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OPEN EDUCATIONAL RESOURCE FOR INSTITUTIONS AND PROFESSIONALS
IN LIFELONG LEARNING
PRINCIPLES OF EDUCATIONAL OUTREACH IN THE FIELD OF ADULT LEARNING
There are many reasons why people are remote from education and learning. The most common denominator is social exclusion, based on barriers such as low educational and social status, a lack of social contacts and physical or psychological problems. Disadvantaged groups are under-represented in adult learning in all European Member States. They often feel excluded from existing learning offers, are unaware of existing learning opportunities and do not know how to participate.
Studies have shown as well that educational institutions lack tailored approaches to reach those who are remote from education. They don’t know how to develop and implement adult learning offers fitting the needs of disadvantaged groups. It is a key need therefore to develop and implement new approaches, which take into account the diversity of target groups and complement existing adult learning programmes with outreaching and empowering elements.
Educational outreach is a way to reach disadvantaged groups and to develop – preferably in cooperation with these groups – tailored adult learning approaches. A number of key principles will help adult learning providers to develop an effective and inclusive learning offer:
Reaching out to disadvantaged groups implies that adult learning providers know which groups are under-represented in their learning offer. This is not always the case. There is a variety of people, who are currently not participating in learning offers, such as migrants, illiterate, low-skilled people, (long-term) unemployed, (ex-)offenders, drug users and people with mental health problems. All these groups do have specific problems and needs. Being aware of the diversity of the target group and their specific problems and needs will help to reach out to these groups. Adult learning providers will better understand where to find them, how to reach them and how to involve them in their learning programmes.
The development of outreaching strategies is irrevocably linked with the active involvement of the target group. Including the target group voice, their knowledge and their understanding in the development of alternative approaches will not only contribute to the effectiveness and the quality of new learning offers, but will also increase the credibility of the learning providers and the willingness of the target group to participate. There are numerous examples of outreach strategies, in which the target groups function as peer, mediator or outreach worker. Target group involvement helps to reach under-represented groups and empowers learners at the same time.
Knowing which specific target groups need to be addressed does not automatically lead to tailored learning approaches. Adult learning providers need to know and analyse the specific barriers, which keep people from participating in adult learning. This can be legal frameworks, lacking financial resources, social denominators and physical or psychological barriers. Knowing what exactly creates exclusion will support the development and/or transfer of strategies, which can remove these barriers.
A key for providing customised learning offers is to create, design and execute these offers in the most understandable way possible. The need for, and use of easy language is substantial for accessibility and successful learning. Easy language helps different target groups, e.g. people with learning disabilities, non-native language speakers, persons with limited reading skills or people who suffer from dementia. The following basic rules for all communication and written material for learners helps to ensure comprehension:
➜ Make use of simple words and avoid the use of
➜ Try to find verbs instead of nouns.
➜ Write and speak in short sentences.
➜ Do not use abbreviations and/or figures of speech.
➜ Write concretely. Avoid abstract language.
➜ Avoid high figures and percentage values. Use comparisons.
➜ Create options for multi-channel perceptions, for example by using pictures, pictograms etc.
➜ Make use of paragraphs and headings.
➜ There should be sufficient contrast between background and illustrations. Coloured backgrounds and typefaces should be used carefully. The typeface should be clear and fairly large.
➜ Test the material with actual target groups before publishing it. Only they can say if it is easy to understand or not.
Adult learning providers should build up a network of cooperation, which includes other organisations and institutions, which are currently not automatically involved in the field of education. This might be community centres, mental health institutions, grass-root organisations and social services. These services are in direct contact with disadvantaged groups, know about their specific problems and needs, and can help to reach out.
Mainstream learning offers are not automatically attractive for those who are remote from education. They might feel uncomfortable due to social exclusion and individuals may be unaware of potential benefits. It is important to understand what exactly is needed to make education more attractive for under-represented groups. This can be a certificate, but it can also be the opportunity to meet others, who are in a similar situation. Knowing their problems and needs will help to create learning offers, which are accepted and appreciated by the target group.
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