There is no doubt that the society of the future will be a learning society. Citizens are required to constantly update their competences, not only with regard to the world of work but in an encompassing approach to participate in contemporary societies. Moreover, modern societies face a rapid differentiation of educational pathways, opportunities and biographies. This increase in complexity from learners requires great effort into initiative taking, creativity, problem solving, risk assessment and decision taking, all of which requires learners to become stakeholders of their own learning process.

However, learner populations with a disadvantaged background or those remote from learning have great difficulties to take ownership of their learning, without being empowered. Empowerment is a term frequently found in formal and informal policy documents and expert discourses about adult education. But, although a great deal of rhetoric about learner empowerment, adult education practice too often remains caught in traditional instruction methods, fixed curricula and pre-defined learning outcomes. It's in particular low achievers who suffer from this situation, because they in the formal education system usually have made the experience that major parameters of their learning is out of their control, and thus never had the chance to develop a sense of ownership for their own learning.

PARTICIPATE is a new European project, which aims to promote participatory methods in adult education. It starts from the assumption that the impact on disadvantaged target groups can be greatly increased if education providers manage to adopt participatory approaches and methods, and this way support their learners to develop a sense of ownership of their learning and become lifelong learners. The specific objective of the PARTICIPATE project is to build a model for participatory design of learning outcomes.

Including adult learners in the process of setting their own learning outcomes and indicators

When evaluating outcomes from an adult education programme or training course, there are clearly many potential layers and levels of analysis. However, regardless of the layer or level chosen, all major indicators used to measure learning outcomes for the student usually are out of reach. The articulation of specific learning outcomes generally is carried out by the teacher or an academic staff member.

The PARTICIPATE project will looking to examine a more participatory model, whereby the adult learner is included in this process of setting their own outcomes and indicators. Instead of being initially presented with a final set of specific learning outcomes within an already agreed assessment framework, the group of learners are offered the opportunity to participate in determining how their course will be measured and evaluated.


Taking further our understanding of participatory methods

The learners in PARTICIPATE in the course of two learning events will be encouraged, supported and facilitated to develop a set of indicators that they can then agree with the the tutor or trainer. The intention of examining this participatory approach is to understand whether adult learners will experience the course or programme more positively if they are included in the design of its evaluation, and if there greater potential for more sustainable approaches to the engagement of harder to reach groups when the learner is allowed to present their own version of "success". From the findings the partners will derive a model for participatory design of learning outcomes.

The results and model will be shared through various channels and critically discussed with educators, practitioners and evaluation experts. The partnership to this purpose will deliver a series of webinars, set up a focus group and build an online community of practice, which not only shall allow us to leverage the impact of PARTICIPATE, but serve as a permanent structure for further elaborating the PARTICIPATE model.

The project will capitalize on knowledge, experience and good practice gathered in different European regions, taking into account cultural and other local factors that may have a positive or negative impact on participatory practices.

PARTICIPATE is a KA2 project that is carried out in the framework of the European Erasmus+ Program. The project is coordinated by Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich (Germany), bringing together 6 partners from 5 different European countries.