The 2nd partner meeting took place in Munich, from 9th to 10th October 2017. The event was hosted by the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich (Germany).

The partner organisations discussed VNIL (validation of non-formal and informal learning outcomes) in Higher Education from different ankles, such as with regard to its meaning for

  • higher education policies
  • exam regulations
  • human resource management
  • student-centered learning
  • pedagogical and didactical innovation
  • ownership of learning

The overall question was how VNIL is changing the learning, teaching and organisational culture in Higher Education.

Moreover, the partners during the meeting developed a common approach for conducting case studies in all participating countries. The case studies are expected to deliver important insights into migrants' and refugees' experience with VNIL, as part of their integration in the welcoming country. The interviews will be conducted with students and VNIL practitioners as well. After completion, the cases will by analysed with a view to identify common succesful or challenging aspects of the cases. Following this, an open call for case studies will be published.

Last but not least the partnership over the past months has elaborated guidelines for HE staff, to help those professionals supporting newcomers and refugees in accessing Higher Education. Key issues were: What do newcomers and refugees normally ask? Which are their worries? And if they ask questions, what answers do they receive? In summary, the guidelines are meant to help HE staff to understand which are the questions of newcomers and what to answer when those questions are asked.

discuss innoval 300x208InnoVal aims at identifying innovative and reliable assessment methods that can allow all learners to have a chance at validation, with a special focus on the needs of disadvantaged groups such as refugees and early school leavers.

According to the CEDEFOP 2014 Validation Inventory Report, EU countries still greatly diverge in terms of mechanisms in place. In order to ensure the validity and reliability of assessment procedures, and to avoid additional costs, many educational institutions prefer to use standardised tests. The use of alternative methods such as portfolios, declarative methods and simulations, is on the increase but remains limited. The partners believe that the use of standardised tests hinders learners’ take up in validation and represents one of the strongest obstacles to their development in Europe.

Indeed, validation systems are often targeting adults who have had a bad experience with formal education and formal assessment methods. This has led them to not completing their secondary education and to not participating in any further formal education. Yet, they have acquired many skills and competences in non-formal and informal learning environments that they would be willing to have validated if the assessment method did not bring them back to their bad past experience with formal education. InnoVal aims to foster a change in practices related to the assessment of non-formal and informal learning across Europe and across sectors. This is particularly urgent when we consider the need to up skill the adult population (PIAAC results) and to deal with the current refugee crisis.

discuss higher education vinceThe number of refugees and new migrants who reach Europe, escaping from wars or critical life conditions and looking for new life opportunities, has increased dramatically in recent years and is likely to continue growing in the coming years. These newcomers face many challenges in settling into Europe and among these are the obstacles to accessing the labour market or continuing their studies.

Migrants and refugees are in practice often prevented from enjoying their rights by many legal and practical barriers. This also represents an obstacle to their integration in hosting societies. One of the main challenges newcomers and refugees face is that, although they are often educated and skilled, their competences may not be recognised in the host society. There are many reasons for this: their skills and knowledge may not fit into predefined bureaucratic policies and procedures; documentation is lacking; or the curriculum they followed does not match certification structures in the host country. This hinders their access to the labour force and to continuing their studies, jeopardises their chances of fully integrating in the new society as citizens, and represents a source of discrimination and social marginalisation. The main purpose of the VINCE project is to adapt existing proven methods to include disadvantaged people in higher education (HE), so that they meet the needs of the newcomers.

An efficient assessment of migrants' and refugees' prior learning can be critical in enabling them to access the labour market and/or continue their educational studies and improve their qualifications. Recognising and validating the skills and competences acquired through non-formal and informal learning supports the social inclusion and empowerment of migrants, who often have limited opportunities to access formal education. The process of validation of non-formal and informal learning helps to bridge educational inequalities, and offers further pathways for the development of the skills needed in life and in the labour market. Furthermore, by being given the chance to describe their educational and employment experiences and supported in a reflection and analysis of their prior learning, they will be enabled to begin to establish links between that and future opportunities for in education and work, bridging the gap between past and future.

discuss recognition informal learningThe German Federal Institute for Education and Training (BIBB) just published the results of a national monitoring on validation of informal and non-formal learning in Germany. The results are based upon a national survey, conducted in 2015. More than 850 stakeholders in Vocational Education and Training on this occasion have been asked about the future of validation and recognition of informal and non-formal learning in Germany.

According to the answers of the experts, the following key aspects should be taken into consideration towards establishing a national system for the validation and recognition of informal and non-formal learning:

discuss promote 300PROMOTE is a EU-funded project that started in 2014 and will be completed in October 2016. The project aims at promoting and validating social, personal and organisational key competences such as entrepreneurship, civic competences and learning to learn with the help of an innovative, self-directed learning approach at the interface of higher education and business.

The project starts from the consideration that social and personal key competences are hardly to be acquired in lectures, frontal teaching and self-learning. The ideal learning contexts to develop these competences are informal/non-formal learning contexts such as learning in mobility and in traineeships. However, up to now only singular attempts have been made to assess these competences, to give evidence of their development in the learning activity, to connect them to existing certification systems and to offer a European wide validation approach.

discuss podcast cop seriesReflections on Communities of Practice is an audio series created to bring together experts in the EdTech and Lifelong Learning field in general. This initiative aims at bringing more visibilty to the DISCUSS community on the one hand and to learn from other experiences, on the other hand. The lessons learned and the good practices do matter not only for improvement purposes but also to ignite some reflection on the topic beyond the theoretical underpinnings.

discuss peer review 348This new Erasmus+ project seeks to improve, monitor and evaluate the quality of validation of non-formal and informal learning (VNFIL) through means of peer review.

Peer Review – the external evaluation of VNFIL institutions/providers by Peers – is a promising instrument for quality assurance and development. It builds on quality activities already in place at a VNFIL institution/provider, it is cost-effective and it fosters networking and exchange between providers of validation of non-formal and informal learning.

The Peer Review VNFIL Extended project works with the Peer Review methodology and instruments as they have been developed in previous programmes. Most recently, in the Europeerguid RVC project, the Manual, Toolbox, and Quality Areas for Peer Review have been adapted to use in 3 countries. VNFIL providers and stakeholders in other countries have expressed a strong interest in adapting and implementing the Peer Review framework and its instruments. This project takes up further fine-tuning and transfer of the methodology to new countries through a number of capacity building activities directed at professional development of more VNFIL practitioners.

Programme: Erasmus+


discuss siqucae 300The SiQuCAE partnership has developed and tested quality assurance systems in order to: increase the quality of and access to validation of non-formal and informal learning, qualify the training and work systems in partner countries, improve the effectiveness of investment in validation of non-formal and informal learning.

Recession that characterized the last years of the European economy has had an enormous effect on the labour market. Studies show positive signals for employment by 2020, but only if policies and instruments able to facilitate the mobility of workers from one sector to another are put in place and only if we manage to validate and recognize learning outcomes achieved in a non/ informal context. In this direction, it becomes urgent: optimizing access to all levels of education, improving flexibility in the recognition of learning outcomes and how they lead to achievement of qualifications.


discuss building learning societiesThis project aims at developing an awareness raising campaign for the validation of learning outcomes of non-formal and informal learning as a tool to further improve adults’ career perspectives and stimulate their further education and training.

discuss graham attwell munich speech 1I greatly enjoyed the DISCUSS project conference in Munich last week at which I spoke together with Steve Wheeler. After the morning speeches, there was a cafe type session in the afternoon looking at four key challenges the project has identified for education in Europe. All were interesting and given the venue tended to be reflected through the lens of the present refugee crisis.

One of the issues was the recognition of prior learning. Interestingly, this seems to have been the subject of more European funded projects in education and training than any other subject. Needless to say there was considerable discussion and some divergence of opinion on ways forward on which I will report my view tomorrow.

But Randolph Preisinger Kleine has dug out something I wrote on a previous project, which seems to make some sense of why we have such misunderstandings. (Mind, you can tell how old it is when I say that the UK has a comprehensive system of careers guidance!).

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