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Adult education plays a crucial role in Danish society and is very much influenced by the ideas of N. F. S. Grundtvig. The educational system considers the learning process as a central issue, rather than the immediate application of knowledge (or skills). In this sense, the understanding of the educative process is not based on competition but on cooperation and the success of the community of learners.

The work of VUC within the framework of 'Learning Games' was a showcase for the project, as this institution, dedicated to adult education, has set its goals in both, dealing with the challenges of the present society, and embedding it in the educational process itself. In that environment games for learning found the perfect place as a tool for developing creativity, motivational and participative qualities.
Mona Blaabjerg Nielsen is a senior educator at Holstebro-Struer branch of VUC. In the following text, based on the experience of playing Circle of Knowledge, she gives an insight in her know-how she manages to combine curricular demands with the development of the cognitive and learning potentials of the students. The starting sentence can be read as 'considering teaching as a way of learning' which represents an essential attitude for the role of a facilitator, a  trainer, or a teacher in the using games of learning.

Learning From Each Other

Different studies and statistics show that you learn more from what you teach than from what you hear from the teacher and that is a very good reason for letting students learn from each other. From my experience, I have also concluded that 'learning from each other' is an excellent tool to use in the classroom. Not the only tool but one among many others. 'Learning from each other' works well, for instance when you have presented students to a new grammar problem. You as a teacher, present the problem and its facts and rules. You also make sure that everyone knows where to find out about the problem if they have forgotten it after the presentation, which someone always does!

The ‘Circle of knowledge’

When it is time for students to learn from each other and embed new knowledge, it could be ideal to try the game Circle of Knowledge. The rules of the game are that the group has completed the task when all the paper-slips are placed and form a circle. Every time a slip is placed, the person who placed it must explain to the group why he/she thinks it is the right place for it. If anyone disagrees he/she must explain why, and if the group does not agree 100 percent on a solution they must try to find the answer by further discussion and/or look up in a grammar book, or ask the teacher for the answer. If they cannot make a circle from the slips they must go through it all once again and be more critical about the explanations.                                                                                                                   

I have used Circle of Knowledge many times in this way on different topics and even Maths teachers I know have used it as well, adjusting the game to fit their subject.                                         

Embedding knowledge is, in my opinion, the essence of learning: more important than being directly taught, people have always learned and cemented knowledge through all times and ages by learning from each other. It is not much good learning facts if you do not know what you can use these facts for. It is when you use the facts you deepen your knowledge.

Teaching is diversity

Therefore it is important as a teacher to start activities, different kinds of activities because we are all different in our way of learning, where the knowledge the teacher can give to the students will be embedded and therefore remembered as something useful and not just words or phrases learned by heart. These activities come in many forms, but I think the value of 'learning from each other' is high in this connection if you as a teacher have prepared the activity carefully. It is your responsibility that the students have been carefully guided/informed before they start so that they do not work with incorrect information. It is also within 'learning from each other' that if someone says something wrong, others can correct them and therefore a discussion might start and really deepen everyone's understanding!  

When I do lesson evaluations in class, I use games and other activities where 'learning from each other' is mentioned as important, activities where students feel they learn and understand. When asked why, they say it is because they must think carefully about what they say because I, the teacher, am not always there to correct them if it is wrong because I am walking around in class from group to group.

'Learning from each other' has more advantages that I find important and also necessary to fulfill the intentions of the Danish school curriculum for my classes. I work with adults who have either had problems in school when they were young and therefore need basic qualifications to get a job or pursue further education, or they are foreigners who have come to live in Denmark. In both groups, there is a large number of students who do not believe very much in themselves and therefore often find it more secure to speak and explain concepts in a small group rather than in front of the whole class. This way each student gets much more time to talk and form questions, which, in traditional teaching, unfortunately, is mostly what the teacher does.

Using 'learning from each other' activities I always make up the groups, because I do not want the same kinds of student learners. If I want them to improve on their skills to create an article on a theme decided by me for instance, it is important that the group has students who know their grammar, students who know about the theme and students who are creative. Together they can come up with an interesting, catchy and well-written article.  In other situations, I might make groups where students are more equal or groups where they can support each other in learning social skills (they do not always know that it is what I am doing!).                                                                                                      

Playing/gaming and learning/teaching are often closely connected and if you do both you will improve the cooperation between the two halves of your brain. Letting the students work in groups with a game like Circle of Knowledge, they get to have small breaks where the focus changes, they laugh because someone says something funny, the wind takes the paper-slips for instance and that is good, as lots of studies show that a person needs a short break every 7 minutes to have an optimal learning situation. They can also decide to play the game in different ways, sitting at the table, on the floor, walking around, in the classroom, in the canteen drinking a cup of coffee. They must take responsibility for their own learning which I as a teacher control much more the first times we use the game than when I do when they have done it several times.                                                                                                             

I also try to provide a short break every 7 minutes. It does not feel like a break but I just, for example, drop my pencil, tap my fingers on the desk or move to another position. I do believe it keeps the students concentrated because every time I do something “unexpected” their concentration is back on me.                                           

'Learning from each other' is good, but as a teacher, you must always remember to ask yourself the question: When is the right time to use “Learning from each other”? In my opinion, the right time is when there is something to learn, and students are capable of teaching the knowledge presented! That means when you as a teacher have prepared the students for it, given the necessary information, set the activity carefully and made clear guidelines for the work. If that is not the case, it probably will not work.

An example: Creative writing

Students often find it difficult to write, to get started, to write enough, to have a good idea and an angle for the text. Attempting to counter for that I always introduce Creative Writing in my classes.

I play some calming quiet music. The students are told that they must write just what comes into their mind and write for 7 minutes without a break. If they do not know what to write they just write blab la blab la, but they cannot stop writing. Then I set the clock and they write for 7 minutes. Afterwards, they read their text a couple of times and put the paper away. Then we do the same again and again. After the third or fourth text, they all have something with a kind of storyline and content. Now they swap texts and give each other comments on the other person's text. After that, they should work with their texts again. This time with the comments in mind, they can start looking at language and grammar and let another student read it again and comment on it, and as a final point finish their text. But the fact is that most of the students now have a readable text within a timeframe which sometimes would not even have gotten started.

Almost every time the students are told to write something they sit in groups – chosen by me- and I invite them to help each other both on content and form, and most of them follow the invitation.

I always get very positive feedback on this exercise although in the beginning students are often very skeptical and think it is a silly exercise. It is an eye-opener to an alternative way of getting into writing, and then it is also 'learning from each other'.