Teaching that Matters for Migrant Students: Understanding Levers of Integration in Scotland, Finland and Sweden (TEAMS)

The TEAMS project addresses the urgent need to understand the challenges and opportunities for schools, as they respond to the increased number of migrants in classrooms.


Please get in contact with the researchers if you are a teacher or school leader who would like to become involved.

Thematic hub

Social Justice and Inclusion

Research experts

Dr Nataša Pantić (University of Edinburgh, Education)

Professor Lani Florian (University of Edinburgh, Education)

Dr Marc Sarazin (University of Edinburgh, Education)

Dr Diana Murdoch  (University of Edinburgh, Education)

Silvia de Riba (University of Edinburgh, Education)

Dr Gil Viry  (University of Edinburgh, Sociology)

Anna Lund (Stockholm University, Sweden)

Didem Oral (Stockholm University, Sweden)

Päivi Hökkä (University of Jyväskylä, Finland)

Eveliina Manninen (University of Jyväskylä, Finland)

Mirja Tarnanen (University of Jyväskylä, Finland)

Katja Vähäsantanen (University of Jyväskylä, Finland)

Tuire Palonen (University of Turku, Finland)          

Tarja-Riitta Hurme (University of Turku, Finland)


What was the problem?

How school systems respond to migration has an enormous impact on migrant integration. Schools can be a vehicle for social integration and mobility, and for developing a sense of belonging to the local community. But schools can also be an isolating and discriminatory place and act as a barrier to integration. Within schools, teachers are key for creating opportunities for learning and participation, especially for migrant students. However, teachers may also inadvertently reinforce the barriers due to the assumptions embedded in the institutional structures, or their own unexamined beliefs.

What did we do?

The main aims of the project are to: 1) understand how schools and teachers can address barriers and create opportunities for migrant integration in schools and 2) help teachers and school leaders meet the needs of migrant students.

This research is ongoing and we are currently recruiting schools to participate in this project. It employs social network analysis and ethnographic research across six school sites in Scotland, Finland and Sweden to examine how teachers interact with students, their families, school colleagues, specialists and external agencies to address risks of exclusion, underachievement or other forms of marginalisation. A comprehensive, mixed-method analysis of both the structures and nature of teachers’ day-to-day interactions over three school terms will help us understand how they build inclusive school communities, which are critical for building ‘protective networks’ to address barriers to learning for migrant students. The cross-country design allows us to gauge the impact of particular policies and strategies that facilitate migrant integration across contexts.

TEAMS will conduct a comprehensive analysis of migrant integration in schools, including:

  • How policy and social contexts provide support systems for students, teachers and other school staff across different countries and locations.
  • How teachers work within the institutional settings, as individuals and in relation to other professional and social groups and networks. 
  • How relationships shape migrant students’ integration, in terms of academic success, cross-cultural socialisation, and a sense of belonging in the school community. 

TEAMS involves interdisciplinary collaboration between four teams from the Universities of Edinburgh, Stockholm, Jyväskylä and Turku, and engages school staff and migrant students from the outset to co-design material that will be used both during and beyond the project. We focus on schools that have experienced a recent increase in migrant students because it augments our ability to observe teachers building capacities that facilitate the integration of migrant students and identify factors that influence this process.

We have made adaptations to conduct all project activities online while Covid-19 restrictions remain in place. Initial resources from the TEAMs project and related projects are now available.


What happened next?

If you are a teacher or school leader who might want to learn more or get involved, we hope you may be interested in helping us with this research to have a positive impact on migrant learners.

We have now decided to move to knowledge exchange activities with schools, and with other bodies and individuals involved with migrant students, such as EAL services or refugee organisations. We would therefore like to offer schools an invitation to participate in an online workshop, which will give more information about the details of the project and the ways in which we will work with individual schools to address the issues and challenges they raise, in a way which will fit with their needs and constraints. The workshop will also enable participants to see examples of previous work on social networks, to gain a greater understanding of this research tool.

The City of Edinburgh Council has given approval for the research to take place in its secondary schools. We may also extend our involvement with schools in other urban areas. The experiences of schools, teachers and students are central to the participatory research design and will have an active and collaborative role from the outset.

What will the project bring to schools?

  • Opportunities for students to participate in creative workshops, and produce artwork, including film and photography, to express and share their experiences in exhibitions. 
  • Opportunities for staff to co-design activities that build on the strengths of existing practices, and help meet challenges within their particular contexts.
  • Professional development through reflection on research feedback to gain understanding of students’ experiences and complexity of relational networks in schools.
  • Learning across school and policy contexts to understand the ways that policies and practices interconnect within schools, opening opportunities for participating schools to develop exchanges of benefit to schools, teachers and students.

Please get in touch with Natasa Pantic (Principal Investigator) or Diana Murdoch (Outreach Co-ordinator) if you would like to learn more about becoming involved.

Email Natasa Pantic

Email Diana Murdoch

Learn more about the project / View resources

Related study programmes

MSc Inclusive Education

MSc Transformative Learning and Teaching

MSc Education

MSc Language and Intercultural Communication

MSc Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)

MSc Language Education