Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) joined the Among Others project in autumn 2016 and launched the course called Among Others: Intercultural Learning in Practice, run at a number of foreign universities under the Erasmus+ programme. The course focuses on intercultural learning, international mobility programmes and mapping young people’s vision of the future from multiple aspects. I asked András Déri and Barnabás Gulyás facilitators about the peculiarities of the course and the experiences gained so far.
Intercultural Learning in Higher Education
Among Others – Non-formal Learning in Higher Education Developing Intercultural Competence
The project was launched in 2015 as a partnership of altogether five Erasmus+ national agencies engaged in the youth field. The initiator of the partnership was the Polish agency, later joined by the British, Irish, Czech and Hungarian Erasmus+ national agencies. Since then, the Latvian and Turkish national agencies have also joined the initiative.
Current Hungarian higher education partners in the project: University of Debrecen, Eötvös Loránd University, University of Szeged
First of all, how does this course differ from the others?
András: Among Others introduces students into the topics of human rights and intercultural learning through non-formal learning methods. The course is attended by both Hungarian and foreign students, who can take the course from any faculty of ELTE. The goal is to provide students experience which enables them to use non-formal learning principles in their work, to become more sensitive to cultural diversity, as well as to manage the differences resulting from it. The most important difference comes from the structure of the course, the means of assessment and the methods used. During the semester, we organise six workshops of 180 minutes each which differ from the usual seminar form. At mid-course, there's a one-month-long break, when students can do more in-depth work on what they've learnt, reflect on their learning process and go even deeper into the topics. The assessment is based on individual or group suggestions, and each student can decide how they want to get a mark. The only criterion is that the suggestion should be related to the course subject.
How did you come up with the idea of launching a non-formal learning based course at a university?
Barnabás: The course is related to an Erasmus+ partnership between national agencies which allows it to be available in Hungarian universities, too. The course was received well, and it gradually became widely known as an unusual and novel project in terms of methodology and approach. It is greatly supported by the fact that in each semester, we organise open classes where we invite teachers and experts who are interested. Also, the students decided to organise group projects quite a few times, involving their fellow students, too.
Has anything changed since the beginning of the course? What feedback have you received so far?
Barnabás: The topic hasn’t changed; rather, the 'curriculum' has become standardised through the years. In the beginning, we, too, were only learning how to apply all the basic principles of non-formal learning, while the university environment is different and we also need to meet students' expectations. We are in the sixth semester of implementation, and each year, we take the feedback received from the students and during the open days very seriously. They reinforce us that the course material is relevant, the methodological approach works, and that it can provide students an opportunity of personal or even professional development.
University classes are mostly about students' learning; still, I need to ask you: what have you, course facilitators, learned?
András: For me, it’s a great opportunity to learn about facilitating non-formal learning processes, as I can work together with an experienced trainer. Also, the diversity of the participants always leads to interesting conversations, which allow us to learn about various perspectives, experiences and knowledge.
Barnabás: The learning process is greatly influenced by its environment. In the beginning, I struggled a lot inside with the university atmosphere. Now I’m quite comfortable in this environment, and we also managed to adapt the methods.
Will the course continue in the future?
Barnabás: Yes, the course will go on. Our plans also include making the related ’curriculum’ available online, so the students can get an insight into the structure of the semester, as well as more support to planning their own learning.
Teaching Based on Students' Opinions
Hajnalka Hegedűs, a fifth year student of English and history at ELTE, is a participant of the course.
What were your expectations about the Among Others course?
I wanted to choose a course where I can actively use my language skills, as well as establish relationships with students from other countries. So far, the course has fully met these expectations.
What were your impressions? What differences did you find, compared to your other classes at the university?
I think that a very good company has gathered, with a diverse international composition. That ensured the course very nice dynamics. The requirements are much more informal compared to a compulsory university course. It’s because the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of the final 'product’ is determined by the whole group. I think it’s a useful and innovative idea, because we really don't just create something out of necessity, but everybody has their share in it and can feel ownership of the product.
You conduct your studies in teacher training. What are your experiences of non-formal learning?
We mostly learn from each other here. Although other courses also promote learning from each other, the main sources of information and knowledge there are still the teachers. Here, however, the facilitators build on our existing knowledge. And as the name suggests, their function is rather to help us elaborate and formulate what we come up with.
Who would you recommend the course to?
Those who are, on the one hand, open to other cultures, and don't only want to make Hungarian friends, but also ones from other countries. On the other hand, those who want to practice English, since it’s also an important part of the course, even if it's an additional benefit. I’d also recommend it to students who are open to a more innovative form of education. Finally, I would also recommend it to the other aspiring teachers to gather ideas about how to build creatively on students’ existing knowledge and encourage them to create something new, instead of frontal teaching.
Are you going to adopt anything in your own teaching, too?
Definitely. I can also imagine teaching English and history by collecting information first through students’ opinions and knowledge, and then make the foundations of our ’little house of knowledge’ on that.
Last modified: 27-07-2020