery from adversity, as well as hope, strategic vision, and resourcefulness, were also underlying contributors to change. However, given limited services from central government and a growing normalization of violence, there was no evidence of structural scaffolding (long-term support) of school efforts for violence prevention. The T-RES constructs aligned well with the empirical data collected. Also, surprising new empirical evidence pointed to new areas of analysis such as assessing school activities that simultaneously mitigate and reproduce violence. Also, the case data showed different ways to interpret “collective commitment” between school-community, among teachers, and between a teacher and his/her students. This research closes with recommendations to further operationalize the T-RES Framework to better inform EiE policies, program design and funding of EiE research. This includes linking evidence of causal mechanisms to theories of transformative change that can guide designs of interventions.


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University of Sussex

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