Mitja Černko: developing capacities for learning and participation
My journey as an adult learning provider started when I was 19, beginning with the contrast between "formal" and "non-formal" education. While studying psychology, contributing to various (international) student organisations, and conducting (social) data science projects, I became increasingly impressed by the scope and depth of learning experiences and how reliably they can be facilitated. 10 years later, this insight still powers my involvement with Trainers' Forum (TsF) - an international and interdisciplinary community of learning providers whose collective intelligence continually inspires me with its innovative potential.
I am just taking my first steps in discovering the value that EPALE offers. So far, it certainly seems that EPALE is very good at identifying leading thinkers and anticipating trends in the field. With so many countries represented, and driven by the activities of its ambassadors, EPALE is well positioned to serve as the backbone for Adult Education in Europe. I am very excited about the communities of practice EPALE hosts and am looking forward to tapping into their potential to exchange and co-create knowledge, (international, intergenerational, and interdisciplinary) collaboration, and bring European (adult) educators even closer together, both virtually and physically.
I am currently involved in an educational research project to design and pilot a whole-school approach for strengthening core skills that contribute to psychological thriving, supportive relationships and a healthy school culture. As a psychologist and educator, my primary interest is psychological sovereignty - a set of capacities enabling conscious character development, promoting well-being and preventing distress.
Developing capacities for learning and participation in line with the pace of complexification is an essential challenge of our times.
We are faced with a growing need to better navigate our evolutionary process by shaping our own behavioral and mental patterns more intentionally, and proactively co-creating the systems we (co)inhabit. One approach to developing these capacities is ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Training/Therapy) – in particular, the Choice Point 2.0 model (see Harris, 2018 for an introduction). Additionally, I should highlight the John Vervaeke’s four p’s or ways of knowing which he is developing with his colleagues. We tend to be quite focused and experienced with cultivating the first two p’s- propositional and procedural. But, we tend to only implicitly cultivate perspectival and participatory knowledge (for a summary of the ways of knowing and session formats related to each, see Czahajda & Černko, 2021).
Inclusive social change builds on the prerequisite capacities mentioned above. I have developed a framework to distinguish between various services we engage in as educators. It is a useful lense through which to think about the issue.
- The foundational level is social engineering - deploying specific psycho-social technologies (presenting information, facilitating a brainstorming process, mediating a conflict…).
- The second layer is social architecture - combining psycho-social technologies to (co)create an arena conducive to a specific purpose (e.g. learning, connecting, creating…), by shaping the spatial environment and temporal sequence of activities.
- The broadest level of service we need to engage in for lasting and tangible progress on this issue is social ecology - community building dedicated to linking together isolated social architectures to foster synergistic co-evolution of individuals and organisations inhabiting a community (of interest, practice, or residence).
An approach that operates on all these levels, enjoys a growing base of empirical support, and is closely connected with ACT, is "Prosocial" (see prosocial.world). It is explicitly designed to empower groups working towards shared goals. It helps clarify, align, and safeguard the interests, values, needs and capacities of individuals in the group, iterating the process on progressively larger scales.
When it comes to the digital transition and blended learning, I am fascinated by the untapped potentials it holds.
Digital learning does not need to mirror face-to-face learning. It’s enabling entirely new possibilities.
It enables human interaction to unfold (ever more immersively and intimately) unconstrained by space, and at least for one-directional interactions, by time. Imagining opportunities for blended learning, I would start with the promising trend of establishing one's second brain - a digital and interlinked personal library. Similarly promising is the possibility of personalised AI-driven learning assistants, serving as advisors and curators of our learning journeys, by offering "micro-learning" tailored to our challenges, goals, availability, and preferences. With Online Training Festival, an initiative powered by TsF, we are just starting to scratch the surface. For example, by developing a (psychometrically validated) instrument to evaluate (perceived) session quality (available here), we have gained a powerful tool to screen and benchmark individual sessions and discovered more about the basic factors contributing to a valuable learning experience - the starting state of participants, educator's mastery, insights and usefulness of the content, and levels of exchange with other participants.
In conclusion, the deepest challenges I see for the field include:
optimising various online learning formats
tightening the feedback loop between "demand" of learning needs and "supply" of educational services, and
stablishing a global educational ecosystem connecting communities (of practice) stewarding related domains, to better support learning journeys and consolidate collective insight, intelligence, and capacity.
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