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European Innovative Teaching Award
Project

No Place for Hate

School: Școala Gimnazială Nr. 1

2017-1-RO01-KA219-037277_1

Topic(s) addressed

The project’s objectives were primarily to raise students' awareness of other cultures, encourage their learning of foreign languages, and stimulate partners towards the use of ICT communication tools so as to improve their competences in this area. Furthermore, the project aimed to increase the confidence of students from disadvantaged backgrounds by encouraging their active participation in national activities, sports, festivals, and workshops. Through its emphasis on cross-cultural understanding, the project has further strengthened European cooperation, with the topics addressed being inclusion – equity, the integration of refugees, and, international cooperation, international relations, and development cooperation.

Target groups

The project’s target groups were 6 schools from the 6 European partner countries of Romania (the project coordinator), the UK, Turkey, Portugal, Croatia, and Poland. Direct beneficiaries of the project were 18 teachers who participated in the TPM in Santarem (PT plus host teachers), and a further 18 teachers who participated in the final transnational management meeting in Ankara (TK plus host teachers), all of whom demonstrated skills in project management and had at least B2-level English proficiency. With regard to student beneficiaries, 56 pupils participated in three short-term exchange programmes in the UK, Poland, and Romania. The student body comprised of an equal distribution of girls and boys, all of whom were between the ages of 11-14, and had A2-level English proficiency, basic ICT skills, and were open to innovation, new social environments, and demonstrated the ability to learn and work in foreign cultural contexts; a total of 21 teachers participated in the HR training event as host teachers, who also demonstrated the ability to learn and work in other cultural contexts. These teachers were also in possession of A2-level English proficiency, had working knowledge of ICT skills, were open to learning about new methods and innovative practices in learning activities, and were willing to disseminate learning outcomes following the project’s completion. From among participating schools, the project’s indirect beneficiaries consisted of 150 students from various disadvantaged circumstances (different cultures, geographic obstacles, refugees, those with learning difficulties, socioeconomic limitations), more than 4000 pupils (of which approximately 50 were SEN, 45 were refugees, and 50 Roma), more than 200 teachers (and their peers from other local and regional schools), and, 200 parents, grandparents, and members of the local community who participated in art craft, food, dance, and sports workshops. Also, approximately 20 individuals from each partner country’s Ministry of Education/Inspectorate were invited to school workshops that were held during mobilities. Given its emphasis on social inclusion, this project was developed so as to benefit all students, and not just those who were academically successful. Moreover, the project was based on the understanding that minimal progress is an important step in the personal development of every individual – adult or child.

Methodologies

This project was innovative in its proposal of visionary approaches, methods, blended learning activities, and promotion of online learning, with all of the aforementioned implemented among participants through the use of online tools. The project’s basic purpose of training individuals so as to allow them to acquire new approaches to understanding different cultures and thus increase their recognition of the importance of cultural richness and diversity was met, which resulted in an understanding among participants of the necessity to promote economic and social sustainability. Prior to 2017, the school had yet to be involved in such a universal, extensive, and elaborate project, and following our study of the Erasmus+ Project Results Platform, it was clear that although a number of undertakings had previously been carried out in the project’s proposed field, an activity such as the one realised by this project – Diversity Clubs at schools – had yet to be implemented. As such, the Club remains the most distinctive aspect of this project, and continues to be carried out across all 6 partner schools. The Club’s activities facilitated the development of inclusive schools through its welcoming ethos of parents and students, as well as its identification of roles and responsibilities among staff towards ensuring effective communication with students that take into account their various backgrounds and needs. Furthermore, the Club offers a clear and supportive admission procedure that ensures class teachers have access to professional development and/or work in partnership with Language Support staff towards developing programmes that are tailored to students’ needs, which employ monitoring and assessment methods that allow students to demonstrate their knowledge and skills, and prepare them for the arrival of new peers. The aim of the Diversity Club was to expose children to different cultures and increase their understanding of racial and ethnic groups, as well as traditional cultures. This approach was integrated into all of the school’s curriculum including History, Literature, Music, Languages, Art, as well as into the everyday school atmosphere in settings such as exhibitions, sport tournaments, projects using Web 2.0 tools, contests, games, educational and cultural visits, and food workshops. In sum, the project was not just a unit, but instead an all-encompassing undertaking that transcends a belief or a particular philosophy.

Environments

The project’s most relevant horizontal priority was based on the Paris Declaration to prioritise "… actions addressing diversity in (formal and non-formal) education and training, developing social, civic, intercultural competences and media literacy, combating discrimination and segregation, tackling bullying, reducing disparities in learning outcomes affecting learners with disadvantaged backgrounds in particular through innovative integrated approaches.” Today’s most striking challenges, such as social inclusion, the environment, education, poverty, and digitalisation are especially complex, regardless if they are viewed at the local, national, or European level. The project’s educational vision was supported by the ‘whole school approach’ that was implemented by all participating schools, which saw the inclusion of social, pedagogical, and physical elements, with the interaction between children, teachers, staff, parents, grandparents, and members of the 6 local communities having collectively contributed to the school’s success and wellbeing. Teaching and learning practices improved across all partner schools due to the project’s activities, the exchange of best practices, and participation in 4 LTTAs (1 for teachers and 3 for pupils). In responding and aligning to new teaching and learning practices, the project’s activities were implemented in indoor and outdoor spaces, as well as on-site and online, through the use of complementary formal, informal, and (especially) non-formal approaches such as storytelling, TwinSpace, and the Living Library. According to the final evaluation, the use of the three aforementioned approaches led to a favourable outcome for the project’s direct beneficiaries, as well as for the 6 partner schools that were involved in the project. By focusing on the strengthening of cross-sectorial cooperation, the project allowed for greater synergies across social inclusion and blended learning, which led to the promotion of active citizenship, social inclusion, and the prevention of social exclusion. Each week, students and teachers from all 6 partner schools utilised the eTwinning/TwinSpace platform to share their results, cooperate, and exchange best practices, with the aim of promoting intercultural dialogue, fighting social exclusion and discrimination, and promoting diversity; a total of 98 pupils and 10 teachers had registered for the project at the time of its conclusion (Sept. 2019). Student participants undertook a number of activities, including the development of an animated movie by Croatian students, the coding of games by Polish students using Scratch, and the development of an online multilingual dictionary on Padlet, which involved the study, vocalisations, and recordings of expressions used in other countries. All 6 schools demonstrated their innovative abilities by participating in the project’s activities, with a given school’s growth in innovation measured by the number of innovative methods it acquired within the partnership, the degree of staff involvement in proposed activities, and the unity of its teachers. Furthermore, since 2018, the Romanian school has continued to implement optional curricula complete with innovative activities and methods that were learnt during the project, with this optional curricula proving to be a great success, and implemented annually as a result of parental requests. The optional curricula, which is overseen by the headmistress, have seen the participation of 8 classes (approximately 260 students) over the last three years, with lesson plans and activities gathered in a folder in the teachers’ common room, that is accessible to all for use in everyday classes. Throughout the project’s implementation, the city’s mayor supported the school with its technological needs by providing students with tablets, and teachers with laptops.

Teachers

By developing their capacity to act purposefully and constructively in directing their professional growth and those of their colleagues, teachers who were involved in this project have themselves been transformed into agents of change. Moreover, in addition to an increase in the European dimension across all 6 schools, a number of E+ KA229 project have since been implemented in these schools. Romanian teachers have contributed to the development of a new and improved European Development Plan for their school, with the school having implemented 5 E+KA229 partnerships since 2019. Likewise, the Turkish school has implemented 5 such partnerships, the Croatian school 3, and the Polish and Portuguese schools, 1 each. All of the project’s 6 coordinators have also developed their personal competencies in the management of European Erasmus+ projects, with 2 of them having successfully applied as coordinators for Erasmus+ KA229 partnerships in 2018-2019-2020, while the other 4 served as partners in 14 E+ KA229 projects that were implemented by different schools across the EU. Among participants, 25% of the project’s direct beneficiaries demonstrated an increase in their skills and competencies – particularly in ICT and their command of the English language. Furthermore, participants honed in their expertise in the field of education as heads of departments and authors of student activity books and notebooks, thus becoming innovators and transformational agents within the school environment. They also organised staff workshops every 3 months, as well as 3 workshops with their peers after each LTTA so as to disseminate and capitalise on knowledge and new skills of Web 2.0 tools, Scratch coding, and ICT that were acquired during the mobility in Croatia. In addition to stimulating cooperation and peer-to-peer learning, international cooperation and joint staff teaching provided another new dimension to staff teaching approaches. Such cooperative measures between partner countries and international institutions allowed teachers to increase their competence in the field of education with regard to an appreciation of cultural diversity and synergies, thus encouraging the preservation of cultural heritage. Lastly, this project facilitated the exchange of good practices, and the creation of tangible results that benefited all partners, resulting in increased prestige for all participating schools, and broad-ranging benefits for students, schools, teachers, and local communities alike.

Impact

The project enabled both teachers and students to acquire new skills and competencies in English language learning and ICT, in addition to improvements to their academic, social, personal, and spiritual spheres. In addition to professional improvements, teachers became better able at providing their students with enhanced education practices that allowed them to achieve their fullest academic potential, with 80 individuals (both students and teachers) having been direct beneficiaries of the project through their participation in more than 100 mobilities. Furthermore, 21 teachers were awarded with the Europass Mobility Certificate (confirming their acquisition of new skills), and a further 20 developed their project management skills by participating in 2 transnational project meetings. A total of 58 students participated in mobilities, all of whom were later integrated into 3 short-term exchange programmes with students from host schools. The project represents an approach to educational intervention that improves the social inclusion of students and their local communities, with the “achievement of relevant and high quality skills and competences” being its other major priority. The project’s other goals were to keep abreast with the newest methods and best practices in European education; to contribute to the long-term development and internationalisation of schools; to exchange good practices in the interest of increasing adaptability and quality; to assist in the internationalisation of schools, and, the continuous training of teaching staff towards improving student wellbeing. Furthermore, the project facilitated greater sociocultural understanding among participants of partner countries, increased student confidence by raising their self-esteem and sense of self-reliance, and enhanced their emotional and interpersonal intelligence. In particular, this project impacted students within the 11-14 age group, and involved more than 4000 European students, of which 56 were direct beneficiaries (having participating in transnational mobilities). The project brought another dimension to participants’ teaching approaches as a result of international cooperation, blended learning, project visits, student exchange programmes, and joint staff teaching training events – all of which had immense impacts on participants, as well as on the motivation of schools in increasing education quality and student facilities. Since the first year of the project’s implementation, the school has observed a general shift in innovation with regard to its teaching methods brought about by the project’s partnership, which was indicated by the high degree of staff involvement in proposed activities, and the coming together of a united and responsible group of teachers. Efficacy of the project’s activities was determined by a 5% improvement in students’ results, and its promotion of interethnic communication and intercultural dialogue, with the project having increased democracy levels and inclusivity among the school’s organisations. Parents were also impacted by the project’s activities, as it facilitated the building of a stronger communication bridge between them and their children. Moreover, as parents gradually came to understand the function of Erasmus+ projects, they also became more informed of the benefits such programmes bring to their children, with a corresponding increase in the number of parents who have familiarised themselves with the European issues addressed by this project. The project has also resulted in a broad awareness of a European identity, and of the commonalities that unite all 6 schools, with interschool cooperation noted in a number of instances, such as when the Croatian coordinator implemented an eTwinning programme that helped Romanian students learn how to code robots. Through this project, the school has encouraged its students, teaching staff, and local communities to reflect on the issue of tolerance and intolerance, and, brought another dimension to teaching approaches through international cooperation, blended learning, project visits, students exchange programmes, and joint staff teaching training events on the everyday use of ICT and Web 2.0 tools. Additionally, the impacts of the aforementioned activities have raised the school’s prestige as an institution that constantly seeks to incorporate a European dimension into its teaching programmes and the broader community, and which seeks to continuously improve students’ and teachers' key competences and skills in spoken interactions, literacy, and ICT knowledge. In addition to developing its digital dimension, the project has increased the democratic and inclusive nature of the school’s organisations, and enriched their awareness of the historical, geographic, cultural, and economic dimensions of each European partner country through its multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches. At the local level, the project’s bringing together of students, teaching staff, parents, and the school’s administration ensured effective communication and understanding among these key project partners. The project’s efficacy is evidenced by a 5% improvement in students’ results, with the Romanian school being awarded the 2018 ‘European School’ certificate and trophy (increasing its prestige both locally and internationally). Moreover, 20% of students assumed leadership positions across different activities (particularly extracurricular activities within a non-formal learning context), and continued to function as leaders once they returned to their rural communities, with class conflicts having been reduced by 42% following the completion of the Diversity Club’s activities. As a result of frequent communication and the mobilities, participants were able to acquire knowledge of other educational systems and school practices, as well as exchange methodologies and approaches to teaching, which led to a 25% increase in the number of best practices exchanged between participants. In addition to registering a 20% increase in curricular innovation, all of the project’s outputs such as videos, photos, and online surveys were published on the eTwinning platform, so as to make a significant impact at the European level. On that note, the project’s eTwinning project was awarded 2 European Quality Label certificates (PT and CRO). One of the project’s tangible results was the development of ‘No Place for Hate – Diversity Club Activities: A Guide for Good Practice’ that was created by the project’s direct beneficiaries – 17 teachers from Romania, Portugal, the UK, Croatia, Turkey, and Poland, with the guide containing 24 innovative learning activities, drama-based and outdoor activities, and activities and tools on technological literacy (13 Web 2.0 tools, 2 tools for coding and robotics, and 2 online platforms that teach website storytelling). The project’s emphasis on ICT skills was of immense value to teaching staff and students throughout the pandemic, with both groups being more confident in the use of coding, robotics, and Web 2.0 tools, as opposed to many other Romanian schools that were less prepared for the pandemic. In total, approximately 200 people consisting of local community members and local administrators were invited to assist the school with preparations for the workshop and as attendees to traditional dance shows, sports tournaments, food workshops, and other cultural performances. Among the project’s other impacts on teachers, 50% had gone on to apply for other Erasmus+ KA229 grants as coordinators and/or project partners, with the Croatian school having successfully secured a KA229 Project in 2018, and two KA229 projects in 2019 as a project partner – in partnership with a Polish school, and a Romanian school. The Portuguese school was selected as a coordinator for two KA229 projects and one KA101 project, with both the Turkish and British schools having also applied for Erasmus+ projects. All of the school’s project partners continue to form partnerships across different eTwinning projects that are attached to their ongoing Erasmus+ partnerships. Regionally, the school had the opportunity of introducing Romania’s sociocultural heritage to participants during Diversity Club activities, as well as during transnational mobilities and Erasmus+ booths. The project’s global approach in the teaching of various aspects of diversity was not only limited to theoretical considerations, but also to practical applications, which resulted in a modelling of the diversity concept that allowed for greater understanding and appreciation of ethnic diversity. As students came to better understand the concept of ethnic diversity, it also influenced the ways in which they viewed partner countries as being diverse, dynamic, and capable of richly contributing to the world we live in. Two years since the project’s implementation, students began viewing diversity as a positive, sensitising, and empowering phenomenon, and they have also shown great growth in their personal capacities as to their understanding of diversity and multiculturalism. In conclusion, the project has developed the school’s intercultural awareness, respect for cultural diversity and different lifestyles, and facilitated collaboration and friendship among participating education staff.

Photos: https://www.ournoplaceforhate.com/ 

Stakeholders

Participants

23 Nisan Ortaokulu

Address
Turkey

Agrupamento de Escolas Alexandre Herculano

Address
Portugal

Alec Hunter Academy

Address
United Kingdom

Osnovna škola Petrijanec

Address
Croatia

Szkoła Podstawowa nr 7 w Ostrowie Wielkopolskim

Address
Poland