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Validation is for every single project in adult education a question mark and since every project is an answer to needs and a call for improvement, quality, qualification we can not avoid the Meta questions about Validation. Who validates? What? When? Why? How?
The thematic seminar "Validation of non-formal and informal learning opportunities for special targets groups” organised by the Finish National Agency brought new proposals and at the same time further questions.
In this article, I try to analyse the proposed ideas from the Learning Games project perspective.

 From November 28 to December 1, 2017, I attended in the seminar “Validation of non-formal and informal learning – opportunities for special target groups” in Kuopio/Finland organised by the FNA under the umbrella of Erasmus+

As one of around 70 participants from a diverse, international community, I was introduced to the latest trends of skill validation. We were presented with new proposals that have stimulated further discussions.

From the analytic perspective, validation continues to be a hurdle for almost every project in Adult Education. Meeting the needs for Adult Education by offering multitudes of projects is insufficient. There should be clarity at the inception of a project to monitor quality, qualifications and eventually the validation of results including the impact in the qualification of teachers, trainers and facilitators.

Below I will attempt to analyse the proposed ideas from the perspective of our KA 2 project “Learning Games”.


The particular significance of validation for our project Learning Games, as much for the participants and the facilitators and trainers, derives mainly from a simple fact:
For most of the learning methods used in adult education today, playing and playing games, is not considered as "serious learning". Therefore its inclusion is not conceived as methodically relevant.
This attitude may have an inbuilt connotation in the conception of Adult Education as closely associated with "work", and work is the main, if not the only antonym to play (in the English language).

Games and Play, for some educators, look dangerously close to entertainment.
This situation in adult education differs sharply from the psychological and pedagogical methods applied in elementary education, where today playing and games are an integral and entirely valid part of the learning process. Recognizing the value and effectiveness of play, as an educational method was a process initiated at the beginning of the last century. Practical experience and research studies have produced outstanding results leading to a full validation as a pedagogic method.

Another point worth mentioning is the difficulties presented by traditional evaluation systems (notes) vis-à-vis the complex interaction of playing.

The models and processes of validation presented during the Seminar
Looking at the idea of validation from another perspective and context, the seminar "Validation of non-formal and informal learning opportunities for special targets groups” intended to fill a gap in the process of Validation. ?The seminar was concerned with the process of validation for "individuals," i.e. persons in a precarious or disadvantaged situation with no recognized skills providing them with the necessary tools to validate their skills and take advantage of opportunities on offer.
It is good to notice from the beginning that validation, as an action and as a condition, faces the same problem everywhere. Validation is only possible when an approved guarantor supports it.
Thus the questions are: Who validates? What? When? Why? How?
On closer look, validation is an endorsement, even a guarantee that a person has specific skills. Such confirmation is normally only be given by Institutions with official status, acting as guarantors. ?Moreover, if the person does not have a guarantor, validator, and an official acknowledgement, for the State-run offices like job-centres it means: the applicant does not have the skills.
This is the point that defines the boundaries between formal and informal / non-formal education.
Institutions do the kind of skill validation that allows people to step into the job market mostly within the formal education and curricular framework. Then the task of facilitators working outside this context is to identify abilities, aptitudes and interests of the individuals and to orientate them to a proper validation.

Playing cards

"My skills", a project presented by Martin Noack within the Bertelsmann Foundation developed a set of cards that combines pictures and texts in different languages and can be used as the basis for a conversation about abilities and competences in a particular field of work. The system is extremely flexible and can be used in many ways. 
It promotes an entirely different approach, away from questioning, using a nonverbal and non-invasive method in a playful form. A person reflecting


his skills can make a picture of the proposed skills for himself, or better, to put himself in the picture. The system has several levels of complexity, and it is ready to be used. More information on the homepage of Bertelsmann Stiftung.

Open Badges, Open Validation?
Open Badges is another approach that appears to be taking ground in informal learning, particularly in the area of training and coaching. It proposes that any participant in a seminar or course gets a digital Badge, which is an identification number with a time stamp and a sequence of descriptions of the competences that the participant has won.
The Open Badges concept is a rhizomatic approach to validation. There is not a central authority that provides the endorsement but a net of connected centres. Again, the validation of the net as a whole will be the central point in question. ?Of course, a Badge can independently be given by a central authority or in the name of a central authority, but then it does not make much difference to a certificate of participation, a title or a confirmation of gained skills. ?What is fascinating about the idea is the dynamic that it can take, in speed and transparency. That is not a small subject since "Big Money" is after the idea. Facebook for instance, and when we do not act quickly, then we will have lost another piece of the Internet again to big corporations.?
There are hopes and doubts about the system of Badges, but it is an alternative worth considering for our project Learning Games, as well as for the participants and users of Learning Games in the future.

At the moment we should look for the best possible description of our work, to define the application areas, to ensure quality in the way we conceptualise our work and observations related Play and Games.