Lisbon Open University & Le@d — Laboratory of Distance Learning,
Collaborative project work facilitates social interactions among peers and between them and their teachers. It allows students to work in their zone of proximal development (ZPD), promoting their knowledge appropriation. It empowers adult students, allowing them to express their voices and their cultures. Inter-empowerment mechanisms are part of this process, facilitating the internalization of intra-empowerment mechanisms. Both of them shape students’ life trajectories of participation (César, 2013a). This work is part of the Interaction and Knowledge (IK) project. During 12 years (1994/1995–2005/2006) we studied and promoted social interactions in formal educational scenarios. We assumed an interpretative paradigm and developed an action-research project (three-year alternative curriculum, 7th–9th grades) and a 10-year follow up. The participants were the seven students who completed this course, their teachers, and other educational and social agents. Data collecting instruments included observation, interviews, informal conversations, tasks inspired by projective techniques, students’ protocols, and documents. Data treatment and analysis were based on a narrative content analysis. The results are mainly focused on one student: Ernesto. His legitimate participation in this course facilitated his inclusion in school and in society. It promoted his socio-cognitive and emotional development and allowed him to internalize intra-empowerment mechanisms. This enabled him to improve his life trajectory of participation.
Keywords: inclusion, alternative curriculum, collaborative project work, life trajectory of participation, inter- and intra-empowerment mechanisms