The methodology we used is a unique mixture of different education styles and approaches. We tried to use the advantages of all of them in one procedure, created especially for this project. It was tested and carried out simultaneously in six schools in six different secondary schools in EU.
Linear, cyclical and holistic teaching and learning styles can be referred to as methodology applied in a wide range of activities planned. The project was divided into several phases, each building on and enforcing skills developed in the previous one.
First of all, the project activities were carried out in special youth clubs (classes). We created a unique environment where the students could take and practise their responsibility, initiative, cooperation, planning, communication, skills and teamwork, in contrast to ordinary classes, where students basically follow the teacher. Teachers played a role of advisors, supervisors and mentors. Every club elected their main representative/leader – the President. Presidents from all 6 schools worked together as a special team via What´s up or Facebook group.
Every month students were given tasks – to practise a specific skill and create an activity related to a recent international event (chosen by the club presidents). The expert students in cooperation with teachers created materials/texts and basic guidelines for the clubs. The rest was solely up to the clubs and their presidents. Every club managed their tasks in their own management and presented their final outcomes and experience in the school environment and during the YEL club meetings after the ZAMUN conference in Žilina.
To enrich the multicultural experience, we sent students from one club to another for long-term student motilities, to give them the opportunity to work in international settings and multinational groups as well as to develop their language skills intensively.
To create a special challenge, each club formed a delegation of students and teachers, who attended the international model United Nations conference ZAMUN, where they worked in committees dealing with serious global issues, simulating real United Nations agenda in 7 different committees and General Assembly, together with other students from approximately 12 different countries. They had to actively present advanced language, communication, diplomacy, information management and leadership skills in three different languages.
The main focus of this unique methodology is to give students real-life experience of responsibility, initiative, activity, challenge and teamwork, so vital for their future, which can be difficult to achieve in classical educational settings where students get limited real experience and their synergy. Furthermore, we focused on practical development of theoretical skills in the clubs and during the simulations.
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The following ideas were adapted from the original project application – part H: implementation of the methodology and we believe they can be inspirational and guide you through the YEL project process.
At the beginning of the school year – each school outlines the project goals to all students and teachers to make it clear how they can be involved, in what activities they can participate, what IT tool will be used and who the people in charge of the project management and individual activities are. For the long-term study mobilities the head appoints mentors, teachers who prepare the learning agreements and tutors who receive foreign students in the schools.
– once a debate/youth club is created the regular (weekly) work of students interested starts along with the online collaboration of the schools in the virtual space/platform they agree on. To get to know each other students can be given introductory assignments and their presentations can be posted on the project webpage. Students and teachers need to get familiarised with the online work environment based on e.g. e-twinning tools and supporting software. Then the students gain knowledge related to the argumentation, rhetoric, public speaking, debate structure, EU institutions, UN, etc. This should be done directly during the lessons of some subjects (Social Sciences, Geography, European studies, Sociology, foreign languages, mother tongue,) and at the informal club meetings lead either by a student expert or a teacher. If there are foreign students present who join the club it is enriching and motivational for all to debate in English or in a targeted language. All the participants follow the draft of the curriculum (offered here as the project output), which includes activities based on teamwork, discussions, debates, simulations and collaboration with local authorities and peers with focus on communication, argumentation, reasoning, public speaking, leadership, basic diplomatic language and agenda.
– preparation of the model UN session is done by an experienced school (setting an organising committee with specific tasks: MUN procedural issues, logistics, website update, registration of the delegates, appointing Chairs, topics selection, country allocation, conference schedule, accommodation, VIP guests invitation, reports for the media, …)
– students‘ preparation for the conference and online collaboration continues via agreed platform consulting the Study Guides
– teachers facilitate and monitor students´ work, give advice and feedback
– the physical part of the blended mobility (according to the Guide of the Erasmus+ programme) is joint project work of groups of students participating in a MUN (Model United Nations – in our case it was ZAMUN). In this international simulation, students prove their language competence and use developed skills to solve international issues in collaboration with students from different countries. They also meet important people (their country´s ambassador (if the invitation for the opening is accepted), politicians, representatives of local or regional authorities), write resolutions, make speeches, negotiate, get certificates and awards for the best speakers of the committee, socialise, get to know new places, etc.
– participating (accompanying) teachers monitor students´ work, advise or give feedback, share the best practices applied in their home schools to prepare students for an international conference as well as evaluate their progress.
The phases can be repeated in the second or following year(s), enriched by the previous experience and aiming at the development of further leadership skills. Students learn how to prepare and then organise their school debates, speaking competitions, diplomatic simulations (e.g. MEP or MUN) and projects in collaboration with local authorities. The long-term study mobilities can be extended to a longer period. Teachers and the experienced students help the newcomers with the basics and spread the project ideas. The best students can get various positions in the organising structure of the next or a new simulation (e.g. to chair a committee, to be the head of a press team, etc.) to prove and use their advanced leadership skills.