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Comenius- Active project description

 

COMENIUS MULTILATERAL SCHOOL PARTNERSHIP

 

ACTIVE

 (2013-2015) 

 

ACTIVE COMMUNICATION TRAINING IN VOCATIONAL EDUCATION

SUMMARY


The main aim of ACTIVE project is to equip the students with the necessary skills required to enter successfully local and European job markets. Understanding and proper use of non-verbal communication (NVC) is vital for shaping appropriate models of conduct in situations generated by working environment. Considering high rates of youth unemployment and recognizing the need for young people to be flexible and competitive, it is also important for them to be able to maintain cross-cultural interactions.  The activities in the project and the very diverse partnership of the group itself will provide the students with the essential practice in terms of business communication, career planning as well as linguistic and ICT skills. Moreover, for the participating institutions with a vocational profile the project will create the opportunity to enhance their curricula. For the schools with general comprehensive profile it will be a chance to incorporate more job market related elements in their teaching process. In order to proceed with the project activities the schools will need to build closer relationships with the local businesses, what will lead to mutual benefits. For those reasons ACTIVE project will have a great impact on the target groups while meeting current needs of youth entering adult life.  

 

 

RATIONALE 

 

Our partnership was established for reasons of mutual interest in improving the participants’ communication and interpersonal competences as well as in enhancement of motivation for vocational subjects and language learning. 

Our students need to develop deeper understanding of the diversity of European cultures, languages and European values and at the same time acquire life skills for both their personal development and future employment. They need to learn how to live in multicultural societies as they would probably look for job opportunities throughout Europe, not only in their local communities.

Considering the deep changes that most European economies have been experiencing recently, it is necessary to equip our students with the essential knowledge and skills that will allow them to become more enterprising and self-reliant young adults. Students who leave school need to be aware of the need to be mobile, flexible and capable of working in international teams at home or abroad. We would like to enrich education processes in our schools to give our students the chance to develop such skills. Therefore, the activities that we intend to organize in the project aim at raising students’ awareness of efficient means of cross-cultural communication with special focus on interpreting and using nonverbal cues essential for successful interactions. Moreover, we want to create opportunities for students to experience real-life situations to model professional conduct in workplaces.

Having in view that we live in the age of massive electronic communication, our students  need to know how to overcome difficulties they might encounter in face-to-face communication. Thus, cooperating with their peers while taking part in local and international activities will add up to their interpersonal skills as well as linguistic and intercultural competences. 

The mobilities provided by a Comenius project will broaden their horizons and give them ideas of what they might do for a better life in the future. Besides, involvement in all stages of the project will teach them to interact better and improve an entrepreneurship and community spirit that they may lack at the moment but they need for future development. 

Project partners recognize the need for improving key learning competences in the most attractive way for students. The character of planned activities and strategies in the project will allow to satisfy the need to a great extent. Firstly, the project will require students’ ability to come up with new ideas and put them into action. The participants will improve their skills in terms of planning, organizing, managing, analyzing, evaluating and reporting while undertaking the tasks. They will also be instructed on self-assessment and finding own strengths and weaknesses. This will lead to the enhancement of initiative and entrepreneurship which are vital for future individual and professional development. Moreover, the project will help the students to understand better multicultural and socio-economic dimensions of European societies. It will show them constant interaction between national and European cultural identities. Through interaction with partner teams the participants will learn how to be more tolerant, express and accept different points of view, solve conflicts, negotiate and reach a compromise. These social and civic competences will allow them to attend effectively and constructively in society. What is more, through this project students will have the opportunity to get some ideas on time and information management while working alone and as a part of a team. It is also obvious that they will become more self-confident and self-reliant. Both these factors are essential for improving the ability to learn effectively.

Teachers need to improve their capacity to work in interdisciplinary teams and become more open to innovations and new methods of teaching. Through this project they will share their knowledge and experience. They will need to work on creating new practical teaching materials. They will also have the chance to build on knowledge of foreign school systems. Most participating institutions are of vocational profile but they still need to provide more practice for their students. Comenius project will create international and cross-cultural environment for such practice. Those institutions that have more general, comprehensive profile will definitely benefit from this cooperation as the activities planned in the project will add a practical dimension to their curricula. Moreover, the partners believe that their joint project will improve social atmosphere at their schools and result in a stronger cooperation.

 

 

PROJECT OBJECTIVES AND STRATEGIES

 

The project aims at exploring non-verbal communication and its importance in the work process and everyday situations through various activities. It will promote key competences such as sense of initiative and entrepreneurship, cultural awareness and expression, communication in foreign languages, digital competence, sharing European values, learning to learn, civic and social skills. The following objectives will be achieved by the end of the project:

• To do a research into communication beyond language and compare nonverbal communication in each partner country. 

• To raise awareness of similarities and differences in the meaning of nonverbal communication in various cultures and to compare how different situations and nonverbal actions could be interpreted differently in various countries.

• To  improve students’ interest and skills in vocational subjects, especially of those related to interpersonal and business communication.

• To turn the participants’ attention to the need of entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation when planning their career paths and entering the job market.

• To develop students’ ability to “read” nonverbal cues as they are essential for successful relationships in their future careers. 

• To create a professional conduct in the field of services.

• To improve  digital skills and the ability to use the modern technologies, such as ICT, when exchanging  personal and cultural experience.

• To improve skills of written and spoken vocational English language. 

• To create an opportunity to acquire knowledge and competences concerning European citizenship.

• To broaden the horizons in terms of understanding foreign values, cultures and  customs and instill tolerance towards other cultures

• To develop learning competences such as communication, debating, critical thinking, looking for information, classifying, sharing and presenting information.

We are going to achieve these objectives by means of team work, local and joint workshops, drama and role-play activities, debates, sharing experiences and knowledge, self-assessment, sessions with professionals, observations of business environment, evaluation tools as well as research work.

 

EUROPEAN ADDED VALUE

 

Our international cooperation will lay an emphasis on the inherent diversity of the continent and will create an opportunity for the participants to learn how to accept and celebrate diversity. The cultural exchange the participants will experience during mobilities to Mediterranean and Eastern European countries will lead to a decrease of international prejudice and an increase of the sense of European citizenship, a change of mentality of the participants and the local communities. The project will provide new conditions for the partner countries and the students involved to create a network with the outside world and acknowledge a sense of belonging to a common human frames of values.

This project also aims at encouraging a sense of initiative and the learners’ entrepreneurial skills by means of different modes of international interaction. The increasing globalization of economies and the competitiveness require strengthening of the European response to the new challenges of the job market. Consequently, it will respond to the needs of the rapidly changing world of work and diverse society by improving wide range of key competences of our trainees.

We hope to exchange a lot on the different teaching methods, educational systems and methodologies used in our partner countries, enhancing our readiness to enrich our pedagogical approach. 

Throughout the project students and teachers will trace their European identity by setting common goals for results and outcomes so as to become clear for them that collaborative work creates strong friendships, enhances motivation and produces quality work that can be set as examples of good practice in the community for others to follow. 

Students will also get to visit places that they have never visited before and more importantly meet people, thus developing their communicative and social skills that are necessary while setting and applying their working plans.

 

 

IMPACT

 

The project will have a considerable impact on its target groups: students, teachers and the participating institutions.

Concerning students, they are expected to become more aware of the similarities and differences in interpreting and using non-verbal cues in their own and foreign cultures. Through various partnership activities they will acquire a better understanding of codes of conduct and customs in a workplace as well as in social situations.  Moreover, the project will turn the students’ attention to vocational subjects and the need to improve their language skills in these fields. They will also develop their digital, teamwork and presentation skills by performing project tasks. They will be led to take responsibilities and to plan their own work. Contact with and first–hand knowledge of traditions and values of the different cultures will offer them the opportunity to improve both their linguistic competences and interpersonal skills. Furthermore, the relationships with students from other schools will enhance their self-esteem, whereas mobilities will give them opportunities to travel and get to know new countries in the European Community. As a result, the students will become better prepared to enter the job market as well as to plan their future career paths having acquired a spirit of initiative and creativity.

Teachers will be able to collaborate with colleagues from the participating institutions. That will enable them to exchange ideas, information, experiences, knowledge and teaching methods. Project products are going to be shared between all participating schools. Since all the main products are designed to be used as practical tools in education process they will add up to the teachers' source bases.

Finally, the participating institutions will improve their educational process by incorporating new topics, strategies and techniques. They will also have the possibility for further cooperation with their partners. On the basis of this project they will get an appropriate experience to continue good practice in terms of European collaboration.          

 

 

EVALUATION

 

Evaluation is a crucial element of the project and it will be conducted before, during and after certain stages and finally at the end of the whole project. The evaluation process will focus on assessing whether or not the proposed aims have been met. It will be done by students, teachers, parents and local community members.The methods which will be used are surveys, questionnaires, interviews and self-assessment.  

The interviews and questionnaires will first be conducted on national levels and then a comparison of the results will be done in a form of a summary which will be presented and discussed during the working meetings. All the final results will be published  in electronic forms so they will be accessible for general public. 

Coordinators will monitor completion of tasks, achievement levels, efficiency of communication, development of skills, impact on the curriculum and team spirit. Each group of students will evaluate their own work during workshops and stages of the project. Their leader will then report the results to the coordinator who will deal with difficulties. 

The first part of the evaluation process will be an initial questionnaire on participants' expectations from the project. It will allow the coordinators to direct their work with teams. Apart from that, students will also fill in a survey which will assess their knowledge of NVC. The results will be compared with the outcomes of the final quiz on NVC and this will show the progress made in that field. Moreover, before working meetings the participants will discuss their expectetions and after the meetings they will be able to compare them with experience as well as reflect on the work done during the meetings. Additionally, after the 2nd meeting there will be a survey for the parents allowing them to express their views on the project and its influence on their children. Before the 3rd meeting there will be interviews in schools for teachers, students and also local citizens to assess the project impact in local communities. A self-assessment session is a part of activities planned for the 3rd meeting and it will be, along with previous evaluation results, used to summarize the whole work done so far in the project. One of the 3rd meeting products will be a mid-evaluation report which will show strong and weak points of the project. Also the final project products will serve as ultimate evaluation  tools as they will present to what extent the aims have been achieved.

 

 

INTEGRATION INTO ONGOING ACTIVITIES

 

The project will make a significant contribution for each school’s educational curriculum. The outlined aims and activities will be integrated in regular school schedules during various teaching sessions. The subjects which compose the syllabus, such as English, Geography, Economics, Fashion Design, Social/Civic studies, IT courses will directly or indirectly contribute to and benefit from the project as it progresses. Teachers on the teams will focus their attention on topics relevant to both project activities and the curriculum. They will incorporate the different tasks into lesson activities, emphasizing team work, intercultural understanding and the cross-cultural teaching units. The schools will also organize additional classes that will prepare students for project tasks which involve specific skills, such as making and performing presentations, DVD recording, acting, carrying out a research. There will also be workshops and meetings organized with job advisors, business coaches, actors, business people which will enable the participants to achieve project goals and at the same time enrich education processes in partner schools.

Students will experience greater freedom in the process of education, since they will take responsibility and participate actively in the project. They will also have the opportunity to share their knowledge and practice skills while taking part in working meetings as well as organizing activities for the other students in their schools.

Finding innovative solutions to problems in teaching practices is one of the important aims of the project. During local and regional teachers' meetings the materials produced in the project will be presented and their usefulness explained. Implementing products and strategies used in the project into the lesson activities will boost the teaching-learning process and bring about enhancement of motivation. 

 

PARTICIPANTS INVOLVEMENT

 

Pupils of partner schools are already engaged in the planning process. They had been informed about the essence of Lifelong Learning Programme as well as the main ideas of this project. The students were asked to propose a title of the project before the preparatory visit. They had an opportunity to share their conceptions and discuss them with school coordinators. Furthermore, students took an active part in preparing materials for the preparatory visit in Poland (e.g. partner schools and regions presentations). 

During the course of the project, the students will be involved in all activities concerning production and dissemination of the project results. On local levels they will work in groups responsible for certain tasks according to a topic they choose (e.g. drama, ICT, media, evaluation, research). 

The groups will be in constant contact with similar groups from partner schools to share ideas and cooperate. At the beginning of the project they are expected to exchange introductory messages with their partners to get to know each other. 

Students will prepare adequate materials for working meetings as well as take part in all activities planned to promote their work in the region. They will also organize sessions for other students in their schools to share the knowledge they gained in the project and practice new skills. 

Moreover, students will participate in working meetings to present their work done locally, to participate in joint activities and improve their skills while working with their partner students. The pupils will then prepare appropriate materials to introduce the results of the meetings in their schools. 

Pupils will also be active participants in the evaluation process. They will be guided how to prepare evaluation tools, how to use them and how to share the results. They will have the occasion to assess their own participation in the project as well as the results and products of the project in general.

 

 

 

DISTRIBUTION OF TASKS

 

There are seven partners in the project out of which four attended prep visit. We developed a twin system of mobilities. There are three meetings organized by two partners each and held simultaneously. These meetings will be attended by two or three other partners and the "twins" will have the same project activities. Then there will be a concluding meeting in Poland that will be attended by all the other partners. Each meeting is compatible with the main idea of the project but has a distinctive objective. The first meetings are of introductory character in terms of NVC knowledge and meeting project partners. During the first meetings Reunion and Italy will organize drama activities, ice-breakers and games. Partner schools will present themselves and their regions. The logo proposals will be discussed. Participants will also discuss NVC in terms of introducing and meeting people for the first time. Italy is responsible for the report on this aspect and Reunion for the production of the project final logo. During the second meetings in Croatia and Bulgaria, partners will present their findings on six different aspects of NVC, i.e. eye contact, proximity, appearance, haptics, gestures and posture and will take part in a fashion show with outfits for various occasions. Croatia’s task is to put together the glossary of cultural similarities and differences of the above mentioned aspects. Bulgaria is in charge of making a photo presentation of the fashion shows. The third meetings will be hosted by Romania and Turkey and will focus on NVC in workplace interactions as well as evaluation on all the work done so far. Students will participate in job interview and customer service workshops and observations followed by role-play activities and self-assessment session. Romania is responsible for describing the whole process in ready-to-use materials for further use, while Turkey will collect all the evaluation results and sum them up in a mid-evaluation report. After each "twin" meeting there will be presentations exchanged to share the outcomes. The last visit will be in Poland and will concentrate on reviewing the project content through drama sketches which will be recorded on a DVD accompanied by a booklet. The host country will also prepare a cultural and NVC contest quiz which will measure the students’ level of achievement. Apart from being responsible for the meetings, each partner will organize the planned project activities at their schools.

 

COOPERATION AND COMMUNICATION


At a local level, each partner school has chosen its Comenius coordinator and formed a team of teachers who are going to participate in the project. Each teacher is going to take care of certain tasks during the project. The school coordinators and their teams of teachers will have regular meetings to organize work throughout the project. Participating students will be organized into groups and will also meet regularly with their teachers and the coordinator. The students teams and the coordinators will be in constant contact with their foreign counterparts through email and online platforms such as Facebook. Each group of students will choose their leader who will then attend the meetings and represent the group.

School coordinators have first met on the eTwinning platform and agreed on the idea for the project, and then through numerous emails they have developed the idea for the project, after consulting with their colleagues, students and principals. There was a preparatory visit organized in Poland from 4th to 8th February where school coordinators filled in the application form. During the project, apart form constant mail exchange, school coordinators will have monthly chat-sessions to deal with possible problems and share ideas and experiences.

There will be a communication platform organized for students (blogs, forum) to cooperate effectively. The coordinator will create a Facebook page for the project so that every participant will be able to keep track of the undergoing activities. 

Moreover, there are four meetings planned for representation groups consisting of school coordinators, students and possibly teachers involved in the project. These meetings will result in specific products and enable the participants to communicate and cooperate in the most efficient way, thus they are extremely important for the completion of the project.

Pupils of partner schools are already engaged in the planning process. They had been informed about the essence of Lifelong Learning Programme as well as the main ideas of this project. The students were asked to propose a title of the project before the preparatory visit. They had an opportunity to share their conceptions and discuss them with school coordinators. Furthermore, students took an active part in preparing materials for the preparatory visit in Poland (e.g. partner schools and regions presentations). 

During the course of the project, the students will be involved in all activities concerning production and dissemination of the project results. On local levels they will work in groups responsible for certain tasks according to a topic they choose (e.g. drama, ICT, media, evaluation, research). 

The groups will be in constant contact with similar groups from partner schools to share ideas and cooperate. At the beginning of the project they are expected to exchange introductory messages with their partners to get to know each other. 

Students will prepare adequate materials for working meetings as well as take part in all activities planned to promote their work in the region. They will also organize sessions for other students in their schools to share the knowledge they gained in the project and practice new skills. 

Moreover, students will participate in  working meetings to present their work done locally, to participate in joint activities and improve their skills while working with their partner students. The pupils will then prepare appropriate materials to introduce the results of the meetings in their schools. 

Pupils will also be active participants in the evaluation process. They will be guided how to prepare evaluation tools, how to use them and how to share the results. They will have the occasion to assess their own participation in the project as well as the results and products of the project in general.

 

DISSEMINATION AND THE USE OF RESULTS

 

Partners will use various means of publicity to present procedures and products completed in the project on local and international level. Notice boards will be set up where school community will be informed on events, activities and products. The schools agreed on specific forms of communication among students. These forms include the use of e-mails, “skype”, facebook, “chat conferences” and blogs. There will be a group of students responsible for this type of communication and another one, responsible for sharing information through articles published in school magazines. Local community members will be informed through various means of communication as well. Local media will provide opportunities for presenting the project activities: articles will appear in the local newspapers, short films and video-clips will be broadcast on local TV stations, interviews will be presented by the local radio stations. Moreover, local communities will be addressed through leaflets and posters. As to inform a wider lifelong learning community, the most efficient platform will be provided by the Internet. Each participating school has got its own website where the main steps and details (video clips, pictures and reports) will be shared. 

The outcomes of the project are meant to be of further use when the project is finished. Most activities, including those organized during working meetings will involve not only the direct project participants but also other teachers and students from partner schools as well as representatives of local communities. Therefore, more people will benefit from the project and at the same time will have the opportunity to get informed of its content. Participating students will also organize activities for others in their local schools to share their knowledge and practice new skills. Results and products of the project will be used in participating schools to enrich the teaching process. Students and teachers will be able to use their developed skills in their future education and careers. What is essential, the main products (the cross-cultural glossary of NVC elements, the DVD with sketches presenting appropriate modes of behaviour in various workplace situations and the set of ready to use materials on how to organize practical activities concerning NVC) will be available for wider community through national and international means of publicity for example teachers’ meetings held locally and regionally and teachers’ resource websites.

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