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Competence Development and Capacity Building in Erasmus+: Youth in Action

The study aims to explore processes, outcomes and impact of training activities for youth workers and youth leaders in Erasmus+: Youth in Action, in particular training activities funded within Key Action 1 (Youth Worker Mobility), Key Action 2, Transnational Cooperation Activities (TCA) and other support mechanisms for the development and implementation of Erasmus+: Youth in Action projects.
In particular, the study aims to explore how these activities contribute to the competence development of youth workers and youth leaders, how they contribute to youth work practice, and how they affect the organisations involved in Erasmus+: Youth in Action.
This should lead to a better understanding of the systemic impact of training and support activities within Erasmus+: Youth in Action. Furthermore, the study should also contribute to the quality development and strategic planning of Transnational Cooperation Activities (TCA) within Erasmus+: Youth in Action.

Aims & Objectives

The aim of this project is to explore evidence for the benefits of international cooperation in the youth field in Erasmus+: Youth in Action, especially with respect to its contribution to quality development of youth work training and the work of youth workers, organisations in the youth field and National Agencies of Erasmus+: Youth in Action. This evidence should contribute to the visibility and recognition of international cooperation in the youth field.

Objectives are:

  • to explore competence development of youth workers and youth leaders through their participation in training and support activities in the youth field, in particular in the framework of Erasmus+: Youth in Action (including TCA);
  • to explore how learning outcomes from such activities are transferred into practice;
  • to explore long-term systemic effects of training and support activities on the organisations involved in Erasmus+: Youth in Action.

The exploration of competence development should refer to

  • key competences according to the European reference framework for key competences for lifelong learning (see European Parliament and Council, 2006); in this respect, this study should build on the RAY studies between 2009 and 2014;
  • youth work competences, in particular related to international youth work and youth work with an European Dimension, but also to youth work in general; in this respect the study should take into account existing literature and frameworks for (international) youth work such as the European Training Strategy (see Bergstein, García López, & Teichmann, 2014),
  • the portfolio on youth work of the Council of Europe (Council of Europe, 2007) and related studies (see European Commission, 2014; Pantea, 2012).

The study could also be used to explore potential synergies between training/support activities in
different sectors of Erasmus+, with a view to a potential added value of cross-sectorial training activities, in
the framework of strategic partnerships within Erasmus+.

Research Questions

General research questions:

  • How do training and support activities within Erasmus+: Youth in Action (in particular in KA1 and KA2) contribute to competence development and professionalism of youth workers and youth leaders?
  • What is the European dimension in regard to the impact of training/support activities?
  • How are learning outcomes transferred into practice?
  • How do training and support activities within Erasmus+: Youth in Action contribute to the development of organisations involved in Erasmus+: Youth in Action, also in combination with other Erasmus+: Youth in Action activities these organisations are involved in?
  • How could the findings contribute to quality development of training/support strategies and youth work/training/support practice in the context of Erasmus+: Youth in Action, including the work of National Agencies in this respect, in particular through dissemination and exploitation?
  • How could the findings contribute to youth policy development?
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Specific Research Questions RAY Competence Development

  • Which key competences and (international) youth work competences are developed trough training/support activities within Erasmus+: Youth in Action? To which extent are they developed?
  • How does the development of key competences and (international) youth work competences focussed on quality standards and professionalism take place in training/support activities within Erasmus+: Youth in Action?
  • Which training approaches, methodologies and other factors are successful in developingthese competences? What stimulates the development of these competences?
  • What are the differences of training processes and outcomes depending on different types of training providers, training formats and types of training and support activities?
  • How does participation in Erasmus+: Youth in Action contribute to inclusion of young people with fewer opportunities?
  • What triggers the participation of youth workers and youth leaders in training and support activities?
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Research Design RAY Competence Development

Basically, there are three research modules:

  • a module on the competence development of participants in training/support activities within Erasmus+: Youth in Action;
  • a module on the transfer into practice of what has been learned in training/support activities (use of competences developed);
  • a module on the systemic effects (including long-term effects) of training/support activities, in particular on the organisations involved (youth organisations, training providers, National Agencies).



 

Module on competence development

As a first step, existing knowledge should be collected, reviewed and analysed, in particular

  • outcomes of the RAY ‘Standard Surveys’ and ‘Special Surveys’ between 2009 and 2014, including a deeper analysis of the data collected;
  • literature and studies on this topic, including literature on youth work competences;
  • reports on monitoring of TCP activities (2007-2013), to be requested from National Agencies.

During this phase, a specification (framework) of ‘youth work competences’ (including for international youth work) should be worked out based on a literature review as well as on a survey (standardised interviews) with beneficiaries who are responsible for implementing TCA in Erasmus+: Youth in Action.
As a second step, a pre-study is planned, exploring basic dimensions of the development of youth work competences and their use in practice by interviewing participants involved in training and networking activities within Erasmus+: Youth in Action (2007-2013). This pre-study is aimed at contributing to the development of research instruments of the main study.
The research design of the main study is based on a self-assessment of competence development by participants in training/support activities through interviews before and after the training/support activity. The sample of participants should include participants with different levels of experience with training/support activities (‘newcomers’ as well as ‘repeaters’).
Additionally, the questionnaires for participants within the RAY research project on monitoring Erasmus+: Youth in Action (‘Standard Surveys’) will include a special section for participants in training/support activities (Youth Worker Mobility and Transnational Cooperation Activities) in view of their development of (international) youth work competences. The outcomes of these surveys will be taken into consideration in the analysis of the interviews of this study.

Module on the transfer of competence development into practice

As a first step, existing knowledge should be collected, reviewed and analysed, in particular from RAY surveys between 2009 and 2014, TCP monitoring by National Agencies and related literature.
The research design would include interviews with participants in training/support activities around 6 to 12 months after the activity (same sample as for the module on competence development). These interviews would also refer to effects on the organisations of the interviewed participants (see also next module on systemic effects). In this respect, the sample of participants should reflect a broad scope of organisations, including from organisations with no prior involvement in Youth in Action or Erasmus+: Youth in Action.

Complementary to the interviews, participants could be encouraged to write a diary concerning their youth work practice (optional), focussing on what they have done differently because of their participation in the training/support activity – and how their practice has changed.

Module on long-term systemic effects (organisational development)

This module would explore (long-term) systemic effects of training/support activities (including TCA) as well as of the overall involvement in Erasmus+: Youth in Action on the organisations involved.
As a first step, existing knowledge should be collected, reviewed and analysed, in particular from RAY surveys between 2009 and 2014 (including items related to effects on organisations and local project environments), from related literature, from national studies, from the interim evaluation of Youth in Action in 2010 etc.
The research design of the main study would include interviews with staff members of organisations involved in training/support activities and in other activities funded through Erasmus+: Youth in Action. Staff members interviewed would be directors of organisations and staff members working on Erasmus+: Youth in Action activities (focus on organisations involved in the modules on competence development and on the transfer into practice through youth workers and youth leaders interviewed for this study).
Optionally, the research design could include case studies of selected training/support activities as
well as of organisations with a multiple involvement in Erasmus+: Youth in Action.
A main indicator for organisational development would be the quality of (international) youth work, indicated by non-formal learning, intercultural learning, inclusion of young people with fewer opportunities and participation of young people in the activities of the organisations. Further indicators could be the “multiplication” of experiences gained in training/support activities, the sustainability of effects resulting from the involvement in training/support activities etc.


Further research activities
As in RAY surveys between 2009 and 2014, it is planned to include a special section/module for participants in training/support activities (including TCA) in the future ‘Standard Surveys’ within research-based analysis and monitoring of Erasmus+: Youth in Action. This section/module would include questions on the development of (international) youth work competences as well as on the profile, motivation, prior training/learning experiences in the youth field, prior involvement in Erasmus+: Youth in Action etc. of participating youth workers and youth leaders.

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Research Design Long Term Effects on Participation and Active Citizenship

There are two research modules:

  • a module on the effects with respect to the development of competences relevant for active citizenship and participation;
  • a module on the long-term effects with respect to citizenship practice, i.e. if and how the competences developed through a Erasmus+: Youth in Action project are applied and transferred into practice.

In this respect, a multi-method approach applying quantitative and qualitative social research methods is taken.
A literature review explores previous studies on this topic (learning mobility, participation and citizenship), including the research methodologies applied (in particular studies on competence development and on long-term effects), in order to develop an adequate conceptual framework. Existing knowledge resulting from RAY research activities is used for developing the necessary research instruments (see Fennes, Gadinger, & Hagleitner, 2012; Fennes, Gadinger, Hagleitner, & Lunardon, 2013).
A pre-study explores basic dimensions of this research project by interviewing participants of the
Youth in Action Programme (2007-2013), who had participated in a funded project aimed at fostering
participation and active citizenship around three years earlier.
 

Module on competence development

Standardised multilingual surveys are conducted with project participants and project leaders as well as with control groups. The same participants and project leaders are surveyed at different stages before and after the Youth in Action project:

  • as early as possible in the project, in any case before the (first) activity/the intensive phase3;
  • approximately two months after the end of the project/(last) activity/intensive phase (after
  • having had time to reflect and to look at the experience from some distance and without the potential initial enthusiasm);
  • one year after the project/(last) activity/intensive phase.

The questionnaire is based on indicators for participation/citizenship competence and for participation/citizenship practice. In principle, the participants and the project leaders complete the same questionnaire every time (probably with some adaptations depending on the timing), assessing their own competences and practices.
The sample for the online surveys consists of 100% of participants of a mix of projects (different Actions/project types; bilateral, trilateral and multilateral projects; different types of beneficiaries; different participant profiles, including young people with fewer opportunities etc.).
At least 250 participants per partner country involved in this study are invited to these online surveys.
Additionally, the project leaders of the respective projects are invited to participate in the surveys.
Furthermore, qualitative interviews are conducted as outlined below for the module on long-term effects. These interviews will also explore the competence development, complementary to the quantitative surveys.

Module on long-term effects

Selected participants (around 10 to 15 per partner country) are interviewed individually at different stages before and after the Youth in Action project:

  • as early as possible in the project, in any case before the (first) activity/intensive phase;
  • one year after the end of the project/(last) activity/intensive phase;
  • three years after the end of the project/(last) activity/intensive phase.

Participants to be interviewed are primarily selected from the sample selected for the quantitative surveys on competence development (see above). At the end of the study there are planned to be at least 10 participants per partner country who had been interviewed three times (see above).
The sample is aimed to be heterogeneous with respect to the participant profile and experiences: a diversity of participant profiles, including young people with fewer opportunities; ‘hosting’ participants and participants visiting another country = ‘sending’; different project types/actions).
The questionnaires for the third online survey for the module on competence development as outlined above (one year after the project/activity) also refer to long-term effects on citizenship practice.