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					International Adult Learners Forum   October 2004




International Adult Learners Forum
4 - 6 October 2004
Knuston Hall, Northamptonshire, UK


Report




UNESCO Institute of Education          NIACE




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International Adult Learners Forum                                       October 2004



Introduction

In November 2002 the UNESCO Institute of Education (UIE) put forward a proposal
to the European Commission for a Network of Learning Festivals across a dozen
countries in the European Union. The proposal was accepted in August 2003, and the
learning festivals coordinators began their networking activities towards the end of
that year.

The overall goal of the Network is to show the value of and to strengthen learning
festivals as mobilization and advocacy tools for learning and for democracy building.
As adult learners are at the heart of learning provision and promotion, one of the
working strands of the Network is to give space to adult learners to express their
needs and aspirations, and to help develop policies and programmes that are learner-
centred and needs-based.

UIE worked with the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) in
the UK, which is a partner in the network, to shape and develop this working strand,
as NIACE had already started to look at how learners could get more involved and
how learners and potential learners could make an active contribution to decisions and
planning of adult learning provision.

The working strand has three elements::
    A group of adult learners brought together as an International Adult Learners
      Forum in October 2004
    A publication of voices of adult learners from the member states of the
      Network (“Learning Journeys”)
    A follow up meeting of the Forum group as part of Adult Learners' Week in
      the UK in May 2005.

This report covers the first element - the International Adult Learners Forum in
October 2004.

Within the Network of learning festivals coordinators, the design of the programme of
the International Adult Learners Forum was discussed, and the coordinators to
nominated an adult learner from their country. It was agreed that the adult learner
should be able to communicate in English as the event would be held in the UK and
'Interpreters' costs were not part of the funding. The adult learner should also provide
of leadership skills and confidence to take part in the International Forum. A few
places were available for co-ordinators to attend.

NIACE organised a residential event at one of the Adult Residential Colleges in the
UK. Knuston Hall in Northamptonshire was chosen as it has the easiest access to
London airports. The event was planned for Monday 4 - Wednesday 6 October 2004
with an overnight stay in London to collect the group together on 3 October 2004. The
UK participants joined the group in London on the Monday.

The international learners were given a choice of educational visits in and around
London on the morning of 4 October.


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International Adult Learners Forum                                       October 2004



Aims and Outcomes

The aims of the International Adult Learners Forum were to:
    share experiences of being consulted in own situation
    improve Committee Skills, Confidence Building; Presentation Skills;
       Listening Skills; Working as a member of a team or group
    come up with recommendations of involving learners in consultation
    draw up a Ten Point 'charter' for professionals and policy makers when
       involving learners at an international level
    explore possibilities for the future locally, nationally and internationally
    act as a multiplier and set up a national Adult Learners Forum in the
       participating countries.

The Participants
Organisers
Facilitators
NIACE
UNESCO Institute of Education

Co-ordinators
Norway
Slovenia

Adult Learners from
Bulgaria; Cyprus; England; Estonia; Finland; Iceland; Lithuania; Norway; Romania;
Scotland; Slovenia; Switzerland; The Netherlands; Wales. (The full list of participants
can be found in Appendix 2.)

Four of the participant learners were from the UK and they all had direct experience
of involvement in a Forum group.

The final group consisted of 21 participants with 15 learners. All participants were sent a
questionnaire asking for information about themselves and their learning. The questionnaire
can be found at Appendix 1. Participants responded to:

   1. Personal data
   2. Are you involved in any learning, at the moment?
   3. Are you (or have you been) involved in any surveys or research where people ask your
      opinion?
   4. Is this your first visit to the UK? How confident are you about travelling in the
      UK?
   5. Training - identify training needs: Listening skills; Committee Skills - chairing
      a meeting, taking minutes etc. Presentation Skill; How to become more
      confident; Working as part of a team or group.
   6. Special Needs - diet; difficulty with mobility; large print/coloured paper; hearing loop.
   7. A short profile - (profiles can be found at Appendix 2).




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International Adult Learners Forum                                       October 2004


   1. Personal data

Gender: 11 female and 4 male

Age:

 Age range          20-29               30-39              40-49              50+
 No. of learners    2                   5                  4                  4


   2. Are you involved in any learning, at the moment?
The participants brought a range of experience of learning:
Basic Skills - 2
Computing/ICT - 3
Languages - 3
Business Skills -1
Economics - 1
Fashion design -1
Creative writing - 1
Music - 1
Higher Education - 3


3. Are you (or have you been) involved in any surveys or research where people ask
   your opinion?
     Five participants had some experience of involvement in consultation within
       education
     Three participants had experience of Adult Learners Forums at a local and
       national level
     One participant was involved in a Forum only at a local level
     Three participants had been involved in writing/delivering questionnaires or
       other mechanisms of consultation
     Three participants had been 'consulted' or part of a survey of some
       description.

4. Is this your first visit to the UK? How confident are you about travelling in the
   UK?

Half the participants had traveled to the UK before and only one felt 'not confident'. This
participant was met at the airport on arrival.




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International Adult Learners Forum                                      October 2004



5. Training - identify training needs
Participants were asked to identify what training needs they would like included. The
responses suggested that all skills would be welcomed.

Listening Skills                    10
Committee Skills                    13
Presentation Skills                 11
How to become more confident 12
Working as part of a team           12
Other identified training needs - Extension and Outreach

6. Special Needs - diet; mobility; large print/coloured paper; hearing loop
Three participants were dyslexic. One required large print/colored paper. One participant
had a sensory impairment.

7. A short profile - (profiles can be found at Appendix 2).

The participants represented a huge range of background. One woman runs her own business,
two participants worked with people with learning difficulties and disabilities. One man uses
sport and athletics as a medium. Two participants are involved alongside professionals in
contributing to Learning Festivals and in other European projects. Two were teachers of
children or adults. On the whole the group was made up of confident and well experienced
individuals.


The Programme
The programme was planned to ensure time was allocated to sharing experience, time
to discuss 'consultation and learner involvement' and short introductory sessions of
training. Confident participants were included in the delivery alongside two
experienced facilitators. Participants were encouraged to chair the discussion groups
and to make the final presentations. The programme finished with a session about
how to take the work forward by UIE and by the group itself.

Day One - Introductions and Welcome; Getting to know each other; Programme and
Domestics; Outcomes of the Seminar; Ground rules; Recording learning.

Day Two - Consultation; Methods of consultation - from participants and expanded;
advantages and disadvantages of different methods from a learner perspective; a
Learners Forum - tips on how to set up.

How learners can get more involved - as enthusiasts; as promoters of learning; in local
research; as a learner representative on local/regional committees; as a member of a
Learners Forum; as a speaker at a conference or seminar; as a delegate of a conference
or seminar. How can more learners be encouraged to get involved?
What support or training do learners need?

Visit locally altogether to a typical Northamptonshire town hosted by the Mayor.



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International Adult Learners Forum                                       October 2004



Ten Tips for involving learners -discussion around final Ten Points as a start of a
policy document.

'What is a Learners Forum?' - question and answer session.

Day Three - Presentations of 'Ten Tips'; groups presented their version in poster
format.

Where do we go from here? What do we need to do to take this work forward? How
can the group keep in touch? What can delegates take back?
What do they need to consider for their own situation? Evaluation.

Full notes from the event are at Appendix 3.

Evaluation
Participants were asked to comment on a number of questions. A full version of the
comments is at Appendix 3.

How well have you achieved what you hoped to learn from this forum?
Most participants felt that the event had been useful in a number of ways: building
confidence; chance to use and improve English; information to take back and use in
their own situation.

How well has the forum met your personal needs and expectations?
All participants stated that their needs and expectations had been met and in many
cases exceeded. New ideas, vision for the work and motivation were all quoted as
benefits.

What have you liked most about the forum?
Meeting new people and sharing experiences were sources of satisfaction.
Organisation of the event and the interactive nature of the activities were mentioned
by several participants as was the relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Working in small
groups was appreciated.

What have you liked least about the forum?
'Time' seems to have caused some concern. Too short a time, pressure of time and
tightly packed schedule were all mentioned but several participants stated there was
nothing they didn't like.

If you had been running the forum, what would you have done differently?
A few suggestions here included clarifying the meaning of a 'Forum' and a cultural
visit.

Conclusions

      It is very complicated to bring people from a number of European countries
       when they are professional people. When they are learners, the travelling
       creates greater anxiety and full support mechanisms are essential.


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International Adult Learners Forum                                       October 2004



      The idea of bringing people together to London the day before was crucial not
       only for the travel arrangements but also so that participants could become
       familiar with being in England and having to cope with the language.

      Participation was fairly representative from the European countries. The
       participants brought with them a range of expertise in learning, in involvement
       with consultation, in language skills and in creativity. Each individual
       contributed their strengths and learned from each other.

      The representation of male and female participants reflected the balance in
       adult learning generally, both in staffing and participation. There was a good
       spread of age with all decades from 20+ to 50+ represented.

      The size of the group was perfect for the interactive nature of the event and a
       larger group (30) would have changed the atmosphere and the methodology of
       the three days.

      The residential nature of the event was critical in building good relations
       within the group and focusing on the task in hand.

      Each of the sessions could have been extended to last longer as the two and a
       half days did not give enough time to tackle the individual sessions in depth.
       The interest was there and each topic could have been explored in more depth.

      The aims and outcomes of the programme were achieved although more work
       will be needed to pull together the final version of the Ten Tips for
       professionals and policy makers.

      For a number of participants Learner Involvement was a new area of work and
       they had come with an open mind to learn. Many felt that the event had
       provided ideas and clarity of vision to take back and explore in their own
       countries and contexts. They all appreciated the opportunity to share
       experience, ideas and friendship that helps to create a good foundation for any
       future work. For a minority the content of the event was too much and they
       would have appreciated more time and less pressure.

Recommendations

   1. That a small group of adult learners be identified who will contribute to the
      continuation of the work. This group could have an immediate focus in
      helping to organise the event in May 2005 as part of UK’s Adult Learners'
      Week. A questionnaire will be devised and sent to participants to establish
      level of involvement in the future.

   2. That a draft version of the Ten Tips 'poster' for professionals and policy
      makers will be prepared as a basis for final consultation in May 2005, possibly
      in cooperation with the identified group of adult learners.



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International Adult Learners Forum                                      October 2004


   3. That the foreseen publication of learners’ voices will be ready and available
      (at least in one language: English) by May 2005. Consideration should be
      given to including an element of how learners get involved in consultation and
      participate in promotion, planning and decision-making. The poster of Ten
      Tips could eventually be included in the publication as a folded insert.

   4. That the nature of the follow-up 'Study Tour' of learners in May 2005 will be
      planned carefully and well in advance. Consideration needs to be given to
      whether participants from October 2004 be invited and/or whether an
      invitation be extended to other countries.

   5. That any further meetings or 'Study Tours' that involve learners will have an
      allocated person to take sole responsibility for the planning and operation of
      the travelling arrangements and subsequent support.

   6. That an email discussion group for learners will be set up to continue this
      work and not to lose the momentum that has been started.

   7. That UIE, in partnership with the learners and co-ordinators, will seek funding
      from the European Commission to continue with the International Adult
      Learners Forum beyond the coming publication and the next meeting in May,
      and to support work undertaken in each country (such as setting up a national
      forum).




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