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Learnings from the EDUcitizens Project
The project EDUcitizens was organized in a series of multinational meetings. At every meeting the partners presented two smart practice examples of participative methods or projects in education. All methods were documented, collected and published at the end of the project. In order to identify the good practices, the partnership discusses and worked out the evaluation grid to identify smart practices.
The grid and the method handbook can be used by institutions from all education sectors in formal and non-formal learning.
Within the project the partnership and a huge number of stakeholders discussed and reflective what participatory education could mean. The reflections might be an interesting discussion point in the ongoing thematical week on citizen education.
To participate is one of the core skills in the nowadays digital society.
Participation means to be in the position to gather information, reflect them and articulate opinion. Participation inherent the ability to conceptualize information and put them into different context.
Transferring participation into education means to educate self-aware citizens, who are open to new ideas, cultures and concepts and who are willing to form and influence actively their society.
Therefore, it was beneficially to create curricula, which had a European perspective on citizenship and participation. Still each country inside the EU has different approaches which never have been brought together at the European Level.
Educitizens is based on 3 fundamental pillars – participation, citizenship and empowerment – and the share of smart practices in educational field – formal or non-formal. It is thus important to define what those concepts mean for the project.
- Participation has to include ownership and responsibilities of a community.
- Participation should be solution oriented and methods should be interactive, motivational and giving space for engagement.
- Teaching participative methods should be based on learner-centred approaches with negotiated learning goals. They should enhance cooperative learning and team work.
- The learning should be based on shared expertise and peer learning. The facilitator should be rather a mentor and mediator than a preacher
- Empowerment contains the knowledge and understanding how society works and how to make as an individual a difference.
- Empowerment brings power to the people and their ideas, by valuing change and providing tools to people.
- It is a crucial part of non-formal education, where learners reflect on how to think global and act local BUT as well understand how to think local and act global.
- Empowerment should be taught simple and not too specific. It should be rather shared through facilitators and multipliers in the community than through teacher.
- Citizenship building is basically concerned with identifying common ground in a community and establishing a sense of belonging to a community.
- Citizenship building should be understood as a continuous and transparent dialogue
- It is an open educative process with the aim to enable active citizens
- Citizenship building is closely connected to empowerment, by enabling citizens to actively participate and contribute to a community.
- As a facilitator make sure that you give permanent constructive feedback on the learners’ role in the community.
- Smart Practices are adaptable and applicable practices, suited to various needs, target groups and circumstances (they are transferable).
- Smart Practices engage and are accessible for groups with different backgrounds and skills and raise from the needs and the capacity of the learners.
- Smart Practices improve the current status of communities in a smart way and empower learners to take a more active role in society.
- Smart practices include the learners in the construction of the assessment.
Conclusion - what could be S.m.a.r.t.
This conceptualization covers the original four EduCitizens categories (citizenship, engagement, participation and education) and can be used as case categories so that the initials could make it S.M.A.R.T.:
- S: Stakeholder diversity, Social inclusion and intercultural dialogue (actor-oriented) that could cover citizenship
- M: Mindfulness, awareness, discovery (pre-action-oriented)
- A: Action, engagement and empowerment (action-oriented) that covers engagement and participation
- R: Reflection, self-experience and learning (post-action-oriented) that could cover education
- T: Technology-supported, digital, virtual (tool-oriented)
The learnings are based on more than 48 case studies and feedback and intense discussion with roughly 52 stakeholders from all European countries and education sectors.
The need for more participative education is understood, but there is still a valid scepticism, if methods actually can be transferred and the barriers between the education sectors are still too high.
However, there was a consent on the definition and the conceptualisation. EduCitizens launched not just a tool kit but a fruitful ongoing discussion, how empowering and participatory approaches can be in cooperated in "ordinary" education, helping to enable learners to become self- determined citizens and at the same time integrating formal and non-formal approaches of Adult Education.
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About the author: Since 2010 Martin Barthel is working in non-formal education. He is the head of European projects at the Comparative Research Network e.V. in Berlin. Since autumn 2018 he is one of the EPALE ambassadors from Germany.