Attention to the European Dimension

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The European dimension is a very important aspect in a Grundtvig course. It deals with the added value of a European course, compared to a national course. It answers the potential participants’ question: “Why should I go abroad for this course instead of taking a similar one in my own country?” Therefor it is very important that course organisers pay attention to the EU dimension of their course.

An international Grundtvig course must be relevant for and answer to the needs of an international audience. Why should other nationalities join your course? We are not only talking about content (topics) but also about learning and teaching approaches, transfer and applicability of outcomes, validation and recognition of competences developed, intercultural aspects etc.

Grundtvig course organizers should reflect on these issues, provide enhanced awareness for the positive and challenging aspects of international course provision. They should seek to develop their practices with the aim to improve specific competences. 

 Focus on the European dimension of the topic 

 Since the European countries are economically and socially linked to each other a number of trends in education and training have a European level. A common European approach to ‘a problem’ or an ‘innovative didactic trend’ could be desirable. In order to gain relevance for a European audience one needs to ask the question how the approach or the themes of a course are perceived at this European level.

 Since education and training is a national matter, Europe can only work via common goals, guidelines, indicators and standards in order to entice the member states to reach a common level (open method of coordination). One of these common standards is the European Framework of Key Competences for Lifelong Learning. A competence driven approach to the professional development of adult educators  would add to the European dimension of the IST courses. A special GINCO T&T chapter and set of competences is dedicated to innovative didactics and competence oriented training in IST. 

Link up with European educational priorities

 Education and training also has a ‘European dimension’ referring to education policy and priorities at European level (e.g. Europe 2020 and Erasmus+ priorities). Europe has tried to steer a number of innovative educational trends by presenting them as priorities in the yearly call for projects and as such has offered preference funding opportunities. Course organisers can link up with European policy (Education for Europe 2020, Rethinking Education) and/or European education and training priorities as a way to enhance the European dimension of their courses. However, this does not imply that courses should be restricted to the existing policy agenda; there is no need to squeeze courses in the policy box but they should foster existing policies and provide new steps for developing them.

Transferability of course outcomes and materials

 An organiser of an international course should also be aware of the fact that teaching and learning approaches and organizational conditions can differ from country to country.

In order to be relevant for an international audience it is imperative that the course outcomes and/or materials can be applied in the different ‘home organizations’ and education systems of the participants (Eurydice Study on Adult Learning). A course therefor should offer international transfer & application opportunities. In this respect it is important to start from the learning needs of the participant. This identification and articulation of learning needs should start before the course (on-line contacts) but should be an ongoing process during the course.

It is also important to take the expertise of the participants into account. All participants are professionals in their national system. The course theme/topic should start from the home situation of the participant: “How do you do this in your organization, what is the meaning of this ‘term’ for you, how is it used in your context?” Don’t try to create ‘distinction’ but emphasize context and approach. Flexibility, reciprocity, constructivism are key.

Validation processes and multinational certification relevance

 The aim of validation is to evidence and value an individual’s competence development, irrespective of where these have been acquired. Formative validation reveals individual strengths, weaknesses and particular learning needs and can be used as a basis for further training. Summative validation on the other hand should result in formal recognition (for example through a certificate or diploma).  

There are strong arguments for Grundtvig course or­ganisers to validate the learning outcomes of the par­ticipants at their course. Grundtvig courses are run in an international context and – from the perspec­tive of the participant – always in a foreign country. How can a participant get evidence of what he/she has learned and acquired at this course and how can it be recognised in his/her home country? It is also clear that especially adult educators, proven to come from a variety of backgrounds, would benefit from evidenced professional development. A learning out­come validation system would therefore considerably increase the value of a Grundtvig course for its participants. 

A special GINCO T&T chapter and set of competences is dedicated to course organisers validating the learning outcomes of their course participants.

Networking and international project and mobility opportunities

 The essence of international IST courses is the presence of participants and trainers from different countries, all professionals in their field. This offers opportunities for international networking, exchange of expertise and future cooperation. Make sure that networking is part of the approach and time frame. Promote international cooperation and international mobility actions in the Erasmus+ programme, make sure that this information is available. 

Take the intercultural dimension into account

 An international course is characterized by mixed nationalities of participants and these courses may be organised by an international team of trainers (would be ideal but is not a requirement any more in the new programme). Course participants will have different individual attitudes, values and norms related to their cultural backgrounds. Take advantage of the international diversity in the group. Trainers should have basic awareness of intercultural issues. Also be aware of language issues in the group, not all participants will master the working language equally. Provide training material in advance in order to let people prepare for the language, to allow them to get acquainted with the terminology etc.

A quality Grundtvig course not only focusses on professional competence development of the participants but also on their personal and social competence development. The European added value of an international course is exactly this intercultural competence development since international courses offer the ideal context for learners to become more competent in intercultural skills. This aspect should be part of the course objectives and course programme. 

Link up with the locality, social elements, local professional systems.

 From the perspective of the participants Grundtvig courses always take place ‘abroad’. This offers opportunities for encounters with the local (national) education system and ‘in situ’ visits or trainings.

This offer also applies to the social and cultural aspects of the host country. A course should not take place in a confined ‘enclave’ but interaction with the local culture should be built in in the programme. It is up to the course organiser to find an appropriate balance for training, professional visits and social programme in the light of the objectives of the course and the needs of the participants.  

European guidelines for validating Non-formal and informal learning

Validation of non-formal and informal learning in Europe 

Further reading:

Fowler, Sandra M./Mumford, Monica (1995): Intercultural Sourcebook: Cross-Cultural Training Methods (Vol. 1). Yarmouth: Intercultural Press.

Hall, Edward T. (1976): Beyond Culture. Garden City, NY: Anchor press.

Hofstede, Geert (2001): Culture's Consequences: comparing values, behaviors, institutions, and organizations across nations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Hofstede, Geert/Hofstede, Gert Jan (2005): Cultures and organizations: software of the mind. New York: McGraw-Hill

Trompenaars, Fons (1993): Riding the Waves of Culture: Understanding Cultural Diversity in Business. London: Brealey.

Source: Survival Kit - Managing Multicultural Projects in the Lifelong Learning Programme. Chapter 7: Intercultural Elements in European Project Management 





Recommended actilvities

Ginco documents

European documents and links



Action Plan on Adult Learning




Rethinking Education




Key Competences for Adult Educators


Cultural diversity opportunities and chalenges

How to turn my national course into a Grundtvig course



Checklist Intercultural Dimension of a Multilateral Project 

How the new rules affect the organisation of IST



Virtual Intercultural Team Tool 




Intercultool - Developing a framework model and assessment tool of intercultural competence 






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