Ten key methodological foundations and learning approaches, and their digital application
In the research phase of the Educ@te project, a model of methodological bases and learning methodologies laid out by the Council of Europe within COMPASS was used to better evaluate educators’ capacities and needs when providing NF HRE in the digital space.
In this context, the following educational underpinnings and learning methodologies have been researched:
Learner-centered – is concerned with ensuring that all types of programs are tailored to the needs of participants. Any NFE program is about learning, and no learning can take place unless participants’ learning needs are understood and used to tailor the most age-appropriate and effective learning methodologies. Only then will a genuine learning experience be possible.
Educators claimed that they were Partially to a Great Extent – 3,58 – able to incorporate learner centeredness in their digital HR NFE programs. During our regional workshops, we took note of some of the challenges they face when applying HRE in the digital sphere: Educators rarely conduct needs assessments and lack overviews of available digital learning activities. As a result, they tend to choose relatively safe options like presentations and group discussions. Many educators continue to struggle with conducting needs assessments and find it difficult to monitor changes during the online program and, if necessary, make additional adjustments to digital learning activities.
Encourage participation – refers to the idea that any type of learning, particularly Human Rights Education, should encourage active involvement of all people attending a program. It is critical to emphasize that meaningful participation is essential for transformative learning, and participants should be active in all stages of online NF HRE, as their engagement is learning in and of itself.
Educators claimed that they were Partially to a Great Extent – 3,63 – able to encourage participation in their digital HR NFE programs. During our regional events, we took note of some of the issues they encountered when implementing it in the digital domain: Educators frequently fail to meaningfully involve participants in the design phase, and even when young people want to contribute by filling out assessments, they struggle to express their needs while keeping digital constraints in mind. Educators, on the other hand, find it much easier to engage participants in the implementation phase – but they would still like to experiment with new learning activity formats that go beyond their present practices.
Accessible for everyone means that programs are available to all groups of young people. While we typically think of young people as a homogenous group, it is important to remember that there are many different groups of young people, each with their own set of needs and challenges that they face. In that regard, having educational programs that recognize their different (learning) needs is of crucial importance.
Educators claimed that they were Partially to a Great Extent – 3,76 – able to make their digital NF HRE programs accessible for everyone. An intriguing finding is that a considerable number of educators believe that more young people are being excluded from digital activities than those being included. During our regional workshops, we noted some of the challenges educators face when applying HRE in the digital space: educators find it difficult to provide learning experiences for all groups of young people due to a lack of connectivity for some young people, proper infrastructure (such as laptops or tablets), motivation (caused by the overwhelming number of digital activities), and even digital skills (although it is often assumed that young people possess advanced digital skills). On the positive side, educators recognize the value of digitalization in reaching out to and informing young people about educational opportunities.
There is an organized process with educational objectives. Every learning process should be highly structured and meticulously planned. It begins with an understanding of the various levels of needs, the overall goal, the opportunities, and the challenges; and progresses to the development of a learning process that will answer all of these in a structured manner – while achieving both the overall goal and specific aims that correspond to specific needs.
Educators claimed that they were Partially – 3,54 – able to have an organized process with educational objectives in their digital NF HRE programs. During our regional seminars, we noted some of the issues educators experience when applying HRE in the digital space: aside from frequently lacking comprehensive needs analysis, many educators often struggle with finding appropriate online tools and learning activities that will allow for answering participants’ needs. Thus, given the level of digital skills and time-related pressure to deliver digital activities quickly, there is sometimes compromising in organizing educational processes, coupled with an overall fear of young people’s low motivation to participate in digital non-formal learning activities.
Process orientation is a well-known element of non formal education that is widely used in HRE. The entire learning process revolves around learning, which is viewed as an outcome of an activity rather than an output. Delivering HRE is more than just organizing a training or a workshop; it is about providing participants with the opportunity to participate in a meaningful learning experience.
Educators claimed that they were Partially to a Great Extent – 3,76 – able to ensure process orientation in their digital NF HRE programs. During our regional events, we took note of some of the challenges educators face when applying it in the digital space: while they manage to organize a process that provides both opportunities for gaining new knowledge and space for participants to share their opinions, discuss, and reflect – educators sometimes fear that they cannot provide space in the digital world for the entire process to happen, as they can in real life. This conclusion was linked to a lack of both educators’ and young people’ digital skills.
Holistic means that human rights issues concern the whole person (body, mind, and soul), including how one thinks, feels, and behaves. In that regard, taking a comprehensive approach is critical in ensuring that participants understand what human rights are, why their realization is vital in respect to other people, and how they can act—either by claiming rights or fighting for their realization.
Educators claimed that they were Partially – 3,41 – able to incorporate holistic approach in their digital NF HRE programs. During our regional events, we took note of some of the issues educators experience when implementing HRE in the digital environment: most educators found it rather more convenient to transmit knowledge and convey expertise about a certain topic than to provide a space for participants to develop certain skills and values.
The framework is open-ended, which means that questions are unlikely to be answered with a straightforward “yes” or “no.” Because human rights and their implementation are perceived differently by different communities and actors, this approach allows educators to provide nuanced responses to both basic and complicated concerns. Along with this, it is critical that these learning formats allow for the clarity of values, allowing participants to identify their own, discuss them with others, and give and receive feedback on them.
Educators claimed that they were Partially – 3,54 – able to keep an open-ended framework in their online NF HRE programs. During our regional workshops, we took note of some of the issues they experience when implementing it in the digital realm: a number of educators continue to struggle with using various digital tools and are therefore not always comfortable having frank discussions online, as they fear that they might not be in control of digital space as in the physical world. Educators furthermore recognize their own learning needs for improved use of digital tools, which will enable the delivery of the holistic approach’s “soul” and “hand” components in particular.
Experiential learning refers to the possibility for participants to gain new competencies, particularly new skills and values, which cannot be taught merely by providing a presentation. Only through experience can specific skills and values be acquired and developed. As a result, we refer to this method as “experience learning.”
Educators claimed that they were Partially – 3,17 – able to incorporate experiential learning in their digital NF HRE programs. We made note of some of the issues educators face in applying HRE in the digital space: A number of educators face substantial challenges in creating online venues for experiential learning. They are unsure how to completely apply various learning activities online, and they frequently struggle to design entire learning activities (particularly simulations) in the digital domain. While there is a collection of learning activities (particularly simulations) designed for in-person learning activities, educators do not have comparable examples for digital learning activities.
Individual and group learning are both vital in HRE, just like in any other type of learning. Both of these approaches must be used to establish a meaningful learning experience in Human Rights Education. Group learning is especially significant since it allows for reflection and debriefing, which are ultimately necessary for a deeper understanding of human rights and their application, particularly in diverse cultures.
Educators claimed that they were Partially to a Great Extent – 3,68 – able to incorporate both individual and group learning in their online NF HRE programs. During our regional workshops, we took note of some of the challenges educators face when applying HRE in the digital space: Many educators are good at moderating online group discussions, but they find it difficult to assess participants’ behavior and nonverbal communication due to obvious barriers like visual barriers. In certain circumstances, it becomes really hard to facilitate the learning process because some participants keep their cameras turned off for privacy concerns.
Furthermore, educators reported that, from a technical standpoint, they find it much easier to have plenary discussions rather than small ones because it necessitates the use of breakout rooms, which can sometimes pose additional challenges, and they can’t as easily follow their discussions as they can in in-person activities.
Contrary to competitive learning, cooperative learning is a core approach in non-formal education. It is particularly significant in HRE since it allows individuals to learn through dialogue and cooperation with other participants. This method is most commonly utilized for group learning.
Educators claimed that they were Partially to a Great Extent – 3,6 – able to make their online NF HRE programs a space for cooperative learning. During our regional workshops, we noted some of the common features they have when applying HRE in the digital space: many educators employ this approach rather than competitive learning for both in-person and digital activities. They found it useful when doing online group work, however they occasionally struggle to come up with demanding (learning-wise) group activities other than talks.
So, what conclusions can be drawn from this?
Human Rights Education is founded on methodological foundations and educational approaches. They should be used when delivering programs either in person or online. However, given many educators’ experience in providing digital programs and their level of digital skills, it is not surprising that their full application is not always possible.
However, given their importance, we strongly advise you to conduct your own self-evaluation on how you ensure their application in your digital HRE. It should give you a good idea of what you should do next and how to do it.