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2nd Workshop
Training of Teachers of the Visually Impaired in Europe

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7. Working methods: sharing and creating knowledge on a European level


7a) Sharing and creating knowledge on a European level

Paper by Mr Frans Meyer, Seminarium voor Orthopedagogiek in the Netherlands

Most conferences emphasise the distribution of information. The 1999 Bratislava conference aims at going beyond this level. All information, needed for the best results of the participation will be sent to all participants in advance. They should read all this material carefully before leaving for Bratislava. There will be no lectures.
The conference texts will be prepared by several conference facilitators, experts in their fields, who have an overall view of the key issues addressed by the conference.
During the conference, the content of these texts will be challenged by the explicit and implicit knowledge that the participants contribute to the workshops. In doing so, we hope to share and create new knowledge. The results of this confrontation will be summarised and made available to the participants and to a larger audience. For that reason, all workshops will have a workshop reporter who will write down the proceedings. Furthermore, all workshops will be supervised by a chairperson, who - in close co-operation with the workshop facilitator, will lead the exchange of views of the participants. Both facilitators and chairpersons will receive a short training in the conference working methods, prior to the conference.

For the benefit of these persons
the following list of suggested working methods is given:

1. Exchange of ideas
The facilitator prepares a set of relevant questions and presents them to the participants. Participants, in their turn, have prepared their own questions. This ensures as much involvement as possible.
2. Review of a case
The facilitator presents a case to the participants which allows them to use the information from the conference text. The case should preferably concern a real life situation, stimulate the thought process and allow for differing opinions. The use of photographs, slides or a video is encouraged.
3. Problem-solving discussion
This is the working method suggested when parts of the information, provided by either the facilitator or the participants, require elaboration and problem- solving. Discussions could be led through the phases of:
4. Conversation in front of witnesses
Two couples of discussants confront each other on two sides of a table. They represent two opposite views of the problem (not necessarily their own). They are allowed an opening statement and then the discussion starts. Other participants can only join in by providing these couples with written ideas and suggestions. If these participants agree with the opinion expressed by one of the couples, they show this by picking up their chair and sitting behind these discussants. After a while it is clear where all participants stand in this matter.
5. Forum discussion
The facilitator introduces a problem and composes a forum of 3 to 4 persons. First, forum members are given the opportunity to state their views on the matter and then they start a mutual discussion. At the discretion of the chairperson the other participants are asked to join in.
6. Incident method
To start the discussion a participant or the facilitator can introduce a problem from his or her own practice. The other participants are allowed to ask for more information, but refrain from opinions or judgements. In the next phase all participants give their analysis of the problem. The third phase consists of the suggestions or possible solutions the participants have in mind. It is recommended to use the information from the conference text during this activity. In the last phase the person who introduced the problem states what he or she has learned and what will be done with this information.
7. Brainstorm
A problem from someone's practice is introduced. All participants are invited to associate thoughts or ideas which will be written down on a blackboard. The group is urged to try and come up with comments and ideas at a certain speed. No judgements are expressed in this phase. When no more new ideas can be thought of, the group tries to evaluate the ideas on the blackboard and to find connections between the statements.
8. Literature study
Guided, individual study of literature provided by the facilitator. The comments made during this exercise can be discussed plenary.
9. Workshop
Exchange of experiences of participants.
10. Partner work
Participants interrogate each other in twosomes or foursomes with the help of questions, prepared by the facilitator.

Chairpersons and facilitators can use these working methods at their discretion. We especially suggest the use of methods1, 2 and 3.


7b) Lecture on Format and methods

Lecture by Mrs Maryam Mildenberg, seminarium voor Orthopedagogiek in the Netherlands

Today autumn started, harvest time. A beautiful time for sharing and creating.

Our being together is not called a conference, it is not a symposium but it is called a workshop.
A shop, in which the customer may choose what to buy, with what theme she or he wants to work.
In the reader we find a definition of a workshop. A workshop is an exchange of experiences of participants. Let's think about this: a workshop is an exchange of experiences of participants. What does it mean? What does it really mean to you? Are we all ready to exchange, to share our experiences? We need to be here and now, take our space and concentrate.

I am sorry to say that I did not attend the workshop two years ago in Budapest but I read the reader, I studied the results, the evaluations, I listened to the stories. And of course the name of this conference seems to be a very logical continuation of what happened in Budapest.

Sharing and creating knowledge on a European level.

This implies:

The purposes are:

We have to use our time very efficiently, we are talking about sharing and creating knowledge and expertise and we are not talking about information.

Knowledge and expertise is more than information. It is information and experience and capacities and attitude. Knowledge is of our own; we can change it; give it our own words; teach it to others; we can use it in a flexible way; knowledge is very much explicit.
Of course there is this 'tacit knowledge' which we all have so much of, implicit knowledge, or rather, implicit 'know how'. If observers ask you: "Why did you perform this excellent action?" you do not know the answer.

When, some beautiful afternoon, we listen to a lecture, we get some information, sometimes important and maybe even interesting information. This is only the beginning, it is not yet our own information. When we come home that evening and we are able to tell our family about what we heard, that is a start of the process: we retell the information in our own words, our own colour and meaning.

Education is successful if the student is able to critically use what has been learned in his or her own way and apply it to his or her own situation. Education is successful if the student is able to teach what he or she has learned. Education is successful if the student has gained knowledge at the end of the term.

We are here together, all teacher trainers, and together we will share and create knowledge; we will make implicit knowledge explicit; there will be the feast of recognition and the happiness of learning something new which we can use in our own way, in our own situation.

So there will be no lectures these days. Participants, chairpersons, secretaries and facilitators, we are all experts in our own fields and all of us are responsible for the results of this workshop.
Traditional instruments such as lectures are not satisfactory for achieving our goals. A lecture is only information, the information required for these days was sent to you and you have read the articles in the reader. This information, together with our own knowledge, either explicit or tacit, our expertise, questions, expectations, hope and wilfulness, our active participation, that should be enough.

We will exchange experiences, make tacit knowledge explicit and be surprised about this, let us be surprised! Mr Frans Meyer said that this is an adventure, sometimes a scary one because we shall reach the limits of our knowledge, we have to go beyond the safe areas. We must dare to be silent, words may destroy a beautiful process, only in silence may we be inspired and create new knowledge.
We have to listen to each other, to concentrate on listening.

A beautiful result of active participation is that every workshop will give you something for your own specific situation, your own needs, because you make it thus, you ask for it. Otherwise, it would be no knowledge! Therefore, it is very important to formulate expectations, questions, hopes, even purposes for yourself during this workshop and find moments of reflection when you make a personal evaluation of the relationship between your own purpose and what is happening in reality.

During the hours in which the groups are divided and working on the themes, there will be one or two facilitators, there will be a chairwoman or chairman and we will have a secretary.

All participants are active and responsible. We must be very careful not to talk (too much) about the content, the pros and cons of one specific method which is the logical consequence of being together with experienced colleagues in the field. This will be a heavy task for the chairperson.
However, the emphasis is on the sharing and creating of knowledge on the level of teacher trainers and on a European level.

The methods used in this workshop may inspire you to use these same methods in your own lessons as well. For these methods of sharing and creating knowledge are at the same time methods to teach students in an active way, to give them more than information, to give them an opportunity to learn, to gain knowledge.

"Every moment of life is an opportunity and the greatest opportunity is to know the value of opportunity". Hazrat Inayat Khan.

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