“Amazing experience!” is how Ana Fernandes, an English teacher from Portugal, described her participation in the CARMA Evaluation Seminar, that took place in Istanbul, last November. The purpose of the seminar was to gather a group of 23 teachers and experts in (non-formal) education – who have participated in the pilot experience of the CARMA project – to share with their peers their experiences in using RMA and other Non-Formal Learning Techniques in their classrooms, as part of their classroom activities.

One of the main aims of the CARMA project, funded by the European Commission under the Erasmus+ Programme, includes the application of the Reciprocal Maieutic Approach (RMA) and other Non-Formal Learning (NFL) Techniques, such as “The Box of Emotions”, “Coding”, “Petal Debate” and “Group Investigation”, in everyday classroom activities as a collaborative learning approach to increase the motivation and engagement of students and learners. This approach was piloted by a group of 26 teachers and 7 non-formal learning experts, from seven European countries (Italy, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Turkey, France and Belgium), during the full academic school year, complemented with sharing sessions where teachers presented the results of the experimentation to other colleagues, parents and stakeholders. The results of this phase were shared and debated during the CARMA’s European Evaluation Seminar, that took place in November, in Istanbul.

For two days, this group of European teachers and experts together with the coordinators of the CARMA project and its Policy Expert in school education, reflected on the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT Analysis) they faced during the delivery of the non-formal methods and RMA with their students and in their schools. In their feedback, it was highlighted that the overall experience with CARMA has increased interaction not only between students and teachers, but also between the teachers themselves. With the application of RMA and NFL techniques, teachers felt that the social abilities and the self-expression of their students and learners had increased, as well as their sense of responsibility towards learning. In their feedback, teachers and experts also referred that this experience has also planted the seeds for a better relationship between students and teachers, as students became less bored of formal education settings, as much as they also felt safer and more open to participate in classroom debates and activities.

However, the pilot experience also confirmed that teachers (and even students) are not actually prepared to implement teaching activities or to use alternative learning methods, that are not foreseen in the curricula. Hence, an initial feeling of “waste of time” was generally felt by the teachers, until they had a grasp of how the techniques could be implemented and which benefits they could (would) observe. In their feedback, most teachers highlighted the importance of teacher-training in alternative learning techniques and methods, focusing on the implementation of the methods (as there is a wide variety), the importance of “pre-planning” (and the adjustments that are required in terms of timing and relation with the school curricula) and, finally, on how the assessment of the learning process occurs. Also, when asked about weaknesses of the CARMA RMA and NFL techniques, most teachers referred the fact that students and learners are not used to giving opinions and ideas or even expressing emotions. This posed for quite of a challenge in the beginning of the pilot, which was quickly surpassed with the continuance of the implementation of the actions. Yet, the opportunities that this group of teachers and experts recognised were also significant!

“When we integrate NFL methods, we don´t stop formal education: we try to optimise formal education.” – this was how Linda Castañeda, from University of Murcia summarised the overall experience in Spain – and the optimisation can be quite simple to implement: it could start right at the teacher educational programmes, where they could learn already from an early stage about RMA and NFL techniques through CARMA activities; or, specifically regarding the CARMA’s resources,  these could include the integration of non-verbal communication techniques, such as theatre and drawing, as an opportunity for students and learners that have more difficulties in expressing themselves verbally. It could also consider the creation of non-formal evaluation mechanisms and resources that could accompany the techniques.

Ana Fernandes, a Portuguese teacher, was one of the CARMA pilot participants, and has implemented a few non-formal learning techniques in her English classrooms. During the Evaluation Seminar in Istanbul, Ana was interviewed by CARMA partners and revealed “It was an amazing experience and I will, for sure, continue to implement these techniques in my classroom because I can see how my students are getting better abilities when dealing with the subjects that I am teaching. Furthermore, it has also been an interesting experience for myself, as a teacher, because when I am teaching, I am doing it for my students and myself, and not just for the system”.  

The feedback from teachers during the seminar raised important points to consider concerning the provision of inclusive and effective education to meet the school education challenges we face in Europe today, such as reducing the rate of early school leaving, increasing basic skills among young people and increasing the social inclusion of learners. Teachers offered key suggestions to policy makers, leaders in school education and to their own school institutions on how to change current education systems to effectively motivate and engage students and learners through collaborative teaching and learning.

Teachers’ feedback will be developed as a set of policy recommendations for school education based on the results of the piloting.

Watch the CARMA Evaluation Seminar video to find out more about what the teachers recommended to innovate the classroom. For further information about CARMA, please contact the project coordinator Mrs. Rosina Nduke rosina.ndukwe[a]

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