29 May, 2010

this is integrity

Values.com | Pass it On Billboards Integrity

Shortly after returning home from the 2nd meeting of our Ethical competence project, I stumbled on the values.com site. Integrity happens to be one of the 20 values we identified at the 1st meeting (see earlier post). This site is such an interesting way of visualising and drawing attention to values, that I just needed to pass it on. Actually, the site encourages everyone to pass it on.
Browsing the site with interest, I was also charmed by the large selection of inspirational quotes, made accessible via tags.
It was this quote by Maya Angelou that sums up the site for me: “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Wonderful resource for us, not in the least because of the video materials too.

24 May, 2010

Teaching ethical behaviour ?

“It was your responsibility!”, just a random remark I picked up during our European Grundtvig project meeting in Palermo, when something went wrong. Just one of the many comments that we often hear people make when they want to remind others of particular expectations that they had as regards the performance of a task that was not carried out satisfactorily or as expected. Somehow we all have our own (implicit) standards and norms. However, only when something goes wrong or turns out a failure , suggestions, remarks, hints but also outright criticism are expressed that point to a code of conduct that was hidden from sight before the incident took place.
Such incidents often give rise to discussions, debate or (preferably) dialogue, but can potentially lead to frictions. They alert us to the fact that one’s own perspectives and values may differ from others. Now suppose we could identify and establish universal (and perhaps even perennial) values, would conflicts then be erased from today’s world? Or is it naive to expect that a universally adopted code of ethical conduct will prevent any future friction?
Even though I usually have a positive (perhaps sometimes idealistic) view on life, there is no doubt in my mind that in the practical application of such a universal code of conduct multiple decisions and choices can be made in similar contexts.
Still, if we then decide that identifying common ethical values or formulating a common ethical code of conduct is a hopeless task, I feel we would be missing an ideal opportunity of sharing views and harvesting the benefits of finding common ground on an important issue such as ethical behaviour. No matter what the outcome will be, all people involved in this collective exploration of coming to a joint code of ethical behaviour will benefit. It will provide them with a variety of perspectives, clarify different approaches and increase understanding of their own points of views in relation to others. After all, the actions of individuals are largely shaped by social experience.
As someone working in education the ensuing question for me is: can we teach ethical behaviour and if so, how ? Wasn’t it Socrates who said: “I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think.” and similarly Galielo Galilei : “You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him find it within himself." Then there is also Plutarch who said: “The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be ignited." It is this approach to educating people, combined with serious dialogue that should be the way to encouraging students to express ethical behaviour and which will continue to be valuable in times of change and globalisation.
Why am I reflecting on this? I’m after all not a lecturer in ethics; I’m just an interested layman in ethical issues who started collecting resources on ethics on the web via the delicious bookmarking site (click here for a direct link), when we were on the point of submitting an application for a European (LLLP) learning partnership about ethical competences. Ethics is one of the courses all students take in the school of social work, so I felt we could benefit from sharing views and focussing on this issue in a European project with partners from various countries.
In our first meeting in Vilnius (see my earlier blog post) we identified 20 ethical values, here’s a visualisation of them, thanks to wordle.

All these have now been worked out in a joint format, a framework identifying aspects like knowledge, skills, attitudes, potential instruments, pedagogical issues etc. Following that, at the 2nd project meeting in Palermo we tried to come to a common understanding of all these issues. However, all the steps we've taken so far have still been very much theoretically oriented and unfortunately, much of the meeting time was spent on presenting theoretical foundations of ethical values and competences and ways of categorising them.
The real challenge will be to put it all into practice by designing and implementing appropriate tools to use in educational settings. This will be the focus of our 3rd meeting in Romania in November. We expect to share experiences in the educational/pedagogical approach and discuss how each partner, in their own context, applied a diversity of instruments for a limited number of the identified ethical values. Let's hope that this upcoming meeting will have a more interactive working mode than the one I've just come back from. It's to a great extent the European project meetings that are favourable to exchanges, discussions and dialogue and where participants in a learning partnership can familiarise themselves with a wide variety of European views in a way that is unparallelled.

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This blog post reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained herein.

10 May, 2010

LEVEL5, at a glance

In the beautiful and peaceful setting of Alden Biesen castle, Belgium, a European conference took place on the validation of informal learning. It was announced as a practical and active conference bringing together practitioners and educational experts from a variety of European countries. And indeed, after some keynotes and an overview of some informal learning projects, the afternoon was fully dedicated to getting to grips with the LEVEL5 system, an instrument meant to validate informal or non-formal learning.
Just 2 weeks prior to this meeting I had attended a seminar session where a speaker had pressed an urgent message on his audience: to sustain good practices it's of vital importance to demonstrate to your funders or sponsors that the projects you have run have been worthwhile, in the sense that the beneficiaries can be shown to have made progress in one way or another. And exactly that had in the past often proved to be a bottleneck. At the end of a project many people show enthusiasm , new innovative approaches are tried out and tested to the satisfaction of many, but in the end, as the projects have been funded with temporary money, good practices in the social domain die a slow death as the impact is not or inadequately demonstrated via a survey, research or any other validating tool to assess success.
LEVEL5 is a welcome development, in that it could substantiate exactly that: this approach can establish competence development of (adult) learners in informal and non formal learning contexts.

Learning results can be displayed and (via a 3-dimensional web-based cube) visualised in 3 different dimensions, namely cognitive, activity related and affective competences (sometimes referred to as Head, Hand and Heart).
Two dimensional charts are also available to display the learning results which were recorded after a learning project. This truly appears to be a promising development from which many adult learners and adult learning providers may benefit.
More detailed information about LEVEL5, including some screenshots of the software, is available via the REVEAL community website.