Over the period 2017 to 2019, the partners in this project worked to develop a modular training, which evolved and grew of six separate deliveries of the training. The intention was to create a 5-day training aimed at teachers and creative practitioners who were already involved in delivering cultural activities in co-operation. At a time when issues of diversity and interculturality were of central concern to those working with children and young people, we wanted to explore how teachers and creative practitioners would address these issues in the course of their normal professional practice. We were training people to deal with diversity and we were exploring which parts of our practice could add the most value in cultural learning settings inside and outside of schools.
What follows is a detailed description of the training we designed, explaining all the activities in detail, while providing information about the purpose of each activity, the resources required and how the spaces used should be configured. We know that people will visit the website to find inspiration for their own work and what we propose here will be adapted and reused in ways in which we cannot imagine. We are happy with that.
At the same time, we should also make clear that we do not claim that the work is highly original. It had been suggested and inspired by the work of many others. It is not possible to acknowledge all the sources, and in any case most of the ideas we found we adapted for our own purposes. We are very grateful to the many who have come before us, and we have tried hard not to infringe any copyright by using material in the public domain. However, if anyone feels that we have infringed their copyright or used material without their proper permission, please contact us immediately and we will remove it. Every exercise and activity in the module had alternatives we could have used and so we will replace them.
There are a number of key issues we should stress for anyone wishing to use the material.
Facilitators, trainers and local organisers
Every training was led by at least two facilitators so that the voices of the programme leaders constantly changed. If you are going to run a complete week, then we would suggest you also have more than one facilitator. In addition, each training week was supported by a local organiser. This additional post is of enormous importance. They are there to help to interpret the training into the locality, to help to ensure all the materials are available and to support the logistics, such as accommodation and meals. It is too much for the facilitators to have to do this as well.
For whom the training material is designed
The material is designed for use by experienced trainers. As part of this programme we invited experienced trainers to help us deliver different weeks. Their experience was invaluable, in that they helped us to shape the final training modules, but also we could observe how different facilitators interpret the material. Every good facilitator has their own style and approach, and this is required in addition to the details of the training provided here.
General pedagogical principles
It is important to note that we were always trying to model in the training the pedagogy we felt should be used in schools or in co-operation with schools. In this sense, we were interested in setting challenges and not providing answers, keeping the activities physical, social, emotional and intellectual, being very demanding, not being afraid of taking risks or failing, ensuring everyone was engaged and contributing. The format of activities tried to model the content. This often took us to dangerous places, and there were many emotionally uncomfortable moments. We were also clear that we were not trying to build consensus. It was for each participant to decide what they took from the workshop, what they left believing and wanting to implement. We did not try to provide glossaries. Rather we provided lots of words and debated what they meant for each of us. This is a hard process, much harder than training, which is fixated on communicating pre-determined answers. But learning is at its deepest when it is at its most difficult and anyway there were also incredible highs, moments of excitement, discovery and jubilation, not only for the participants, but for the trainers, facilitators, and partners alike. We probably learnt more than anyone. New friendships were formed, and participants particularly loved the insights they got into the practice, experiences and views of the others. We tried hard to maintain a deep sense of equality, but also expected discipline, such as focus and punctuality.
Who were the participants?
We recruited pairs of teachers and creative practitioners, who had experience of working together in their countries. This was one of the most powerful aspects of the programme. Participants greatly valued the opportunity to explore these ideas together with their counterparts, giving them the time and space to explore them deeply in ways which they rarely have normally worked together. This was re-inforced by the fact that every evening these pairs would be given the opportunity to reflect on the day, privately and together and in their mother tongue. Just watching the pairs as they talked together was very powerful, given the intensity of the engagement and discussion which they showed.
Sharing the schedule with participants
A very short headline version of the training agenda was circulated to participants before they came. However, we think it is important that the full details of the training are not revealed before the training. They are more interesting when they come as a surprise. But also, each training developed its own momentum and additional activities inserted and some deleted according to the interests and dynamics of the group. This is easier to do when you have not given a detailed schedule in advance. However, after the workshop, the full detailed schedule of what was delivered, was sent to each participant for them to use in their professional practice, together with copies of all the presentations and videos used in the training.
Warm up exercises
We think that warm up exercises are very important to ensuring the deepest learning takes place. We have provided in the schedule examples of warm up activities to be used every morning and after lunch. We also invited participants to suggest and lead their own warm up activities, and these were used as substitutes to some of the one’s we were planning. So, in addition to the one’s in the schedule, we added a small selection of alternatives which you can find at the end of the schedule. There is also a wide variety of alternatives available elsewhere on-line. However, getting participants to suggest and lead their own warm up exercises is an important mechanism for ensuring that as the week goes on the workshop feels more and more like a co-creation.
How time works
The detailed schedule of the workshop suggests the time that should be allowed for each activity and exercise. However, every group of participants is different, and it is hard to predict how long to give an exercise. Particularly in the reflections, where most of the learning actually takes place, it is essential to leave space for participants to engage. Not being afraid of letting a silence fall is a sure way of getting the more reluctant engagers to join in. If a rich and constructive discussion is taking place, let it flow. But be ruthless if the conversation is shallow and meandering and move on.
Our approach to name tags evolved over time. To begin with we felt that participants might be reluctant to wear tags. There is also a problem when a programme takes place over a number of days, as the name tags of the day before are often forgotten on yesterday’s clothes. In the end we did use a lot of name tags, because participants wanted to know the names of the other participants, but we kept it informal and low key by having lots of masking tape and marker pens which people can use to quickly fashion themselves a home-made tag.
Many of the activities require you to divide participants into groups of different sizes. It is best to have variety of ways of doing this quickly. You can quickly allocate to each participant a number from 1 to 5, and then get all the 1s to work together, the 2s to work together etc. Or you can have strings cut into different lengths get people to pick piece of string at random, and then all the people with strings of the same length get to work together. Or you can write the name of 5 animals on cards and distribute the cards. Everyone who has been given a card with the same animal has to work together, but they have to find their group by making the sounds of that animal. In other words, all the dogs have to bark and find the other barkers. Have a variety of these tricks up your sleeve to keep the division into groups fun and interesting.
The first full day of the programme is intense and the breaks short. Generally, participants feel by the end of the first day that they would like longer breaks. Discuss it with them. The detailed schedule allows for longer breaks as the week goes on. Allow this to be a response to their needs.
Daily reflection sheet
Another powerful tool for steering the development of the week were the daily reflection sheets. Every participant was required every evening to spend 5 minutes filling in a simple anonymous sheet which had three sections: I liked… I noticed…. I would suggest…. These were collected and the facilitators would read them and discuss them overnight. Changes were made to what we were doing in the light of the comments. New activities were introduced, others deleted. Participants greatly valued this part of the process as it made them not only feel that they were listened to, but they were becoming co-creators of the workshop.
The language issue
One of the basic principles of the training is its multinational approach, which immediately provokes the question how to deal with the variety of languages of participants from 10 to 12 countries. Being aware that this will exclude a lot of potential participants the organisers decided English to be the working language during all sessions. The limitation of the number of participants from every country to a maximum of two pairs guaranteed that English native speakers could not become a dominant group and that more or less all participants – and sometimes even the facilitators – had to struggle with this foreign language. Due to the fact that experiencing very intense training days for the first time in a foreign language was very demanding for all participants we offered them the possibility to reflect on their experiences in national pairs every evening. This reflection phase was very important for the participants and they used it to translate and to deepen the learning of the day in their own language.
Generally, each activity would be led by a single facilitator. However, for the spirit of partnership to be developed, when not leading an activity, facilitators were expected to join in as a participant.
And above all it was unapologetically exhausting with very long days – 12 to 14 hours most days. But the opportunity of working together in this way was so unique, the learning to be done so immense, and the fun to be had so continuous, we feel that the vast majority of participants would not have had it any other way.
The European added value
Bringing teachers and cultural practitioners from many different European countries together is not an easy task for those who have to organise it. But despite the organisational workload, our experiences of the six trainings clearly demonstrated the immense value of this trans-European training model for all parties involved: the participants, the facilitators and the organisers. Being able to surface the many different perspectives we had on the topics we explored, getting to understand and appreciate the many different approaches practitioners had developed to deal with common problems, has been an eye-opening experience for most of the participants. Learning together the ways in which the complex and multi-facetted topic of diversity is discussed and translated in social activities or political programs in different European countries, simultaneously helped and encouraged us to rethink one’s own position and to feel connected to the very abstract and complex concept of Europe.
Local, regional, national or cross-border adaptation
From the start of the process of developing and testing the training, we recognised the needs of the different stakeholders involved in the process, to develop local, regional, national or even transnational training concepts with neighbouring countries, based on the training material and experiences of our project. We encouraged these developments and gave space for the further development of these ideas at some of our project meetings. But we want to emphasise, that this training focussed explicitly on a European or at least multinational learning experience for pairs of teachers and cultural practitioners. As soon as you change one of the basic components of the concept and adapt the whole training or some exercises of it to your specific situation, be aware of the consequential impact of such a change on all aspects on the training module. This may impact the overall setting, the composition of participants, the language issue or other elements, which are closely linked to the intense learning effect you want to achieve.