As teachers at the University of Salento, Italy, committed to bringing about some change in the traditional education system by applying innovation in education, we were thrilled at the prospect of taking part in this project whose main topic was critical thinking.
Our commitment arose from the realization that the Italian traditional model of education – teacher lecturing and students taking notes – does not provide present day students with the skills and competences they need to meet the requirements and the challenges of the 21st-century changing workplace. As a matter of fact, the only skill students acquire throughout their schooling, from primary school to university, is memorization, and we can say that they are really good at it.
Therefore, through a variety of non-formal education strategies we try to provide our students with those skills that they need today, indicated by the World Economic Forum, among which great emphasis is placed on critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, team work and communication, besides competences such as literacy, mathematical, digital, and cultural awareness competences.
We were very pleased to meet colleagues from Romania and Turkey who have the same kind of professional commitment and to put all these skills and competences into practice during the various sessions of the training course.
The organizers successfully met the requirements of the projects by creating a framework for experimenting non-formal education methodologies aimed at stimulating critical thinking in students, thus helping them to spot fake news, which is so widespread in the today’s media.
Since the first day the organizers were able to create an effective, safe working environment where we all felt comfortable with each other and free to express our opinions, giving and accepting constructive criticism while working to develop resources for teachers from which they can draw ideas so as to apply non-formal educational models in traditional educational settings, thus actually creating bridges between non-formal education models and traditional formal models. And all was done by balancing serious sessions of presentation of methodologies and activities, discussion and reflection with fun, playful moments. All the participating teacher partners in turn were given the opportunity to illustrate their activities and each one felt free to provide feedback on how to improve these activities. These serious moments were interspersed with funny initial energizers, with game-like activities done with the use of digital apps such as Kahoot, Menti.it, Actionbound, etc.
Through an optimal time management, in a beautiful mountain venue, the organizers (ATDD) successfully brought together partners from three different countries (Romania, Turkey and Italy) that represented different levels of public educational institutions. The cultural nights, moreover, contributed to strengthen the friendly atmosphere of collaboration by sharing national food, dances and songs, thus getting to know aspects of our respective cultures.
The training course was highly inspirational, thought provoking, and professionally involving. The Romanian, as well as the Turkish partners, gave us great satisfaction by acknowledging the value of our activities in promoting critical thinking and problem solving skills.
We are sure that this kind of projects can contribute to form teachers who, in their turn, apply non-formal models of education as bridges to formal education. The methodologies presented during the training course constitute very effective and stimulating ways to form students who can use critical thinking, problem solving, and team work without neglecting the importance of using digital technologies as tools to reach such goals.
We derived great satisfaction from this event. Coming in contact with other teachers, sharing their experience and gaining from them, also receiving compliments, was an enriching and rewarding experience and we brought home many ideas that we hope to implement in our classes. We really would like to repeat this experience and we feel sure that it will have a follow up in the near future.