Grundtvig Learning partnership

Improving the environmental communication and awareness of migrants and social disadvantaged citizens

The Project ICAMS was implemented as a new methodological and didactical concept for the educational work with migrants and socially disadvantaged people. This concept should be developed within the right environmental communication.
All the involved partners have their unique profile but all of them put their main focus on working with migrants and socially disadvantaged people in their own way.
All the partners are NGO´s, except the Italian partner, who runs a big school. The main focus of the Polish and Greek partners lies on public relations, therefore they do a lot of activities and campaigns. The Italian partner and the coordinator of the project are involved in the everyday educational work with children and teenagers as well as with adults.
In this learning partnership we all acted on the assumption that reality doesn´t exist, but all the participants would create it through their observation. The methodological and didactical concepts were built up within a systematic-constructivist point of view.

Central concepts and definitions in this context are:
-    Observation
-    Self-organisation
-    Systemic
-    Viability
-    Structural linkage

In our understanding observation is the key to the construction of reality. Observation means first of all making a determination between seeing and perception.
It is important in this context that constructivism doesn´t include reality as a single approach attribute.
I see what I see and I don’t see what I don’t see. The consequence of this fact is that so-called blind spots will appear. Observation and determination are highly individual and depend on many factors, for example life conditions, milieu experience, health conditions as well as school and work socialisation. Our conclusion is: what we know means that without observation it wouldn´t be possible for us to gain new knowledge and that without knowledge we can neither observe nor determine.

In this context observation means having skills and abilities. Being teachers, adult educators, environmental campaigners or PR-specialists we are able to observe what and how other people observe, this includes the observation of the methods and didactics other people work with. Observation and determination are the basis for every kind of communication.  Determination of information, determination of the content of this information and the process of understanding as such are important components of the communication.

This triple view of observation and determination forms our understanding of communication. It means that our activities and deeds must be carried out in a way that many possibilities, further alternatives and linked communication appear.
The next central concept of our contemplation is the concept of self-organization. The cognitions of the Chilean biologists Humberto Maturana and Francesco Varella (the autopoiesis-concept) form the basis of this concept. The concept of self-organization succeeded especially in the education as self-directed learning. Which cognitions are important for us? All the people (as well as the participants of our learning partnership) are directed by their own standards (of values) and their own reference frames. The entire learning and cognition processes are connected with the individual biographical experience. These processes are emergent, independent, self-dynamic and controllable (under certain conditions). We have faced all of this in our subprojects, e.g. in the production of the podcasts. The learning and cognition processes happen in the context of the biographically gained structures. These processes as well as the perception of the reality don’t represent the reality as such. In the brain they proceed biochemically and functionally united. They are structurally linked to each other.
The central concept of the systematics contains and describes the method that is based on the cybernetics, on the chaos theory as well as on the theories of Maturana/ Varella and Niklas Luhmann. The systematic thinking always depends on the context. It is relational, circular, but it is not deterministic. We distinguish biological, psychological and social systems. Seminar groups, classes, learning partnerships, for instance, belong to the social systems. The latter consists of communication. The same is valid for the society as entirety. Our learning partnership ICAMS as well as the participating studying groups are complex, self-reinforcing systems that cannot be controlled very easily. From our experience we know that any kind of mechanical transfer of knowledge is not successful because it is just as little differentiated (under-complex). E.g. on our way of production of the podcasts and arrangement of the public events connected with active educational work we faced irritation and perturbation. The teaching and learning processes are intentionally constructed in the way that people and social systems (e.g. classes, parenthoods and seminars) are kept occupied with some other contents. The more similarities and differences are dealt with, the more productive is the work.
The next systemic-constructivist key concept is the concept of viability. As already mentioned, in this context we don’t speak about the truth but about usefulness, benefit, practicability, clearance, i.e. we speak about the viability instead of the truth. Certainly, it is also fixed on the constructivism itself. The pedagogical viability of the constructivism must constantly prove its correctness.
The last central concept we are discussing here is the structural coupling (interconnection). It is well known that the construction of the reality takes place in our brain. The brain works operatively unified and it has its individual distinctive biographical history for every single person. These operatively united systems (autopoesis concept) can also disturb/ irritate each other. Consequently it comes to the so-called structural coupling, to the alteration of the perspectives, to the ability of the connection between “I” and the world (i.e. between a person and a social system) and to the appropriate teaching and learning conduct. So it comes to the communication.
In our case it is important to record that the teachers and learners are determined by certain structures and by their own biography. The teachers teach what they experienced and learned themselves and what they consider to be viable and significant. The learners have their own experience, cognitions, emotional structures and their own ways of perception. They can digest only the knowledge that they are able and want to digest.
Although there is no special constructivist method of education, this theoretical statement has consequences for the methodological-didactic approach. For our learning partnership with regard to the methodology and didactics it can be described as following:
All our methods (production of podcasts, development of questionnaires, preparation and implementation of campaigns and seminars) are the basis for the activating constructions. Our methods of construction come from the available constructions of the reality that belong to the people involved. It means that biographical methods, visualizing methods, perturbation methods and reflexive methods are used.
The results of this work are e.g. exchange of experience, promotion of self-directed learning and alteration of the perspectives. In the context of constructive observation the active learning means that 1) all the available resources are used, 2) background knowledge is put into words, 3) memories are brought into mind, 4) available experience is connected with the environmental communication, 5) cognitions are tied on the emotional level, 6) cognitive learning benefit from emotions and 7) gained knowledge is used in different contexts.
In our learning partnership there are
-    Balanced relationship of different places for learning (schools, educational institutions, market places, parental homes)
-    Variable social forms
-    Individual work with partners in small groups as well as in plenary sessions
-    Different forms of action (reading, writing, producing screenplays, acting, artistic designing, developing of questionnaires, discussing, work with the public)
-    Various forms of organization which were found through small self-controlled projects and imparting of knowledge at different levels.

It is important to mention that the methods used here are not only oriented towards participants but they also vary depending on certain situations. The aimed environmental communication among migrants and socially discriminated people in this learning partnership was intentionally proposed in very different variations. 
Asking the question, what has been eventually learned, we find ourselves in the sphere of didactics. In the interplay between construction, reconstruction and destruction not only the teacher but also the learner is a didact. The both know best which didactics for the other side is viable.
In a possibly constructive dialogue it is necessary to show didactic skills, in order not to fail the complexity of the world, i.e. not to be swamped with information and specifications.
Learning content must always depend on the context and biography. In our learning partnership we have included the learners into the description of the problem, e.g. per surveys. We activated background knowledge. We represented new knowledge with regard to the individual needs of the participants, e.g. per podcast. We paid attention to the fact that new knowledge was practically used by the learners, e.g. parents, participants of the seminars, pupils and all the others who participated in the campaigns. We included the new knowledge in the reality constructions of the learners.
We acted on the assumption that learning contents were not a fixed basis and that knowledge transfer is not a transportation of knowledge as such, but some kind of communication between specialist knowledge (expertise) and empirical experience (know-how).

All of this is what we took into account in our pedagogical work within the learning partnership ICAMS.