In July 2022 (17th-23rd July 2022), several teachers at The Alexandru Ioan Cuza National College, Galați, Romania, had the opportunity of attending a most interesting course entitled “Innovative teaching methods for teachers, school and adult education staff”, as part of the Erasmus+ programme. The course was held in Bologna, Italy and was offered by ELA (Erasmus Learning Academy), a training centre that focuses on the design and implementation of training and learning courses for teachers, education staff and students, with the support of European programmes, especially Erasmus+.
ELA represents a network on the Italian territory where it cooperates with public institutions, schools of all levels, VET centres, universities, adult education providers and other formal and non-formal education institutions. This educational centre focuses on the design and implementation of international training courses and mobility placements for teachers and education staff, offering a range of innovative and practice-based courses tailored for educators, especially teachers. The focus is on learning outside the classroom in a cooperative and international environment. The pedagogical methods used are based on experiential training, learning by doing and exchange of best practices.
The overall aim of this course is to promote innovation in education by familiarizing workers, in the field of education with innovative teaching methods while sharing the best practices and experiences with fellow participants from all over Europe, also gaining a wider understanding of the educational process in Europe. The participants were presented with an overview of different innovative teaching methods as well as their benefits for the learning process and the attitude of the students. The key objectives of the training programme were:
• Familiarising participants with the principles and key components of project-based learning;
• Designing, preparing and delivering interactive learning activities from the sphere of non-formal education;
• Using outdoor education for personal, social and relational development;
• Familiarization with and practice of new teaching methods and approaches in an inspiring international environment;
• Exchanging best practices and discussing professional challenges with colleagues and course trainers regarding innovative teaching methods etc.
The trainer emphasized the importance of establishing a real cohesion of the group to allow each participant to feel comfortable and create bonds with the others so as to benefit from the training activity. The course was structured in such a way that it allowed the use of a large number of activities that enabled the creation of a group dynamic through various forms of collaboration. It focused on interactive learning and facilitated dialogue between participants.It combined theory with practical application and included a well-designed approach to monitoring and assessment with clear feedback to participants.The course content related to the course topic and can be used by the participants who teach different subjects in their own context. It provided a cooperative, and stimulating space where we could experiment and practise new tools, strategies and approaches related to Non-Formal Education, Outdoor Education and Project-based inquiry.
The programme was mostly dedicated to practical work meant to help us design, prepare and use activities for a dynamic classroom environment. For example, one activity I particularly liked is The Inclusion Race or 10-Quest Challenge. It is to be done in groups in which members have different disabilities – one member cannot speak, one cannot write, one cannot see, one can only speak their native language, etc. The tasks they have to perform as a team involve the use of all their senses, and students have to rely on each other’s strengths and find a way to compensate for their weaknessess. If they want to complete the tasks, all of them need to contribute and do their bit, which is challenging. Below, there are 10 quests teachers can use as such or can adapt to better suit their needs.
1. Create something for the instructor to wear, such as a hat or tie (10 points)
2. Make a list about something unique about each person of the team (5 points)
3. Sing a song together for at least 30 seconds and record it in a video (15 points)
4. Create a pyramid using 15 post-it – use all of them (10 points)
5. Find as many names of countries as you can in the “Word Search Puzzle” (0,5 point for each country, bonus 5 point if you find all 24 countries)
6. Complete the Crossword “Find the misspelling” correctly (10 points if all correct, 5 points if at least half correct)
7. Name your team and come up with a slogan (1 point for the name, 2 point bonus if it shows originality; 2 points for the slogan, 1 point bonus if it rhymes)
8. Re-create the sounds of the Amazon rainforest with the sounds of your voices and record it (10 points)
9. Create a “10 quests” for your students – you cannot copy this one! (25 points)
10.Create a portrait of the group in which each person is somehow represented (10 points)
In addition to the multitude of game-like activities, essential theoretical information for the teaching activity was also provided. The course contributed significantly to the personal and professional development of the participants. To me, the Erasmus+ mobility was a beneficial experience through which I could get in contact with teachers from different cultural backgrounds interested in developing their teaching skills and I could find out engaging and motivating activities which can be used in the classroom. The content of the course was relevant for the subject I teach and will help me introduce an element of interactivity in my lessons.