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What does it make an active learner?

5th ICEVI TTW, Training Specialist Teachers for Children with Visual Impairment:
Exploring the Role of Learner-Centered Instructional Approaches.
May 18-19, 2007

The 5th Teacher Training Workshop organized by ICEVI Europe was held between 17-19 May 2007 in Bratislava, a beautiful and welcoming city in Slovakia. The topic of the workshop was "Training specialist teachers for children with visual impairment: Exploring the role of learner-centered instructional approaches". There were participants from 25 European countries who have had the opportunity to be involved and actively learn teaching-learning methods and become critical thinkers. This learning process was guided and facilitated by Steve McCall and Mike McLinden from University of Birmingham, United Kingdom.

During these two days the participants were learners and actors, thinkers and practitioners while experiencing and reflecting on active teaching-learning methods. This process took place in a well organised structure, from group activities to the individual ones. Each group has had its own identity, such as "Smiling Glasses", "Glasses", "T-Team" and "Tale" and it constituted a basis for discovering in a positive atmosphere new methods, for discussions and reflections on different themes and issues. Working in groups was at the same time learning through cooperation but also learning through competition, in a very constructive way. Who would have thought that one can learn the structure and functions of the human eye while having them represented by the participants who become a part of it? Or to become a human Braille cell in order to learn the combination of dots that represent a given letter?

Active and experiential learning have given the participants the opportunity to share their experiences and knowledge, to rehearse different roles, to build trust and positive relationships within the small groups and the whole group as well. Each activity has facilitated the involvement of all participants followed by a debriefing session focused on what had happened during the exercise, its rationales and how it can be further used in the work with teachers and/or students with visual impairments, in inclusive or special settings. This approach has offered the possibility to participate and think in the same time, which is conducive to a deeper understanding.

The participants have been at the center of the approaches that have been used during the workshop, and this experience is a good example for beginning or continuing to consider each student needs when planning, teaching and facilitating learning.

Laura Runceanu and Andrea Hathazi
Babes Bolyai University Cluj Napoca

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