Follow up activities in our understanding are one very crucial element of any learning experience as – broadly speaking – they serve several important purposes. They are the link between a learning experience and the application of those experiences in a “home” context of the learner. Follow-up activities in our interpretation are also all activities that grow out of a certain learning activity, usually take place after the initial learning activity, but can also already start there. Highlighting follow-up processes are therefore in our opinion multilayered and very important as they make an experience sustainable if successful. We chose a systemic approach to our work.
We have understood that individuals who are participating in our activities come with a very diverse set of motivations. Some are conscious to the individual, most are not. In this regard one meaning of any project is also to shed light to or at least be aware of the subconscious motivations, as they are many times heavily influencing the entire process and therefore also the follow-up. The motivation for example to expose oneself to an unknown environment (travelling to a region with different food, different eating times, different climate, sharing a room with an unknown person, etc.) and thus become vulnerable is essential in any planning. This process of allowing for vulnerability to be processed in a safe environment is the basis for any future prospect of collaboration or transfer of knowledge back home.
If successfully implemented, the satisfying feeling of being safe on these very fundamental needs is the first step in building follow-up perspectives, because it is the precondition for learning in the first place.
We therefore are implementing a strategy to empower the individual in its own thinking and feeling, which if empowered at the end of a learning activity, leads to that individual sharing that experience within their social cloud. That process in our view is the most profound, most impactful measure to enable follow-up. Our assumption is that if participants come home and share not only their experience but also their ideas, they become multipliers not only of a positive experience but also of initiators. They might then as peers give safety to those at home. We believe that this then leads to a reinforced partnership with the original partner organisation that has sent the first participant. An atmosphere of non-competition can be created within that partner organisation, as individuals who want to participate in the future can rely on the fact that opportunities to participate are not a one time shot, but a constant stream. This atmosphere then can become an attractive environment, in which the target group of any partner organisation feels more invited to participate in any future project.
For us building these partnerships with other organisations is therefore crucial in planning follow-up activities.
Follow- up related Content
On a content level, the strategy is to link the outcomes to the above mentioned and give time and space during the learning activity to integrate any learning outcome into the personal flow of any given participant. This is crucial. It has to be ensured that already during the learning activity individuals have time and reflection to integrate any experience into their personal, emotional, cognitive and physical self. Only then will they share and influence others in their social cloud.
Specifically, that means that we integrate a lot of reflection time in our programs.
Generally we do not follow a direct learning approach, we offer learning opportunities, therefore we do not direct follow-up but offer follow-up. A very impactful element in empowering follow-up is in being available after the learning activity, when participants think about either using their newly gained experience at home, or when they want to initiate another project with some of the partners involved in the original seminar.
Reflection is a very important part of the participants’ learning experience. There are reflection methods that promote individual processing, reflection in couples, or small group debates. Furthermore, there are multiple visual tools like the mood tree or the thermometer that can be used both in group and individual reflection time. We focus on content peaks in the morning and reflection emphasis in the afternoons. We also recommend to include regular open spaces in which participants can initiate their own reflection proposal with the group in case it is wanted. We also give space for publishing reflection and encourage sharing of content already during the learning activity.
Promotion of Post- Mobility group meetings
For a lot of participants, the last day of their mobility can be a very emotional experience. The intensive experience of learning and making new connections has come to an end, and for many of them the prevalent idea is that they will probably never meet again and that the exchange was a rare experience secluded from their daily lives and routine. Proposing the idea of follow- up meetings, either within national groups or the whole team can spark great motivation to keep being in touch with other participants, since there will be an anticipated event that will always remind them of their experience. Group meetings can also take place online, in the form of casual coffee meetings, sharing photos with each other and reminiscing about the experience. In case meetings are not possible, we also recommend keeping existing communication channels open and active, like the common chats and online groups. In this way, participants can feel more connected to their experience and not consider it a one- time event.
Individual coaching for the follow- up task
One of the main problems of follow- up is that the participants often don’t exactly understand why and how they are supposed to carry out an extra task, since they will not be travelling anymore and their mobility experience is already over. Even using the term “Homework” can be more harmful than expected, since for a lot of young people it is directly connected to something negative and obligatory that has been forced upon them, and that is nor really their own initiative. Therefore, it is important to introduce follow- up activities in a way that doesn’t immediately scare participants as something imposed on them, but rather something that they would like to do and see the reason why they could do it. It is important to also take in consideration that usually not all of the participants are on an equal level when it comes to experience with youth work and community involvement. For a lot of them the idea of implementing their own workshop is more scary than motivating, either because they don’t know how to find an audience or they don’t feel comfortable being in a leading position. We recommend to tailor the follow up tasks to the participants’ capacities and find what motivates them the most, rather than imposing a common task for the whole group. In this case trainers can have individual meetings with every participant or group and give them specific tools and strategies on how they can implement their own ideas, as well as direct them to material and financial support if needed.
Mandatory follow- up completion
The question of whether participants should be somehow bound to complete the follow up task has often been a topic of debate in the field of Youth Work.
Mentioned in advance, participant needs to be informed. Posed as a condition and agreed upon, infopack needs to be clearly mentioned. Justifiable reason.
To be able to participate in the second part. Money should be involved?
Push away new participants from applying again
Activity Examples/ Workshops promoting follow up and sustainable learning
In the following chapter, there is a list of specific activities, tools and workshops that trainers and facilitators can apply during their mobility projects that specifically promote follow- up activities and sustainable learning results in young people. This list is a combination of tools found on online platforms like Compentendo, as well as some workshops and games developed by us:
FROM NOW TO TOMORROW
This activity combines an assessment of past actions with future perspectives and opportunities arising from the acquisition of new skills as a result of project work. The goal is for participants to evaluate their competencies and outline their learning processes. In order to be able to connect the evaluation to a future perspective on their participation and self-development.
The activity requires about 2.5 hours. It is done individually but can later be shared in a smaller group of participants. It consists of three stages:
The participant draws a person (representing themselves) on a blank paper. For 10’ he then has to write down the answers to the following questions anywhere around the drawn figure:0
Where am I now? Who and what influences my life (people, circumstances, etc.)?
What is important to me right now?
What is my role under these circumstances? What can I do, influence, shape, have an effect on?
The participant has to draw symbols on a sheet of paper that describe the strengths and competencies he or she has gained during the mobility. The following questions can be considered:
What are my strengths and competencies?
What have I become more aware of?
The participant is asked to draw a house surrounded by clouds, which represent ideas they would like to realise in the future. In front of the house they will also have to draw a road, symbolising the path towards implementing these ideas. The questions to be considered are the following:
Where do I want to go in the next 12 months with my qualifications and competencies?
What do I need to reach these goals?
At the end of the activity, the results can be shared and discussed in smaller groups.
A LETTER FROM THE PAST
In this activity, participants are asked to write a letter to themselves that will be sent back to them after a specific time. The point of this exercise is for the participants of a training or seminar to keep track of the components of the mobility that are most important for them and their future actions. As a result, they will be able to remember these details, take a more distanced look at their experience and gain motivation for participating in future activities.
In order to implement this activity, the following steps should be taken in consideration:
Preparation: Collect and supply the participants with different materials and tools in order for them to be able to be creative and personalise their letters. They could use colourful markers, scissors, different coloured papers and even magazines for a collage.
Instructions: Participants are instructed to write a letter to themselves that will be mailed to them in the future. The content of the letter could be in different forms: text, a drawing, an object- anything that would fit in an envelope. Encourage them to be creative!
Time: The recommended time for this activity is 20 – 30’
The envelopes should be closed and sealed by the participants themselves. On the outer side they should write down their address and postal code, as well as their name. It should be sent back to them by the organisation a minimum of 4 weeks after the end of the mobility.
Open Badges is a digital approach for sharing badges for learning achievements, similar to how the scout movement does it with textile badges on the scouts’ uniforms. They can represent any achievement from simple participation to evidence-based competency development in learning processes. Using the Open Badge System in Erasmus+ Mobility Programmes can be a very beneficiary method to motivate participants to do specific tasks that are connected to their intercultural and learning experience in a playful and non- formal approach.
The achievement programme “Discover Yourself” developed by “Lithuanian Association of non-formal education” is a specialised online system based on open badges standard. With the help of this tool, digital badges are issued for the completion of certain tasks and the improvement of the chosen competences. It was developed in the framework of the European Solidarity Corps (ESC). The programme allows volunteers to monitor and evaluate their achievements as well as show to the world what they are capable of and what qualities they have. Badge earners can manage their achievements using a Badge Wallet application developed during the “Trusted Badge Systems” project. The volunteer is free to choose which achievements to share and where. The platform offers a feature to share badges and achievements with friends via social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn. The badge owner can transfer his/her improved skills to his/her CV and receive a certificate of achievement.
The key set of badges is aligned to eight key competences for lifelong learning as part of the European Competence Framework. There are three levels, where volunteers can choose what competences to work on and which badges
to earn. To earn a next-level badge, volunteers must have a previous-level badge of the same competence.
Open Badges for follow- up
The same concept of the Open Badge system can be applied to short term Erasmus+ Mobility Programmes if adjusted correctly. A badge reward system can provide an innovative and gamified tool to identify talent based on competency and attitude, as well as an alternative way for the description of skills and achievements.
For the time being, there are no badges dedicated to follow- up specifically, but we believe that it can be easily integrated into the badge system as a way to promote the active involvement of participants in their own communities, as a continuation of a streak of badges that have been collected during the mobility period. Badges can serve as great motivation for participants to complete tasks following their mobility experience, such as implementing their own workshop in their community or sharing their experience on social media. With every completion of a follow- up task, a related badge can be added to the portfolio of the individual, that can keep the participant connected to the topic of the exchange and add another aspect to the overview of their learning experience and outcome. Furthermore, collected follow- up badges could be also used in the sense of a playful reward system, giving individuals that completed the tasks small Erasmus+ related rewards, like the priority in participant selection for later Exchanges organised by the hosting organisation, or a small memorabilia of the project itself.
Image source: “Discover Yourself” developed by “Lithuanian Association of non-formal education”
“Discover Yourself” developed by “Lithuanian Association of non-formal education”