Elżbieta Kosek, inclusive education expert at Kreisau-Initiative e.V.
The Kreisau Model project took place for the first time in 2006/2007. It aims to connect inclusive international youth exchange programmes with international expert schemes. The activities offered by the partners have a beneficial influence on each other and help to produce fresh input. The curricula of the expert programmes are based on experience gained during youth exchanges. Participants reflect on their experience with each other, whilst new insights and skills developed in these training programmes are fed back into the design and planning of future youth exchanges.
Our inclusive international educational activities are designed for young people aged 14 to 30 from three, four or sometimes more European countries. We take a broad inclusive approach in our work, resulting in projects that are open to anyone interested in taking part, irrespective of their social background, educational experiences, language skills, physical impairments or learning difficulties. The more diverse the groups, the more intense the experience for all involved. Working with mixed groups forces us to adopt new, rethink existing and modify familiar, tried-and-tested methodological and educational approaches. This is a key objective of the Kreisau Model expert programme.
 Wir wollen nicht „geistig behindert“ genannt werden. Wir sind Menschen mit Lern-Schwierigkeiten!“. http://www.menschzuerst.de/ (accessed 12 Oct 2017).
The Kreisau Model offers both basic training and advanced training modules. Both are aimed at European experts working in national and international, formal and non-formal education who want to make their activities more inclusive and/or wish to broaden their expertise in this field. When choosing our partners and advertising for participants, we aim to reach out to people from diverse youth work fields (international youth work, disability organisations, community organisations, child and youth services, etc.) so the perspectives of a wide range of target groups can be incorporated into the curricula.
The goal shared by all training modules provided under the Kreisau Model is to teach methodologies for inclusive non-formal education work, initiate shared learning processes and bring together European youth work stakeholders. Most importantly, though, the main aim is to strengthen and expand inclusive education in Europe in order to bring educational activities to young target groups who have previously been less involved in youth work or not at all.
The basic module teaches the fundamentals. It starts by establishing a shared understanding of inclusion. This is particularly important, as debate surrounding the topic of inclusion is handled differently in the European partner countries. Using this approach establishes a common basis for discussions and learning processes. During the rest of the five-day basic training, experts learn about methods that play an important role during the various stages of group dynamics in international exchanges. In order to become active in inclusive international youth work and education themselves and work with heavily mixed groups, the experts must possess methodological and educational skills along with the necessary qualifications. The basic module raises awareness of how a trusting, safe and accessible environment and the use of adapted integration methods can positively influence and foster respect amongst one another and promote the success of inclusive international youth exchanges.
The five-day advanced module expands on the basic training. It also starts by establishing a shared understanding of inclusion and how it is relevant to learning processes. This module teaches methodological approaches to and key elements of inclusive education. The substance of the module can vary but is always oriented to the needs of the young target groups and the knowledge needs of the experts, whilst incorporating approaches we have found to be reliably successful as well as aspects relevant to implementing the programme. Over the last few years advanced training modules have been offered on language and communication or visualisation, and educational approaches using drama, art, circus, sports and physical activity have been presented and taught.
Our educational work is process- and experience-oriented. The curriculum is aligned with the same dynamic processes found in international youth exchanges. To safeguard the success of the training course, many aspects that are also important when planning and implementing exchange programmes for young people must be considered. This is an important fact and one that is used for the learning processes during the course. Education takes place on two levels across both modules: Experts get a sense of the dynamics and processes involved in international exchanges by taking part in the course, learning the methods and attending practical workshops from the participants' perspective, and reflect on these together on a higher level. An important part of the Kreisau Model expert programme is putting new theoretical knowledge into daily practice, which builds greater capacities among the experts.
Not only do experts participate in the training, but as specialists in their respective fields they are valuable sources of input for the learning process and the expert discourse. During reflection sessions on the methods, they share perspectives and experiences from their own countries and areas of work, which produces broad discussions, perspectives, findings and not least successful learning. To tap into this potential, the expert programme is flexible enough to incorporate space for exchanges, debate and reflection.
Work in heterogeneous groups, both in youth and adult education, can also be wrought with challenges. Whilst the variety of international viewpoints contributed by participating experts is beneficial to the process, depending on in which country the international programme is being held this variety can result in conflicting understandings of inclusion, education systems and other aspects which have to be reconciled. This process calls for close supervision and, most importantly, communication amongst everyone involved as well as a willingness to see things from another perspective. Module supervisors must use appropriate methods and provide assistance to ensure the process is a success. After all, it is this diversity of perspectives that makes the expert programme so invaluable.
As mentioned at the start of this article, our inclusive international youth exchanges and the expert training modules are closely interlinked, each safeguarding the quality of the respective other project. Experts who have taken part in the Kreisau Model and who return to take part in the inclusive exchange programmes with youth groups help to improve quality on a continual basis. Not only are they better able to prepare the young participants and offer support during the learning and experience phases – thanks to their training, they also make a sustainable contribution to the impact of the measures by remaining in touch with the young people as supporters after the exchange ends.
In addition to contributing added value to international youth work, expert training schemes of this nature are important for network building among partners in Europe. These European expert networks are needed to be able to offer high-quality inclusive international education and exchange programmes and spread awareness of inclusion throughout education and society. The partners have shared goals and act as multipliers who share successful inclusive programmes, methods and educational approaches. Thanks to the Kreisau Model, over the past few years we have established a network of European partners in the field of inclusion. Each new training scheme and each new youth exchange brings new partners on board. There is still a lot of work to do to fully integrate inclusive thinking in society, and plenty of room for improvement when it comes to expanding international networks and lobbying.
Most of all, we should not be afraid to make mistakes or to tackle challenges and obstacles head-on. Inclusive international education is still a new area for us all. It is only by continuing to work towards this goal that we will successfully spread and establish inclusive ways of thinking. Our Kreisau Model training makes a small contribution in this respect.