It is an extraordinary experience to be given the opportunity to meet more than 60 interested and committed validating colleagues from 20 European countries. This opportunity opened up during four intense and exciting seminars days in the Land of a Thousand Lakes, more specifically, in Kuopio, the main town in Savo.
The seminar topic was validation of non-formal and informal learning with a particular focus on groups viewed as having difficulty in entering the labour market and/or advancing in studies. The participants represented a wide range of different actors—from municipal adult education to popular education, from local, regional and state government to small and large non-profit organisations.
We all had different images of what validation is or can be and how validation can or should be used. It soon became evident that there was more that united us than divided us. What pleased us, especially participants from Sweden, was that everyone viewed validation as something much wider than only assessment and acknowledging specific professional competencies. Validation can also include general competencies of importance for functioning in working life. The consensus also meant that validation was viewed as a process including many different elements: self assessment, surveys, in-depth surveys and assessment. And that what is done within an activity shall build upon what has already been done, not starting from the beginning.
Seminars run a risk of resulting in one-way communication, where the audience is attending mini-lecture upon mini-lecture, with little or no time for dialogue and discussion. This was not the case in Kuopio! Lectures and presentations were comprehensive, short and served as introductions for dialogue. They served as a foundation and a framework for the salient point on the agenda, which was not the seminar itself, but rather a workshop.
The starting point for the workshop was the model for quality control in validation processes, developed by the Nordic Network for Adult Learning (NVL). After initial presentations and discussions about validation in general and in principle, as well as a an in-depth presentation of the model, the workshop started. Based on our different activities and experiences, the task was to arrive at a conclusion on how to apply the model in practice. Discussions were very lively. Arriving at a common starting point presented the greatest difficulty. How the process is formed is in many ways guided by which target groups are met and why they are met. It is a matter of motivation, coercion or voluntary activity, public or non-governmental activities, etc.
Even though the group I participated in was not able to find a common starting point, we were generally speaking largely in agreement of the value of the NVL model. It can and should be applied to validation processes in general, but what it analyses in its concreteness are specific activities and processes. And, in the final review, when different groups presented their results, this was visualised very well; in some cases, in the form of drama (that group did not get stuck as our group did...).
I missed something important: one of the presentations!
I think we all became very interested in and inspired by the German skills cards. They have been developed in dialogue with practitioners as a tool for initial survey discussions with newly arrived people. Already during the presentations, questions were asked and comments were made about how the cards could be used with other target groups and in other contexts, how they can complete and strengthen things already being done. Not least for individuals who for different reasons are experiencing difficulties in talking about their skills, competencies and experiences. Therefore, they can be of great help for individuals from all groups considered to be far away from the labour market.
A few words about the arrangements:
The accommodation, food and drink, entertainment, evening sessions, Father Christmas and everything else was absolutely perfect!
Many thanks to the organisers – The Finnish National Agency for Education and Erasmus+!
Skåne Association of Local Authorities
Erasmus+ contact seminars allow organisations to search for partners in an EU or EEA country for project cooperation within Erasmus+. Seminars on different topics are organised in different countries in Europe. Registration to different seminars is published throughout the year. For more information, visit the Swedish Council for Higher Education website utbyten.se (link is external).