Éclosion

Récemment, j’ai assisté au séminaire « Éclosion« , organisé par l’association française Team Factory. Quel évènement rafraîchissant ! En quoi était-ce différent des séminaires habituels? Et bien, mis à part le fait que nous avons travaillé dehors, sur la pelouse, sous les arbres, avec des équipes composées de professionnels et d’étudiants, de participants de différents pays, à la fois en anglais et en français, et ce en toute légèreté – ce qui est déjà énorme -, la spécificité de ce séminaire est venue de la priorité qui a été donnée à la mise en place d’une zone de confiance et de soutien aux groupes, pour pouvoir travailler ensemble sur les sujets que chaque participant tenait à coeur. Donc, pas de conférence avec des participants passifs, pas de programme de transmission de connaissances. Non, plutôt un enchaînement d’activités à réaliser collectivement qui permettent à chacun de réfléchir sur ses préoccupations de fond et sur sa connaissance de soi. Pourquoi, dans la vie professionnelle comme dans les situations de formation,  doit-on écarter tout ce qui a du sens chez l’individu? Il n’y a aucune raison valable. À Éclosion, on peut constater comment avec quelques ingrédients de base – scénarisation futée de la journée, logistique impeccable, personnes expertes en dialogue et travail d’équipe -, on peut réussir à installer cette ambiance de confiance qui permet un lâcher prise  permettant  le « deep learning ». Je remercie et je félicite les organisateurs. Je vous invite aussi à explorer le programme d’études alternatif « Team Time », pour créer les entrepreneurs humanistes de demain.

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University of the streets and informal learning

For such a fan of informal learning it took me way too long to finally get it together to go to a Montreal University of the streets event (which by the way is a bilingual gig). The format here: a guest speaker (in relation to the theme of the day) gets the conversation going and a moderator « manages » the lively conversation. It’s been going on for 5 years.

I love these type of events – informal learning spaces where a sense of « personal mastery » and collective exploration helps thinking advance and community to emmerge.

Another informal learning network percolab is part of in Montreal is the Knowledge Kafé (café des connaissances), similar, but with a different formula. Before meeting to share and converse everyone agrees to read a specific text based on the theme of the month. And this event is 15 years strong!

In my quest to further explore informal learning structures (yes, you can put those two terms together), I intend to discover more of these conversation spaces, such as the Récit des écoles des citoyens in France, and others that I find out about.

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But what is learning?

I dare you to ask someone you know what they have learned lately at their work, or what they would like to learn. I need to take a course on « latest software version 5.8 », « presentation skills » or « time management », someone might say. It seems that most people associate learning with « taking a course ». So, is lifelong, lifewide learning about taking courses all the time for everything?

I certainly hope not. For me, learning happens everyday and all the time. It is a natural process, but somehow it slips through our fingers – we aren’t really aware of all the learning we are doing. Sometimes, (not all the time) it could be interesting, pertinent or professionaly sensible to be able to better capture our learning, to see traces of our foreward movement, to take stock of how much we have progressed, to pat ourselves on the back, to get strategic about a hurdle etc. For this, we need to go beyond training and examinations.

This is lifelong learning, and it requires lifelong learning tools such as the personal learning environment (PLE), the personal competence manager (PCM) or the personal/professional ePortfolio (my one, I dare to share with you). But where go novel tools, goes also a new mindset. Here is our absoluteley amateur attempt at expressing that idea in the area of continuing professional development.
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Version française

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Portfolios as an instrument to recognise non-formal learning and education

Though most of our learning is non-formal and informal, these forms of learning are usually given a back seat to formal learning that occurs in official learning institutions with official certification. I am right there with the OECD in thinking that learning needs to be perceived as encompassing the whole spectrum of formal, non-formal and informal learning for promoting personal fulfillment, active citizenship, social inclusion and employability. One initiative that is adressing this issue is the European portfolio for the recognition of learning and education of youth workers and leaders – that’s to say those people working with our youth from Scout leaders to human rights education. These people are doing « good work » in our societies which for the most part goes underecongnised and undervalued. The Directorate of Youth and Sport of the Council of Europe feels strongly enough about it to pass a resolution to tackle the « problem ». The youth leader and worker portfolio project fits within this resolution and the mini-compendium on non-formal education is part of the background work.

The project is to develop a portfolio with a common competence framework of what youth workers and leaders do as an instrument to provide a broad view of the area within which they are involved and heighten self awareness on the competences they are in the process of developing via this work.Imagine, all the various non-formal training sessions that youth work volunteers and leaders are involved in and now individuals may be provided with a tool with which they will be able to track their learning with a long-term, big picture approach. By documenting non-formal learning in such a structured way, it gives credit and clout to all that it is. Animators will be encouraged and enabled to

  1. Assess their own learning
  2. Set clear and achievable goals
  3. Identify, express and reflect on their own view of progress and development of new opportunities
  4. Summarise achievments and collate supporting evidence

This initiative is to be applauded. Of course there is a tension and preoccupation with this effort : non-formal areas of our society, such as youth animation and work, have their own non-formal culture and ways of functioning. Is it really possible to standardise and formalise this field without negatively impacting its non-formal essence? I believe so. By using their portfolio, workers will gather a larger perspective of the field within which they have made a committment and they will develop their awareness and value of the competences they develop through their non-formal learning and youth work. In so doing the positive impact should be two-fold, workers feeling good about themselves and their work, and workers becoming more professional in their work. In the end, the youth of our society deserve the best and the european portfolio initiative is a project towards that goal. We need only to look at a similar project on a smaller scale to see the potential impact of such a process.

A portfolio based model for validating informal learning gained during voluntary activity has been implemented for scouting groups in the Gelderland region of the Netherlands. The project study highlights how « having their skills validated had substantially increased the personal confidence of some volunteers. » One particpant pointed out that « having her learning validated had increased her motivation during her volunteering and other professional activities. She had been able to transfer the competence profiling technique to her other work as a social worker.  » Also, benefits are noted for the organisation: « The general profile of Scouting in the Netherlands has been raised, with wider recognition of the efforts made, and skills and knowledge of volunteers. The establishment of scouting groups as ‘learning firms’ has also given these groups a higher profile and greater recognition by educational institutions. »

The portfolio has the potential to make life skills and competencies in areas of non-formal and informal learning more visible, thereby contributing to the social and formal recognition of a field and its workers.

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