Since 2014 adult education MA and PhD students, professors and stakeholders from Europe and all over the world have been gathering to University of Würzburg for two weeks of theories and practices of adult education and lifelong learning. This year the Winter School featured an important change: for the first time it was also open to adult education practitioners, who were invited to contribute to the discussions with their experience. This was made possible thanks to the INTALL project (2018-2021), funded by the Erasmus+ programme, which is developing joint pathways for higher education students and practitioners in adult learning.
The first week of the winter school gave the participants an opportunity to reflect on theories and approaches and use them to analyse European and international lifelong learning strategies. We met key European stakeholders in lifelong learning and visit local providers of adult and continuing education. During the second week, students and practitioners worked in comparative groups on specific subtopics and had the chance to reflect on the way different issues of lifelong learning (for example professionalization of adult educators, participation, quality assurance) are treated in selected countries.
The presence of adult education practitioners this year has introduced new dynamics, challenges and opportunities as highlighted by Prof. Dr. Regina Egetenmeyer:
“I think the presence of the practitioners has been really valuable. I had two practitioners in my group, and they didn’t only present their good practice, they also provided the context and the needs of the area in which they work. They made clear that education is not an isolated world.”
I also asked the practitioners affiliated with EAEA about their experience. Laura (from EAEA member organization ACEFIR in Spain) told us:
“I expected to acquire knowledge about the different and transnational perspectives in regard to adult education and lifelong learning and I can say I got this. I was especially interested in knowing the specific policies on adult education and basic skills in relation to empowerment, as well as the different kind of providers and main areas of lifelong learning in every country. In my group I could learn the main challenges regarding literacy and empowerment in many countries from all over the world. I had inputs about the different programmes that are carried out at the government level to face the challenges of literacy, gender equality and empowerment.”
Geraldine, who is a former participant of the EAEA Younger Staff Training (from Azambuja Qualifica Center in Portugal) reflected her experiences of the winter school and comparative group “The European Union and lifelong learning: impact on national/regional adult education policies”:
“I felt enthusiastic because this was a chance to share practical information about the work of a technician in recognition, validation, and certification of competencies. I had the opportunity to work with the comparative group one, where the models of lifelong learning policies proposed by Lima and Guimarães (2011) were subject of analysis, these consist of the democratic emancipatory model, modernization and state control model and the human resources model.”
According to Geraldine, the intensive learning week allowed the participants to gain insight on policies of each of the countries represented in the group, as well as define the similarities and differences of the policies and providers.
“It was a very positive experience for me. I learned a lot about policies in other countries, and I hope I contributed with practical examples and information that will be useful for the MA and PhD students who want to be adult educators in the future”, Geraldine adds.
Talking about my experience, this was my second time attending the Winter School, and I feel I have a special connection to it. Five years ago, while still at university, I decided to apply for an Erasmus+ scholarship for a year abroad, and I only knew that I wanted to go to Germany and take classes on education policies. Doing web research, I found information about the Winter School and the other courses offered by the department of adult and continuing education and, not having heard about Würzburg before, I chose it as my destination.
Thanks to this choice, I had not only the opportunity to live one of the best years of my life in a city I fell in love with, but also attend the Winter School, meet inspiring people and deepen my interest for adult education and lifelong learning.
Back then, I would have never imagined that four years later I would be coming back, this time as part of the EAEA staff! Attending again as a practitioner gave me the opportunity to engage in the discussions with a broader and deeper understanding, but also reflect on my own journey in the past few years, and share it with some of the students. I encouraged them to take every opportunity because they never know where it could eventually lead!
Applications to the Winter School 2020 are now open! Organisations affiliated with EAEA are eligible for travel and subsistence grant. Find out more from the call and apply by sending your CV and letter of motivation to aleksandra.kozyra(at)eaea.org by 10th September 2019.
Read more about the grants: Winter school 2020 call_EAEA practitioners (pdf)
Text: Silvia Tursi