How did you choose the class to work with?
After the CARMA European Workshop in Baida in October 2016 I had chosen one of my classes to try out the non-formal educational methods with them. The choice had fallen, not by chance, on a classroom from the technical tourism school that had been experiencing some problems. Being a class at risk of drop-out, where conflicting relational dynamics emerged immediately and where many of them have failed, i thought it might be the appropriate class to test a couple of NFL techniques in order to motivate them and make them grow as a group.
How did you make the first choice of the technique to be tested with your students?
The choice of the technique was made because of previously made considerations: it was necessary to create a group where everyone felt important. I opted for the PETAL DEBATE technique with the awareness that this would be useful to the whole group as it offers everyone the opportunity to express their opinions. The topic for the discussion stemmed from the Geography course curricula. Therefore, the topic about economic and social indicators led to a reflection on the general concept of well-being. The study of the European continent led to a reflection on the value attributed to being a European citizen.
Did your students express a particular interest in the activities?
Not everyone, however, they lived these moments with real interest and participation, probably because the theme chosen by me was always felt as too “scholastic” and therefore not worth of a lot of attention. Of all the activities proposed, in fact, the only one who had a unanimous interest was the RMA session where the students were asked to speak about themselves and their own interests. Even during the concluding sessions, when the “BOX OF EMOTIONS” technique was tried, there was limited interest in listening. The condition, I believe, is necessary to build more collaborative and less conflicting class dynamics. Moreover, my students were unable to name their emotions.
Which problems have you faced and which suggestions would you give for better implementation of non-formal techniques at schools?
I think the choice of topics on my part has played an important role to obstruct the collaborative growth process because the topics perhaps were distant from the students and their interests. If it is true that any NFL technique should help the teacher in their daily formal classroom work, it is also true that the two moments must be integrated with each other otherwise the non-formal moments are likely to be seen as something “other” and therefore moved to a marginal role. Integrating both formal and non-formal moments is, however, not easy at secondary school where knowledge becomes more and more sectoral and related to content.
What could have made the application of NFL techniques chosen by you in the classroom (Petal Debate and Box of Emotions) more successful?
I think two aspects: the first weak point was the sporadic nature of the meetings, the second weak point was the lack of involvement of an entire class council that, albeit sporadically, would have applied the techniques. So, in my opinion, the technique itself is not weak or ineffective, but the boundary conditions prevented it from showing its full effectiveness. Obviously, in a different class, more motivated and collaborative, the results would have been different. However, and here I repeat, the choice of this class was not made by chance.
Can you say that something has changed within your chosen class?
The assumption about the class, after all, remained valid, so I believe that the absence of striking results is not because of the techniques itself but due to the sporadic nature of the interventions and due to the responsibility given to only one teacher of the class. At the end of the school year, 3 pupils had such an irregular frequency that that they were at a high risk of drop-out, another 5 were not promoted (they have to repeat the class), others still have a judgement suspended and only 4 pupils were promoted. During the last “BOX OF EMOTION” activity, they were asked to express their emotions about the school year. They would “forget” most of what happened during the school year; those CARMA group activities represented the only positive things that happened for many of them. That is, they would forget all the activities that all other teachers have proposed to them during the year, and only those activities sporadic and limited to the Geography course emerged as positive.