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A European project on the Critical Review of the School Curricula
To understand our planet is not enough an article in the newspaper, a conference or a school day on some wordlwide issue. Actually sometimes we spend two hours at school sitting in following a debate on peace and then for all the years spent in the classroom we study history by focusing on the wars ...we spend half an hour to read an article on the emergence of Brazil and South Africa, but in all school levels about Brazil or South Africa our teachers don’t speak.
To get out of these mental cages we need a new teaching that for the 13 years we spent in classroom make us reason day after day about the world and about the connection of planetary events with the here and now. And this new teaching is not to be conducted outside of school hours. It is during the time of history, geography, economics that we can learn to connect the global and the local issues … but only the curricula of the various subjects and textbooks may help teachers and students.
The project Critical rewies of the disciplines has done this. From 2013 to 2016 it has promoted in 6 European countries the renewal of the teaching of history, geography and economics in more than 100 schools. The results are: interdisciplinary learning experience in schools; documents on new approaches to teaching and a closer relationship between NGOs, schools, universities, educational authorities and publishing houses on the themes of education suited to the global society.
The project “Critical review of the historical and social disciplines for a formal education suited to the global society” - Ref. DCI-NSAED/2012/280-225 is funded by the European Union through the program EuropeAID, has the NGO CVM Ancona as lead applicant and these NGOs and LA as partner.
GLOBAL CITIZENSHIP EDUCATION IN THE HISTORICAL AND SOCIAL DISCIPLINES
EXAMPLES OF TEACHING AND LEARNING UNITS from AUSTRIA, CZECH REPUBLIC, IRELAND, ITALY, NETHERLANDS
“Critical review of the historical and social disciplines for a formal education suited to the global society”
Between 2013 and 2016 the project “Critical review of the historical and social disciplines for a formal education suited to the global society” promoted an investigation in 6 European countries (Austria, Bulgaria, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, and the Czech Republic) by 12 NGOs and by a Local authority (Marche Region) in the field of global school education in order to renovate the teaching of history, geography and economics in over 100 schools.
The project benefited from a close collaboration between university researchers, NGOs and schools in order to achieve:
both the General goal:
In order to use and disseminate the results, the project included the publication of some Teaching and Learning Units as teaching models for EU teachers. They are the reason for this work.
The following materials were produced by the three-year project, taking into account the specific contributions and visions from the different member states of the partnership:
The method used in the project reinforced the quality indicators both of investigation and teaching experimentation.
The project started from the long experimentation and research carried out by the project leader CVM over the years on the renovation of school teaching with a global and intercultural approach.
The work benefited from the best University researchers and professors, first in Italy and then abroad, in the fields of pedagogy and disciplinary teaching.
Consistently with this approach, the project used an International Scientific Committee that created theoretical and operating guidelines for the production of teaching materials, monitoring and validating them.
The Scientific Committee chose a participative approach, fixing the general criteria, offering new tools - in particular an interscalar and interdisciplinary framework for the teaching of history, geography and economics with a global approach. At the same time, the NGOs were given the opportunity to include their information in the different national school contexts with the necessary flexibility.
At operating level, the base of the teaching action that was also carried out in schools with a participative method by groups of teachers coordinated by the various Italian and European NGOs partners of the project consisted in the production and experimentation of new Teaching and Learning Units, that is to say consistent cycles of curricular lessons according to the guidelines drafted by the Scientific Committee created by CVM.
The Teaching and Learning Units are:
- composed of texts, iconographic supports, interactive teaching proposals and
- based on the following principles:
The Teaching and Learning Units addressed a specific topic/issue which was developed during part of the curricular hours of history, geography, social sciences and economics, using texts, iconographic materials, interactive methodologies and research proposals.
In particular, in each country and in each region where the project was carried out, the partner NGOs:
although it was not initially included in the project actions, the partners considered the participated assessment in itinere as extremely important.
During a residential workshop, which was organized in the first year of the project, the NGOs reached an agreement and produced two assessment tools:
The single scheme for each of the two tools was validated by the Scientific Committee and adapted by the NGOs to the different national school contexts before submitting it to teachers and students.
The results obtained so far include 100 interdisciplinary learning experiences in schools; the production of documents and teaching materials on the new teaching approach; a closer relationship between NGOs, schools, universities, school authorities and publishing company on education in accordance to global society; a pilot project on the new relation between sectors, such as international cooperation and education in the Marche Region (which is being disseminated in other areas).
Towards a new teaching
1. Teaching and Learning Units: potential “bricks” for a review of the school curriculum
The central elements for the implementation of these objectives are the construction and diffusion of alternative Teaching and Learning Units (TLUs), which are considered as leverage to trigger a process of change that involves the interests, the goals and the tools of the teaching activity.
Innovative curricular teaching materials that can be effectively used in the daily work are a privileged means to change the education-teaching practices in an effective and diffused way, reorienting them towards global citizenship educational goals.
The history, geography, education to citizenship and economics TLUs created with the methods illustrated below and included in the curricular syllabus are a flywheel of the epistemological review of disciplines. They are useful supports for the daily classwork and at the same time a solid theoretical reference.
Through these educational-teaching proposals, the contents and the methodological practices of the NGO world can become part of the curriculum made by the teachers. This creates the conditions to bridge the diarchy that has existed so far between the supporters of the former on one side – external experts who usually intervene outside of the curricular hours – and the action of the latter on the other side, as well as to introduce, finally and structurally, the innovative work done by the best NGOs and by the major university researchers in the school curricular practice.
Following is an analytical description of the goals and decisions indicated to the NGOs and the schools by the work group of the European project: school institutions and international cooperation operators proposed and developed the Global Education TLUs in the target classes.
2. Goals and construction of the new TLUs
As mentioned above, the construction of alternative TLUs is part of a proposal for pedagogical-teaching renovation known as global education with the main purpose of forming cosmopolitan citizens who are culturally open and socially active.
The intention to achieve such goals involves the inclusion of intermediate goals in each TLU, such as:
Accordingly, the construction of the TLUs must necessarily involve three fundamental steps:
The importance of the three steps in the curricular planning requires a detailed discussion of each of them.
(a). Choosing the topics
The following topics are significant examples that were proposed during the European project, which satisfy all the indicated characteristics:
Evidently, the concrete work cannot do without some fundamental assumptions that are typical of the TLU central concept, such as:
In addition to contents (or topic) issues, the innovative character of the TLUs requires a profound review of the methodological and especially of the pedagogical and teaching approaches that are normally used by teachers, including the ones that are most open to global education.
In order not to risk proposing topics that are meaningful only with a merely frontal transmission classroom practice – thus limiting the students’ curiosity, their motivation for learning and involvement level – the TLU must be constructed in such manner that the each topic is presented with a plurality of methodologies and with multiple “teaching mediators” of active, iconic, analogic and symbolic type1.
Of course, there are no universal recipes for everything and everybody; the specific choices must not oppose the teaching and communication style of each teacher. Nevertheless, some general indications can be helpful to make sure that the educational-teaching proposals are characterized by a good correspondence of intents between the methodological choices and their contents.
More and more frequently, teachers need to reorganize and reinvent curricular knowledge and their competences, such a redefinition being imposed by an ever-changing reality. In these cases, the use of interpretative, heuristic and constructivist teaching techniques is the only line of horizon that can favour the autonomous thinking and learning of students in accordance with their educational needs.
Translated into operating terms, a suggestion could be to represent the TLUs graphically in a double-entry matrix (Fig. 1)
Fig. 1. Example of table used to order the essential components for the development of TLUs during the construction stage.
by entering the teaching subgoal, the contents description and the relevant methodologies to be used next to each step. Methodologies should aim at activating and involving students in the solution of problems starting from their life experience: the involvement of students is necessarily linked with issues/problems they can evaluate as concrete and capable of answering their questions on the present time. Reference is made to the formulation of proposals for investigations, to the development of structured debates and eventually to the execution of simulation games, whenever teachers have the necessary competences.
However, the adoption of interactive methodologies does not guarantee an authentically innovative teaching approach: in fact, teachers may choose a meaningful topic (such as the deterioration of the environment), relate what happens at global level with local facts, involve other disciplines in the work and use a large variety of interactive methodologies. Nevertheless, in spite of their efforts, they may be unable to solve other fundamental teaching and pedagogical problems, being trapped in a multidisciplinary (i.e. NOT interdisciplinary) and Eurocentric (i.e. NOT intercultural and unable to offer the students a decentralized viewpoint) approach.
(c) The approach, i.e. the intercultural and interdisciplinary approach
The meaning of a really innovative, interdisciplinary – not merely multidisciplinary2 – and authentically intercultural – which is able of producing decentralization competences3 – can be illustrated through the examples illustrated below. The first two examples refer to study cases that can be transformed into TLUs. Instead, the third example is a critical analysis of the ways in which such a popular topic as international migration can be addressed.
Example 1. Biting into the Honduras forest. At the beginning of the Third Millennium, if you had asked a teenager at McDonald’s to list the negative consequences of hamburger consumption, the answer would have probably been one of the following three: a) “I don’t know”; b) “They get you fat over time”; c) “Some people say workers are not treated well”.
Probably, nobody – not even the people with a higher age and/or a higher social awareness – would have mentioned deforestation in Central America. Instead, the relation between the two phenomena undoubtedly existed: the demand for hamburger meat was met with cattle raised in Honduras (given the lower production costs in the country). However, in front of the growing meat demand for fast food chains, pastures were no longer sufficient for the amount of cattle to be raised, unless they proceeded with a diffused deforestation to create new pastures, as it happened on a regular basis in the Sixties and Seventies.
This case can be an excellent hint for a TLU as long as it is discussed to show its full potential, consistently with the aforementioned elements. As a matter of fact, it has a strong interdisciplinary potential: a single issue/problem (Mac Donald’s hamburgers) can be addressed with decoding tools provided by:
The case is also interesting in terms of intercultural approach and development of the capacity of assuming the viewpoint of the others together with our own (decentralization).
The issues involved in such a problem are manifold and can be classified at three levels:
A teaching approach able to favour decentralization is not satisfied with the first or second level. Instead, it attempts to create a TLU in which the first two levels are integrated with the third one, which is a larger, less Eurocentric level capable of developing complex thought. At this regard, a great educational sociologist such as Edgar Morin states: “Pertinent knowledge must address complexity [...]. Complexity exists when the different elements (such as the economic, political, sociological, psychological, affective and mythological elements) are inseparable and when there is an interdependent, interactive and inter-retroactive fabric between the object of knowledge and its context, the parts and the whole, the whole and the parts, the parts with the parts. Complexity is therefore the link between unity and multiplicity4”.
Example 2. Economic or aesthetic rationality? Referring to S. Latouche’s La sfida di Minerva5, in several conferences Aluisi Tosolini mentioned many interesting cases to review the teaching approach, with special reference to the need for opening which is typical of the intercultural perspective.
In all examples, two logics, which correspond to two cultural models, are compared: the homo oeconomicus rationality and the rationality that takes into account complexity, as described by Morin.
The most significant case describes how the World Bank noted that Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar, suffered a lack of milk supplies, while in the neighbouring agricultural regions the farmers-cattle raisers had one cow each on average. Following the economic rationality, the World Bank proposed a logical solution, which was difficult to attack: to lend a few dollars to farmers in order to buy a second cow. Obviously, farmers would have contracted a debt, but they would have been able to sell more milk, thus meeting the demand from Antananarivo: in a short time they would have been able to reimburse the loan and increment their income. In spite of the logics, no farmer decided to take advantage of the proposal, because having one more cow they would have needed to milk their cows until late at night, thus losing the opportunity to enjoy the moment that is culturally considered as the most precious time of the day: stop working to watch the sunset.
Although a Western observer may ironically smile, what a person is willing to lose in terms of leisure time and aesthetical and cultural values in order to get a higher salary6 reveals aspects of general and intercultural interest. For example, it can be developed in a TLU centred on economics in coordination with the history teacher (and the geography teacher, the psychology teacher, where possible). An interactive working methodology and approach, in which the students are invited to play different roles, can additionally reinforce a vision of the problem that, by highlighting a plurality of viewpoints, can exercise and develop decentralization competences.
Example 3. One thousand ways to deal with migration. Migration is a typical issue for a global educational approach and is therefore suitable for a critical review of the aforementioned statements.
In terms of interdisciplinarity, the typical case for a global educational proposal with a low coordination level is the one in which two or more teachers decide to deal with migration (or a specific sub-topic) in the same class. The teachers decide to build a TLU by simply agreeing on a couple of very general criteria: 1. All teachers will address the same topic, each of them from the viewpoint of their own discipline; 2. A time schedule is set to complete the activity.
Evidently, in this way the teaching goals, the methodologies, and the contents maps are not coordinated: each teacher works according to his or her sensibility, personal individual competence and the final result will probably be scarcely effective. This would not be an interdisciplinary case, being a mere example of multidisciplinarity.
While still talking about migration, another element of interest is the capability of promoting the actual awareness of the plurality of viewpoints, i.e. an authentic action of cognitive decentralization. To illustrate such an aspect, it may be useful to mention the experience of those teachers who face the topic of current migrations – in Italy and/or in other European countries – not limiting the presentation to the modern situation, but proposing a historical study about ages in which immigrants were the Europeans (the Italians in the Americas). It is an interesting, appreciable effort, but it remains within a context of national or continental history: the viewpoint of those who perceive our land as the point of arrival is not considered.
A richer, more complete approach would include the point of view of the immigrants or of the community that remains in their country of origin: many resources and tools are offered, additionally, by movie production.
In conclusion, it is not sufficient to activate one or more TLUs on migration. Likewise, it is not sufficient to address this topic with interactive technologies or involve teachers from other subjects. Although such an effort would deserve our attention, not being given for granted, it may not be sufficient to guarantee an output based on an authentically interdisciplinary and intercultural approach.
The TLU organization: teaching model and space for competence acquisition
(a) Teaching model
The inseparable unity between educational goals, knowledge, method and assessment of the learning process highlights two main issues: the reference teaching model and the competence issue.
Intercultural education refers to a teaching linked to an objective of change to build an education that does not reproduce the system and has social transformation as ultimate purpose.
Starting from this assumption, among the many possible valid teaching models, CVM decided to use the model of constructive cognitivism for its special attention paid to the active role of the student and for its heuristic-problematic approach to support critical designing abilities.
In such a context the traditional definition of contents must be replaced by the metacognition on concepts that, unlike facts, are relational, procedural, and process-related. Being relational, the concept allows for travelling from a culture to another, promoting encounters and mixing; being procedural and process-related, it represents a historical construction of thought that permits continuous redefinitions of sense and meaning; for this reason, it must be renegotiated from time to time between the multiplicity of possible ones, in view of an open and shared cosmopolitan rule.
Giving a a special importance to didactics oriented to the research dynamics and problem solving in order to trigger change, the specific reference model used by CVM is “Didactics by Concepts”
(b) Competences for education to global citizenship
Competences are a very vast scenario. In the view approached by those involved in global citizenship education, some of them acquire an extremely meaningful value.
Based on such a viewpoint, a possible list is indicated below.
Communication, relation and dialogue
Intercultural education must develop communicative competences in students, such as listening, articulated discussion, respect for other opinions, and negotiation of ideas.
In order to trigger a change in perspective, it is necessary to favour disorientation, decentralization, reception of different viewpoints, together with the capability of looking at situations from different angles, taking empathic positions.
The dynamicity of a society characterized by continuous change and discontinuity requires the capability of identifying the transformation processes, linking the past to the present and the future with a view to potentially increasing the existing situation, which must not be assumed in an uncritical passive way.
Cosmopolitan citizens identify globalism as a criterion to read reality, connecting micro to macro, local scale to national, continental and planetary scale.
Sectorial, fragmented and divided visions must be overcome in a complex society to build links, connections and interdependence that show the necessary linkers between a part and the whole, and vice versa.
Mens critica, diverging thought
Intercultural education must stimulate the decoding of past and present criticalities, and promote at the same time an alternative diverging thought in such manner to work on global problems and on the construction of an intercultural society with a positive creative approach.
Action of imagination
Cosmopolitan citizens must imagine unedited solutions, being aware that there is no one-dimensional solution to complex problems and that the Third Millennium society must be
oriented by a liberation process nourished by shared responsibility in the management of the public good.
Conclusions. Towards new schoolbooks.
The aforementioned principles see TLUs as a possible form in which didactics in consistency with the goals of global education can finally become real. Their agility, the fact that they have a limited duration, that they are easy to place in curricular syllabus converts TLUs in the first potential “bricks” used to implement a didactic approach that is open to globalism and interculture and is able to build decentralisation competences in students that are linked to shared responsibility and to planetary visions of current emergence situations.
With an eye to the future, it is however desirable that the review of topics, methodologies and approaches is also applied on larger scale and on projects with a higher impact in a new alliance between school and civil society, between culture and politics, between ethics and civic actions. The need is to give impulse to the unseen cultural paradigms of “new Humanism” as base for the future transcultural society.
Undoubtedly, the central element in the definition of the actually adopted syllabus is the choice of schoolbooks: books are still the most used tool for teachers and act as hinge in the classroom practice. It is therefore desirable that the aforementioned principles will encourage not only the experimentation of TLUs, but also a renovation of schoolbook production.
For illustrative purposes, in order to make such a statement more concrete, following is a list of characteristics that should be found in the new productions.
It being impossible to provide a complete list of the characteristics of the new productions, we will stop here for now, hoping that these general indications will find a more specific concrete articulation. The wish is that the investigation journey that started in this project in collaboration with national and international NGOs, which are getting more and more involved with the school world, will have a follow up consistent with the educational needs of today’s youth and of future citizens.
Presenting The Teaching and Learning units
The Teaching and Learning Units (TLUs) presented in the other sections of this text were produced by the NGOs of Austria, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, and the Czech Republic that took part in the European project Critical review of the historical and social disciplines for a formal education suited to the global society
Each NGOs had developed more than one TLUs; the ones presented here have been chosen because they are representative of the work of the NGO and because they can be used by teachers in other countries. The TLUs have been translated in English from the original language and an abstract and a presentation about their impact have been prepared by each single NGO responsible of their development.
NB This publication and the pages connected on this website has been produced with the assistance of the European Union. The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of name of the author/contractor/implementing partner/ international organisation and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union.
| Testi e foto forniti da Regione Marche