WHAT SUPPORTS LEARNING? - A RESEARCH PROPOSAL WITHIN A NON FORMAL EDUCATION TRAINING COURSE
School of Education of the Polytechnic Institute of Porto (PORTUGAL)
Since 1999, the Training of Trainers Course (ToT Course) - a non formal education based training approach for educators and facilitators in European youth projects - has been organized 10 times and has offered, up to today, around 250 participants the possibility to further develop their potential as trainers and facilitators.
Due to the high level of continuity of the trainers delivering this course there has been continuous improvement and development from one course to the next. However, the structure and methodology of the course have remained basically unchanged even though the developing youth projects programs bring in new priorities and actions, embedded in endless sources of ambiguity that cross the training and learning activities – the intercultural aspect, the lack of a clear professional profile, working between the needs of the institutions on the one side and of the participants on the other side, the European dimension, etc. As social life in general, this is a field of ambiguity, demanding continuous processes of learning – lifelong and lifewide. Regarding the ToT Course, there was a need to learn about its potential to continue to provide valuable learning opportunities to those who take part in it. So now, a little over ten years into the ToT Course, the course's facilitators have taken the initiative to take on a research approach in order to assess how ToT Course (present structure and methodology) provides support for learning, so that the main purpose of the Course can be achieved in an ever changing social and political context.
A reflection, discussion and decision group has been created, integrating an education researcher and non formal learning and education facilitators, in order to define the ontological, epistemological and methodological aspects of the research design to implement. This presentation aims to communicate to, and gather inputs from, the education field scientific community, regarding the research design within a non formal education initiative, and the potential applications of its outcomes. For that, the proposed route is to 1) establish that the educational approach in the ToT Course is based on constructivist perspectives, centered in the learners as subjects and co-authors of their own learning trajectories and processes, and how this approach is crucial to the research design; 2) present the conceived research design and how it is interweaved in the learning and education activities as part of a set of integrated functions that participative action-research approaches allow ; and 3) explore some of the already perceived results as relevant elements to think and implement next practices in adult learning and education, in hybrid perspectives that go beyond the classical dichotomy between formal and non formal processes and contexts, in a lifewide perspective of learning.