Creative ways of bringing learner voices forward: reflections from study visits to Paris and Rome

What can adult learning organisations do to strengthen the voice of their learners, especially those who are the most vulnerable? Belgian adult educators  travelled to Paris and Rome to explore pedagogical and advocacy tools that can benefit migrants and refugees.

Le Monde des Possibles is an adult learning centre based in Liège, Belgium that supports newly arrived migrants. Among its main activities, Le Monde des Possibles counts French language courses, seeing language as a tool for learners to claim rights and participate in society on equal terms. From 29 November to 2 December, Siham Assri and Minh-Tri Tran travelled to Paris to investigate approaches that support active participation of learners in courses of French as a foreign language. 

While visiting adult learning providers in Paris, there was one technique that they found particularly interesting, and subsequently put into use.

“Our host organisation FISPE holds workshops of reading out loud, parallel to writing workshops,” says Siham. “It’s a technique that we found interesting, which is why we decided to try it out this year for our courses of French as a foreign language under A2.2 level. We have contacted a professional with experience in working with gestures, voices, emotions, or character creation. Our aim is to involve our learners by creating a common project and bringing forward their own voice.”

Another discovery concerned the systemic approach to “sociolinguistic” workshops, which only use authentic teaching materials – created not specifically to be used in a language course, but for native speakers of the language.

“In France, sociolinguistic workshops are organised separately from courses of French as a foreign language. Educators who teach them are also trained in dedicated structures,” says Minh-Tri. “This was a new approach to us, quite different from how we work in Belgium. We are now considering incorporating sociolinguistic workshops in the framework of our French courses, allowing learners to confront real-life situations.”

Study visit at FISPE

From learner voice to evidence-based advocacy

Learner voices were also an important topic of the study visit to Rome, which took place on 10 -14 January 2022. During the mobility, Lorena Espino and Kevin Cocco looked into, among others, how the process of knowledge acquisition is constructed and how the power relationships  underpin it. This topic came up when visiting Associazione Differenza Donna, an organisation that aims to expose, combat, prevent and overcome gender-based violence.

“While visiting Associazione Differenza Donna, we reflected on its feminist methodology which aims to investigate the process of knowledge production at all levels. We looked into its embeddedness in the social realities of women as a group historically neglected, made invisible and dominated by male approaches to scientific knowledge production,” says Lorena.

“We also learnt about advocacy techniques using field research, such as systemic analysis of domestic violence experienced by migrant women. The results are then disseminated and they legitimise the advocacy that fights for the rights of the people concerned. We found it interesting as it also legitimises the operator’s ability to tackle issues in which it has itself become an expert,” she adds.

During the stay in Rome, Lorena and Kevin visited several other organisations that have found creative ways of engaging vulnerable adults in learning.

“It was interesting to see ways of involving young people in social economy and empowerment through visual and artistic productions, which we witnessed for example in Spazio Chirale,” says Kevin, adding that they have found the mobilities inspiring for organising future projects.

Study visit at Spazio ChiraleThe study visit was financed with the support of the Erasmus+ mobility project FOCAL: Fostering Outreach through Capacity-building for Adult Learning organisations (2020-2022), coordinated by the European Association for the Education of Adults.

Text: Aleksandra KozyraPhotos: Le Monde des Possibles

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