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Participants of the inclusive continuing education program solve a task together with a student (Photo: Jana Dünnhaupt / Uni Magdeburg)
03.01.2023 from 
Campus + City
Learning together

“Inclusion means integrating all people, but also establishing structures that all people can take part in, can participate with”, explains Professor Olaf Doerner, holder of the Chair of Educational Science, with the emphasis on Scientific Continuing Education and Continuing Education Research. “But it also means actually making inclusion possible, in other words offering every member of our society opportunities for development. It means, for example, they are able to be educated and work with as little difference as possible, whilst taking into account the limitations and skills of the participants.” Today, inclusion is still too often thought of as being for people with disabilities.

Since the ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the topic of inclusion has gained momentum. “There are demands and expectations in this direction, nevertheless, inclusion is far from having been achieved, including in our university. There may be approaches to achieving accessibility, but our university is not set up to be completely inclusive. The question is also whether that is even the aim. But a declared aim does exist.” “And”, the adult education researcher emphasizes, “adult education is an area of our society and in this respect is also affected by it.” Nevertheless, it is true that people with a disability actually are not part of the traditional audience for adult education. In this respect, in practice and research, inclusion is a side issue in scientific continuing education.

Professor Doerner goes on to explain that for this reason too it would be particularly exciting, to be able, for the first time, to offer an inclusive continuing education program for and with people with intellectual disabilities at the university. Professor Doerner heads the “Workshop Uni” program, which was launched in the summer semester in cooperation with the Pfeiffer Foundations in Magdeburg. This is aimed both at adults working in sheltered workshops as well as the teaching staff that work with them and support them in their everyday working lives. At the same time, students within this project are testing new inclusive adult and continuing education formats and materials in collaboration with the men and women with intellectual disabilities. “It is about developing learning materials for adults. Materials for children learning to read and write are unsuitable. Instead, materials need to be developed for the special needs of adults with disabilities,” summarizes Professor Doerner. Educational researchers are providing scientific support for the project. “We also want to find out how inclusive adult and continuing education might be shaped in future with the Workshop Uni.”

A participant in the inclusive continuing education program doing writing exercises with a student (photo: Jana Duennhaupt / University of Magdeburg)A participant in the inclusive continuing education program doing writing exercises with a student (photo: Jana Duennhaupt / University of Magdeburg)

The focal areas in terms of content of the continuing education program lie in the fields of reading and writing skills, arithmetic skills and in political education. Among other things, the concept of “learning on a common object” is practiced. Simple language is used to communicate. The employees of a sheltered workshop come to the university weekly with the teaching staff. They work, with the students, on a particular subject, for example Magdeburg. “The participants then concentrate on a task basis on their favorite places in Magdeburg and read, and/or write about them, guided by the students, for example individual words, so as to reinforce their reading and writing skills. However, someone who cannot yet (or scarcely) read and write has, at the same time, the opportunity to become familiar with and use individual letters,” explains Professor Doerner. The teaching staff from the workshops learn in the same environment. Above all, they see how the employees from the workshop learn, assimilate materials and experience life at the university. And they also learn elements of basic education as a subject of mediation. Reading and writing - these are skills that facilitate participation in society, which the educators can integrate into the everyday working lives of people with disabilities, in order to better be able to fulfill the educational task of the workshops for disabled people. If we stick with the example of Magdeburg, these are facts on the history of the city, on interesting sights, and especially guidance on how to use the cultural offerings of the city.

The Workshop University was offered for the first time in the 2022 summer semester. “Our impression is that the program has been really warmly received both by the people with disabilities and by their mentors and the students. Naturally, in the first round this semester there were also teething problems, for example with the premises, and we had to learn that, for example, routines, such as eating punctually, play a big part. But these are small details to which we can adjust, and we hope to continue to be able to learn in future in the Workshop Uni,” concludes Professor Doerner.

Author: Lisa Baaske
Source: uni:report summersemester 2022