Tag Archives: inclusive education

Achieving Inclusive and Learner-centred Schools – “LEAD!” Project Outcomes

Students with specific learning difficulties (SLD) often feel excluded and misunderstood throughout their school journey, and are subject to early school leaving. The issue lies in school methodologies: with universal learning methods, students are left behind and their potential is un-expressed. To increase social inclusion and decrease early school leaving, students’ needs must be accommodated. The project “Specific Learning Disorders no more! (LEAD!)” precisely aims to empower students with specific learning disorders aged 9-14 years old, to develop the right competencies, through promoting adaptive technologies and their use. The project’s overarching mission is to enable students with SLD to understand their own difficulties and to support them in using adaptive methodologies, to thrive in education. Consequently, students not only learn adaptive ways to read, write, make calculations, but also develop lifelong learning competencies such as learning to learn and being autonomous.

“LEAD!” is a two-year-long Erasmus+ project. Its partnership spans across four European countries – Belgium, Italy, Spain, and Romania – and is composed of: ‘ENFOR, an Italian training and social research organisation; University of Valladolid; the Lifelong Learning Platform, an umbrella for 42 European organizations active in the field of education, training and youth; the schools ‘Istituto Comprensivo 2 Giovanni Paolo II’ of Policoro (Italy)  and of the  Inspectoratul Școlar din Iași’ (Romania).

The project’s direct target group is students aged 9-14 years old with SLDs, namely dyslexia (difficulty reading), dysgraphia (difficulty writing), dysorthography (difficulty writing and following grammatical rules), dyscalculia (difficulty calculating). Besides teachers and tutors, the project’s indirect target groups include all of the school and not-in-school staff involved with the students with SLD. The indirect beneficiaries are instead the students’ families. TheMY SKILLS’ online platform – one of the project’s results – meets the project’s objective of empowering students with SLD and of achieving more inclusive education. The platform guides students in their learning, and, in doing so, provides them with the right competences and increases inclusion in school, as a consequence. 

Project Outputs: ‘MY SKILLS’ Platform & Student License 

MY SKILLS’ is a platform for students to learn compensatory tools for reading, writing, making calculations, and their uses, where teachers can also access student progress. Its content is designed following the European Guidelines of the Validation of Formal and Informal Learning (CEDEFOP). The platform has a twofold advantage: (a)  it can be accessed both online and offline, so that learning paths are readily available no matter the context; (b) it encourages the use of information and communication tools, and telematic forms of communication between teachers and students. Towards the end of one’s journey on the platform, students have the opportunity to gain the European license on the use of compensatory instruments. Overall, the project’s two outcomes denote innovation from both a content and digital point of view by embedding compensatory tools for SLD students within the digital world.

At the end of the project, the partners organised multipliers events in each country involved, as well as an international conference in Brussels, entitled: “Achieving inclusive and learner-centred schools”. The conference included an interactive panel discussion with experts (Luisa Lopez, member of the Italian Dyslexia Association, board member of the European Dyslexia Association; Augustin Mihalache, Attaché Education, Permanent Representation of Romania to the European Union; Rachel Vaughan, Head of Operations, EASPD; Erik Ballhausen, Senior officer in EU program management, EACEA). The project’s conference highlighted three main points in relation to the project “LEAD!”: 1. Importance behind inclusive education; 2. Importance behind inclusive communities; 3. Need for evidence-based good practices for inclusive education.

Firstly, embracing diversity is essential, and empathy is key in doing so. “LEAD” reflects how it is important for education to be inclusive, because we all have different learning methods and paths. Students with SLD should be offered the possibility to make use of adaptive technologies when reading, writing, calculating. If not, education is not inclusive because it does not allow equal learning opportunities for all.

Secondly, building learning communities is important to achieve inclusive education. “LEAD” kickstarts the possibility of having an interaction between parents, teachers, and students. Here, just like for teachers, parents can learn from how children learn, and adapt to their needs accordingly. COVID-19 and homeschooling is a good moment to learn how children learn, and we should, therefore, take advantage of it. 

Lastly, there is a lack of practices – and, more specifically, of evidence-based ones – that address inclusive education. Drawing on the project “LEAD”, new practices may be added and built upon, to collect a database of practices on inclusive education for students with SLD. Insights into pedagogy are relevant and are impactful to use to establish such good practices.

Overall, the Erasmus+ project “LEAD” stems from a pan-European partnership which aims to increase inclusive education and decrease early school leaving of students with specific learning disorders (SLD). The project’s outcomes – the ‘MY SKILLS’ platform and the resulting student licenses – attempt to empower students with right competencies – both concerning reading, writing, calculating ones and learning- to-learn – to succeed in school. Ultimately, the project’s final conference both re-enforced and shed new light into the need for inclusive, community-centered education, and the creation of evidence-based practices that address inclusive education. The aforementioned points are some of the policy recommendations raised from the data, observations and feedback collected throughout the project, which address policy makers at local, regional, national and EU levels. The conference’s discussion supported how “LEAD!” is the right step towards achieving inclusive education and creating standardized good practices for it.

How do I Access the Platform?

To become more familiar with the ‘MY SKILLS’ platform, have a look at the explanatory video on how the platform works. Both teachers representing a class, and individual students, can sign up. Whereas students wishing to join ‘MY SKILLS’ can select “Student” as a role during the registration process, teachers can ask to have their school involved by sending an email to myskills@myskillslead.eu.



LEAD! – PROJECT PILOTING PHASE

The project Specific Learning Disorder no more! (LEAD!) is well underway, ready to launch the pilot program. 

With training materials in English, Romanian and Italian, the pilot testing will take place in Italy and Romania. The process of reviewing educational resources will be conducted both internally and externally.

The internal pilot test leader, IC2 Policoro (“ISTITUTO COMPRENSIVO2 “GIOVANNI PAOLO II“), will carry out, through March-April 2022, a pilot test within the consortium where at least 2 people from each project partner, who were not directly involved in the development of the training material, will participate in testing the functionality of the platform.

The piloting with Schools (external pilots) will be implemented through a Challenge Jam, where pupils, schools, and associated partners will be invited to the testing phase of the project’s training material.

The Challenge Jam is characterised by a series of events organised in the classrooms where students with and without SLD (Specific Learning Disorders), under the guidance of their teachers, will have to solve a problem related to a challenge that a young SLD faces every day at school*. This methodology allows an effective comparison of experiences between different realities, without pushing for competition.  Through May-June 2022, each partner will be responsible for involving 5 classes (of 20 people) for a total of 500 people.

The pilot program seeks to engage the entire classroom, thus gaining the transversal function of raising awareness on SLD. Through implementing this pilot program, not only do we aim to increase standards of education for those with SLDs, we are also committed to promoting diversity and greater social inclusion. This avoids separating classes and accentuating the feeling of “diversity” experienced by children with SLD,

The pilot test will also serve the classmates of students with SLD by raising awareness on the topic and allowing students to step into “the shoes” of a child with SLD, thus increasing empathy and involvement.

All the feedback that the partners will receive during the pilot phases will be analysed and then updated in the project platform.

The LEAD! Project partners will meet in Iasi (Romania) this 29th and 30th of March to discuss the next steps: the train the trainers programme, as well as the #MySkills platform design.

* More specifically, a ‘jam’ can be understood as team-based, loosely structured exercises conducted in a face-to-face environment designed to bring out participants’ creativity for developing innovative solutions to complex problems (Morrison, 2009).

Morrison, K (2009). Outcomes Report: CCi Mainstreaming and RHD Jams. Cultural Science Journal, 2 (1).  

 
   

Peer-Learning Activity on Promoting Common Values and Inclusive Education

The Lifelong Learning Platform, the Croatian Ministry of Science and Education and the European Commission joined forces to deliver a unique peer-learning activity on “Promoting Common Values and Inclusive Education through Cooperation between Education Institutions and Civil Society”. The event, which took place on 4-5 April in Zagreb, Croatia, was organised under the umbrella of the Education & Training 2020 Thematic Working Group on Promoting Common Values and Inclusive Education.

The whole event was a great opportunity for European member States to learn on each other’s best practices on the role of civil society and non-formal education providers in the topic, with a special focus on history teaching and cyber-bullying. In an informal setting, workshops and roundtables took the participants into the topic, highlighting the efforts that MS should be carrying out to empower civil society organisations and non-formal education providers.

In fact, a few local academics admitted that the role of civil society is crucial and certainly underestimated; nevertheless, often they are seen as counter-power and measures are put in place to reduce their capacities to act or use only them that provide services. This is especially true in recent years. All countries participating agreed and recognised that an empowered civil society helps countries achieve their individual and common education goals. The funding schemes for such stakeholders were also addressed in the discussion with Member States.