“School is a place full of surprises, because there are teachers who are more distant from the students, they prefer to keep a more detached relationship. While there are others who prefer to have a closer relationship with us” says Marta (17) from the school Istituto Superiore “Duca Abruzzi – Libero Grassi” from Palermo.
The Institute has been involved in the CARMA project: since October 2016 groups of students from various classes have experienced some novelties in their learning practices. Instead of following all lessons in a traditional front classroom approach, normally practiced in mainstream schools, they have experimented non-formal methods within the formal school environment. Methods such as the Box of Emotions, Petal Debate and the Reciprocal Maieutic Approach of Danilo Dolci (RMA) have been introduced.
At the end of the school year, before summer started, I, Ruta, met with students Marta and Francesco to talk about their experience within the CARMA project. My role in the CARMA project has been the Non-formal Learning Expert, supporting the teachers in testing the different non-formal learning methods in the classroom. I was keen to speak to the students to understand what they thought about collaborative teaching and learning and their suggestions for their own school environment. They are the ones who know best about what they need and what motivates them. I am concerned that students cannot be just passive receivers of information, facts and histories, but that they should become active communicators having a chance to express themselves and to contribute to the transformation of their school environment.
“This year for me has gone very well. In comparison to the previous years, this year was the best for me,” said Marta. “THE BOX OF EMOTIONS technique was really interesting as I had a chance to find out what my classmates felt and I had to guess which classmates wrote which emotion. Non-formal methods in general could help a lot, because even the topics we discussed during PETAL DEBATE were arguments that sooner or later would have been covered in a normal lesson, but the learning outcomes in this case was much higher. As far as I’m concerned with non-formal methods, I can better memorise subject matters, both in literature and in concepts of history”.
Francesco (a recent graduate from the Istituto Superiore “Duca Abruzzi – Libero Grassi”), has had previous experience with RMA technique and non-formal methods. He explains: “surely the most important for this kind of project is to understand the behaviour and personalities of students, because RMA method is basically based on that. Also based on this, through the answers we can understand how to approach a single individual because each individual has its own character, its behaviour, its own emotions. Each one is special in its own way, so for me the most important competence is to be able to understand the student’s mind as much as possible, their expectations, how they would behave in a particular situation, this is a fundamental competence.”
My conversation with Marta and Francesco revealed that non-formal educational methods can definitely motivate them and that’s what they want. However, the transformation is slow as obviously it is not easy to change deep-rooted structures. They confirmed that “unfortunately it is not easy to change, because there are some teachers who have their methods, who are used to a certain way of teaching and, unfortunately, get stuck to their concepts and methods.”
I asked Marta and Francesco what they think should be done to transform school practices to increase students motivation. Their ideas were springing up like mushrooms after the rain:
Francesco: “It would be great to do some training for teachers, to use practices and methods that can increase participation of students as much as possible, which of course the teachers will have to study. I think it must be almost mandatory to make study materials lighter, lighter in different ways, with a different participation, succeeding in empowering students in a different way and surely this can change many things.”
Marta: “all teachers have to be trained and they have to follow updated courses where they can learn about non-formal methods. The teachers should first learn it and then they can teach them.”
Francesco: “I would invest a lot more in young teachers, the new ones. Perhaps those who are already here (at school) for many years are less likely to do these kind of projects, because they remain within their old teaching habits, where things have to be done according to their style and that’s it. Focusing on young teachers and training is crucial.”
Marta: “The teachers should know body language, because there are many intrusive people who do not express their emotions and maybe knowledge about the body language would help that teachers understand students better.”
Students definitely know what they want and what motivates them, so why don’t we give them a chance to express themselves and why don’t we take their voices into consideration?
“Sometimes in the classroom, sometimes for the teacher, sometimes for students, it is difficult to establish a good relationship. The relationship is limited to: I teach you, and that’s enough, the relationship ends there, and in my opinion this is wrong. We should create almost a relationship of friendship. Of course each one has its own role, but this relationship we look for is very important.” Francesco – student at Istituto superiore Duca Abruzzi – Libero Grassi, Palermo
The CARMA project is co-funded by Erasmus+ KA3: Support for policy reform, Prospective Initiatives Forward-Looking Cooperation Project and addresses the promotion of “innovative, collaborative teaching and learning” within school education.
Follow the project on Facebook at www.facebook.com/CARMA.Project