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IOWA – Focus on motivation of arrested and convicted in European prisons

On September 1, 2017 Erasmus+ strategic partnership project "InnOvative WAys for motivating prisoners for learning" (IOWA) KA2 Key Action (KA204) was launched at Siauliai School of Adult Students (Šiaulių suaugusiųjų mokykla), Lithuania, with partners from Belgium, Norway, Spain (project No. 2017-1-LT01-KA204-035225).

The organizations participating in the project have a purpose to share innovative methods that successfully motivate inmates and convicts to study. This social group usually has negative learning experience, so it is very important to raise their motivation for studying and to return them to the educational process in order to reintegrate them as successfully as possible into society and labor market after imprisonment.

The solution to this problem is important in all European countries. Thus, the project partners focus on the education of andragogues (adult educators): three meetings for learning, teaching training activities are planned, in which seminars, discussions, study visits will be held in order to get acquainted with educational opportunities in prisons. During the implementation of the project, a training guide will be created that will help educators (formal, non-formal, vocational) to raise the quality of adult learning,  and in particular, motivate the inmates to learn as effectively as possible.

On January 28–February 4 the first learning, teaching, training activities of this project took place in Turnhout, Belgium. The international team (andragogues, prison psychologists, career specialists, representatives of administrative units, etc.) presented their organizations' contribution to the training of inmates, overviewed their country's educational policy regarding prisoners, and demonstrated  specific methods used in education activities with prisoners.

Representatives of Belgian non-governmental organization Asturia and Taxandria CVO Turnhout, adult education center, introduced methods of learning motivation that they use teaching English and information technologies to Belgian convicts as well as to imprisoned foreigners. Representatives of Spanish organization “CEPER Concepcion Arenal” overviewed the strategies that they use to motivate to acquire a profession. They also demonstrated a unique approach of using flamenco music, songs and dances to teach illiterate inmates to read and write. The representatives of Siauliai School of Adult Students (Lithuania) introduced the way they provide formal education in the department of their school, which is in Šiauliai Remand prison. Lithuanian andragogues organize personalized self-enhancing and creativity-oriented activities, for example, competitions, brainstorms, instrumental music lessons, etc. during the lessons and also during non-formal education sessions. Norwegian project partners from Jessheim videregående skole presented changes in motivational factors during the past ten years: due to the changing needs of society, the worldview of prisoners, their expectations for the period of punishment and also for their future after imprisonment are changing accordingly. Therefore, it is very important to investigate motivational factors of the prisoners periodically and according to the results of researches to organize a methodology for motivating them to study.

During this meeting, the participants of the project visited the Prison of Wortel where they were shown educational spaces for training detainees and convicts – rooms for work groups and creative projects, computer class, library, vocational training sectors, etc. Educators working in this institution initiated the work of the project participants in teams, which identified five groups of people that have the greatest influence on motivating inmates:  prisoners themselves (self-motivation), as well as other prisoners (peers), the family of prisoners, a circle of friends and, of course, teachers and prison staff. All teams concluded that interaction of all these groups determines the best motivational learning outcomes.

Participants of the project also visited Antwerp University, where they were given a lecture on senior prisoners. The factor of the age is a very important condition for the inmate’s life in prison and the possibilities to study in order to achieve some results, focusing more on his physical and mental health.

To sum up, the staff of European prisons, the partners of these institutions have expanded their competencies in the education of arrested and convicts, have summarized the experience of countries-partners in order to develop new methods for innovative access to prisoners' education. On the road to shared discoveries, valuable results will be available for andragogues of countries-partners of the project as well as for prison educators from other European countries.

Zulfija Guzienė, Project CoordinatorRasa Dumčiūtė, Member of the project group  

P h o t o: members of the IOWA project in front of Prison of Wortel (Belgium)

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