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Learning now and learning together – methods acquired for working with immigrants on courses in Iceland

From 9 February to 15 February 2020, in the Icelandic city of Borgarnes, courses were held on “Sensitization Training with Reference to Migration, Racism, Discrimination Culture and Diversity with Strategies for Teaching these Issues to Diverse Age Groups”. The course was designed as a practical training, with a particular focus on intercultural education and creative cooperation. 

From 9 February to 15 February 2020, in the Icelandic city of Borgarnes, courses were held on “Sensitization Training with Reference to Migration, Racism, Discrimination Culture and Diversity with Strategies for Teaching these Issues to Diverse Age Groups”. Among the participants, there were professionals from the Daugapils City Board of Education (DCEB) – Ilona Bohāne (public relations specialist), Ilze Onzule (education methodologist for Adult Education) and Evelina Balode (project expert). The course was relevant to the participants from Daugavpils since the adult educators in Latvia must also be prepared to work with immigrants who will live, work, take part in courses and acquire new skills together with local population. The course focused namely on the issues of migration, racism, discrimination, the subject of disrespect and cultural diversity.


In Iceland the course was organised by non-governmental organisation named Inter Cultural Iceland (ICI). The head of the organisation has developed innovative educational initiatives and offers a wide range of actions to develop competences in a wide variety of areas. The course was designed as a practical training, with a particular focus on intercultural education and creative cooperation. ICI believe that the main role in intercultural education and teacher training (at the local and European level) belongs to experience: collective learning, multifaceted, active and creative learning methods that allow for developing skills in the recognition and prevention of racism and discrimination. 

The chief trainer of the course is Gudrun Petursdottir, a sociologist and teacher. She is assisted by a sociologist and trainer Cherry Hopton. Gudrun Petursdottir gained a master's degree in sociology from the Free University of Berlin in 1990. In addition to sociology, she studied intercultural education at the Institute of Intercultural Pedagogy and subsequently obtained a teacher's qualification at the University of Iceland. Gudrun Petursdottir is the author of the books “A Diverse Society, a Diverse Class”, “Intercultural Education” and “Everyone Can Do Something – No one Can Do Everything”.

The attention and responsiveness of the audience is very important during training, the course instructor demonstrated by her own example, how to keep the audience's attention, interest and co-operation steady for 5 days, while maintaining 100% attendance. The 26 participants of the course represented 6 countries: Latvia, Germany, Romania, Portugal, Belgium and Finland. During the training, the tables were arranged in a way that stipulated eye-contact among the participants. The participants were expected to sit next to the people they had known before. Moreover, the participants’ seats at the table were changed on daily basis.

The lessons took place both as lectures and discussions between the trainers and course participants and by working in groups and performing interactive and meaningful tasks that always provoked thinking and looking for a justification. A question asked by the supervisor or a task that had to be discussed with a neighbour served as an intertwining theme for a day (for example, “How do you feel when you disrespect yourself?”, “What are stereotypes and how are they shaped?” etc.). After the couple's discussions, the leader addressed the whole group, allowing everyone who wanted to share their thoughts on the subject.


The purpose of the ICI-organized courses is to address every citizen, since deeper discrimination always starts with a casual display of disrespect. Becoming an “outcast” in a society is, unfortunately, very easy, but each of us can show our civic activity to prevent such cases. So, there is no need to be a hero, but rather we need to be able to recognize these situations. The ICI aims to learn without suspending it for later time, to learn now, and to learn together.

There was an interesting lesson about the facts and myths we face every day. One of the most frequent objects of manipulation is official statistics, which the media tend to interpret and exaggerate. For example, in relation to the huge flow of migrants and the danger they pose – only 3% of the world's population do not live in the country where they were born, and the level of crime among immigrants is no higher than among the indigenous peoples. We often read views in the news, which, first and foremost, are not true and, secondly, constitute further prejudices. For example, female drivers contribute to stupid accidents; teens, in their turn, are thieves because they need money for drugs. This list could be continued. At times, such false opinions appear due to the lack of enlightenment or stupidity of people, but sometimes the media deliberately form a public opinion that would be beneficial to political parties and could have an impact on the results of elections.

Throughout the week, various and unusual methods of assessing work could be tested during the training. Participants were able to familiarize themselves with interesting materials and techniques, which were then successfully used in their adult educator's work. In the evenings after the lessons, trainers and participants continued to share experience and discuss methods, continuing to develop skills to adapt the ideas they have seen to their situations and needs.

Each day, several tasks had to be performed in small groups. The composition of the members of the groups was different each time. This method was used to better understand collective learning methods. Each member of the group had its own role. The “rapporteur” gathered the group's views, organised a presentation of the work carried out by the group, discussed with the group how to better present the subject. The “scheduler” or time manager was responsible for the timely completion of each task and the presentation time of the work performed did not exceed what was required. The “materials manager” or purveyor took care of the selection of the necessary sources, as well as ensured that the group had the necessary working materials to perform the tasks (paper, pencils, glue, journals, etc.). The “harmoniser” took care of a well-being of each participant of the group as well as creative atmosphere making sure that each member of the group felt good so that everyone could speak and no one was left out. The “organiser” made sure that each member of the group understood the assignment and instructions and organised cooperation with the instructor if the task was not perceived or understood. The presentation of each group (presentation of the work done) was followed by analysis of the work was carried out, praising, or pointing out the shortcomings that should be improved.


During the week, a variety of methods were presented that promote innovative approaches to adult education, thus increasing its quality. As this methodology could be applied by any teacher in both general education schools and adult education, DPIP specialists will present it to Latvian teachers, educational scientists, trade union presidents, as well as the adult educators of Latgale region at a special seminar. Further knowledge transfer was already embedded in the curriculum in Iceland, because all teaching methods were tested and felt personally, always followed by reflection (analysis) how we felt and how we would use the method and disseminate the information in our country, etc.

Together with our colleagues from the Daugavpils Board of Education, we considered that there are many target groups that could successfully take over the knowledge we acquired, as it is universal: cooperation, communication, initiative, business skills, critical and creative thinking, basic civil skills, team work, problem solving. The participants could be both teachers at all levels of education (basic, secondary, continuing and higher education) and professionals and managers in their field.


Below there are useful links where to check the information supplemented with some course materials:


erasmus+ logo
The project “Innovation in Adult Education in Daugavpils municipality” (2019-1-LV01-KA104-060191) implemented by the Daugavpils City Education Administration Erasmus + programme is co-financed by the European Union. This publication reflects only the opinion of its authors, and the European Commission's support for this publication does not constitute an endorsement of its content, and the Commission in no way assumes responsibility for further use of the information contained herein.



The information was prepared by Ilze Onzule,Education Methodologist for Adult EducationDaugavpils City Board of EducationEducation Support Department

Phone +371 65407437

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