Zalau is situated in the Zalau Valley, at the junction of the Apuseni mountains and the Eastern Carpathians. Zalau is in the central part of Salaj County, in Zalau River watershed. The city includes a total surface of 90.09 km2. This includes the one village it administers, Stâna. The population of Zalau went through important evolutions throughout times, and at present the data indicated by the 2011 census are the following: 56,202 inhabitants.

2nd Partner Meeting - Zalau, Romania, June 3-5 2014
Welcome to Zalau, Romania!



June 3rd to 5th we will meet again, this time in Zalua in North Western Romania.

The meeting will be held at "Gheorghe Sincai" Theoretical High School which is the sole pedagogical high school in the county, being viewed both as representative and prestigious as it has mentored generations by promoting highly qualitative teaching principles. The school has a theoretical department and humanistic specialization with Romanian, Hungarian, French, intensive English and maternal German departments. The vocational department has a specialization for educators, teachers. The human resources include 47 teaching staff for approximately 700 students aged 14-19, all of them with a multiethnic background (Romanian, Hungarian, Slovakian, German).



Gheorghe Sincai
Theoretical High School
Strada Crisan 15A, Zalau, Romania

Evaluation report

Aims of the report



The report aims to review what went well, where improvements can be made and any problems to be addressed before the next meeting. It is important that results and strategies for improvement can be summarized and communicated to the participants. It reduces the possibility of repeating unproductive behaviours and procedures and shows respect for people's time.

The report contains a general overview of the meeting, description of the evaluation process and the main findings. Furthermore, conclusions and recommendations are also presented to improve the organization of the following meetings.


Overview of the meeting

The purpose of this meeting was to receive feedback from partners regarding the test activities implemented in the frame of work package 2 "Flight for Knowledge", as well as to discuss the work package 3 "Business Class", work package 5 "Quality assurance" and work package 6 "Dissemination and exploitation". The programme also included a number of leisure activities such as a guided tour through the region of Salaj.

The outcome of this meeting

-handbook on "Flight for Knowledge" for schools where they will find everything they need to adopt "Flight for Knowledge" approach to the classroom, including sample lesson plans, success stories, professional development opportunities, and the opportunity to network with other schools,
-recommendations for policy makers on how to help schools to open up and generate ideas that will take them forward.

A case study evaluation



Traditional evaluation designs use quantitative measures. However, it seems to us that in the OPEDUCA project this sort of evaluation design does not work as effectively as a case study evaluation. One of the strengths of a case study evaluation is that it treats project implementation as a series of test activities, each of which calls for new strategies that may end up changing outcomes. A case study evaluation in OPEDUCA allows greater latitude in seeking out and assessing project impacts.

Data collection in case study evaluation is designed to answer the following questions:

-how did you experience the envisioned learning and teaching approach of mind maps in your classroom?
-could you fulfill your national curriculum requirements through making mind maps?
-could you explain the way pupils choose a (sub-)theme to be researched?
-how did you value and assess the quality of questions pupils formulated to start their research?
-which sources of information did your pupils use to answer their questions?
-which companies, NGO's, museums, etc. did they visit to interview experts, follow excursions, make photo and video materials for their researches?
-which challenges and opportunities did you meet making contacts with companies, NGO's, museums, etc. in the region?
-how did your pupils present their researches?
-could you indicate issues and/or conditions important, in your opinion, for forming research competences and mindset development at school?
-could you formulate some recommendations to improve issues and/or conditions important for forming research competences and mindset development at school?

A completed case study report will have detailed descriptions of what happened, and the context in which it occurred, from multiple viewpoints. The report will feature a factual recounting as well as an interpretation of test activities.

Conclusions and recommendations



There is an underlying need to enable sharing and cooperation across national and regional boundaries in order to make progress.  At the heart of the research group's activities is the desire to formulate recommendations for improving future teacher training. Its efforts will be stepped-up identifying research areas of mutual interest that can provide key understanding to some of the most globally significant and challenging educational problems.


Findings



The meeting was mostly devoted to the evaluation of test activities implemented in the frame of work package 2 "Flight for Knowledge". Each school in close cooperation with another organization representing the same country have made a presentation answering questions above. The evaluation had an impact of the meeting in terms of reflection on partner's personal experiences and exploration of a new learning- and teaching approach and new partnerships in the region.

The teachers and the pupils have started the project activities by making classroom-based mind maps. Making mind maps is a useful way of representing key aspects of a central topic and the relationships between them. The teachers have encouraged pupil's creativity and free thinking.

The teachers involved in the project carefully checked all mind maps, in order to cover and even expand topics contained in the curriculum. Therefore, in order to transfer the school curriculum into mind maps and increase the relevancy of learning experiences for pupils, books and other learning materials traditionally used at school have been reflected there.

Then pupils have chosen the sub-themes to be researched on the basis of their doubts and curiosities about the main theme. In all cases, they have formulated good quality and very interesting questions: some of them are simple and come from their own life experiences, the other ones are more complex and in-depth questions. In order to give pupils the opportunity to research aspects they find interesting and have fun at the same time, some experimental activities have been realized.

In October 2013 we have established a research group to facilitate and coordinate research to prepare recommendations for improving future teacher training. The research group is composed of 8 members: Jos Eussen, Andrew Barton, Friedrich Zimmermann, Francoise Laveuve, Salim Lardjane, Mari Nuutinen, Monica Camuffo and Rytis Vilkonis.

Its internal meeting in Zalau was crucial to find out areas to be researched:
-analyse content of mind maps per partner country from the perspective of a holistic approach versus traditional learning (analytic, with an exposition of the principles of concept mapping and synthetic, with an exposition of the principles of Tony Buzan's mind mapping theory),
-analyse learning content both prior to and post introduction of work package 2 "Business Class" in the classroom.

In May 2014 our research group has started a Google Group that is elaborated on different opportunities to explore new and innovative ways to collaborate in the future, e.g.:
-attract attention of more people and find people with similar backgrounds by engaging them in discussions about a specific subject,
-make our communication more interactive through organizing online meetings/sessions among members of the Group,
-share Group's posts through e-mail, the online interface, or both.

Workshop on "Business Class" for teachers was implemented to better understand how to link classroom work with the creation of practical business models and real-life opportunities. As a result, young people come to understand the importance of education to their long-term goals and personal success. This means more young people stay in school, complete their studies and go on to post-secondary education.

Teachers can get started with "Business Class" by using the project materials and implementing intensive workshop that will give pupils the fundamentals of the entrepreneurship. Workshop objectives:
(1) to provide insight into entrepreneurship; (2) to understand the importance of networking; (3) to give pupils improved communication skills;  (4) to be confident with experts and authorities; (5)  to enable pupils to "sell" themselves and promote their companies.

Reflections of internal evaluators



Prof. Francoise Laveuve: "Zalau conference was a great time; we came back delighted. The warm welcome at "Gheorghe Sincai" Theoretical High School, the perfect organization, the visit of the Roman Site were moments that leave lasting memories. The exchange of experiences was interesting, enriching and constructive. "Flight for knowledge has apparently been appreciated by all classes in which it has been conducted, and the variety of methods used are examples which can benefit to everyone. Precisely because it was constructive, the experience should be continued and integrated in the "business class", as mind mapping allows students to quickly advance in research, and to see more clearly the points that deserve further consideration.

It would also be interesting to draw a synthesis of mind maps performed, in order to compare the areas in which students have best expressed themselves, and those in which they have felt less comfortable. This, for example, to develop a framework enabling teachers interested by the method and willing to implement it, to use it with a maximum efficiency, regardless of the concerned public: school leaving or gifted students, or adults, in the perspective of a learning process, all throughout life."

Thomas Drage: "It can be stated that the second OPEDUCA partner meeting in Zalau, 3rd and 4th of July, was very well organized by the lead partner in cooperation with the local partner and met all the important goals of a professional and fruitful partnership meeting. The venue was appreciated as suitable for the working processes and offered an appropriate quality of accommodation and meals. We felt very welcome being in Zalau and getting insights in aspects of the local culture. The meeting was a real-life example of our OPEDUCA collaboration between different partners schools, universities, cities, NGO's and RCE's. It presented a very interesting and inspiring overview of all the activities done by the partners in the phase of "Flight for Knowledge".

The amount of heterogeneity, diversity and creativity of the results was remarkable and provided a lot of motivation for the participants to meet the goals of the next phase at least with the same high standards as demonstrated in Zalau. A huge added value was generated by integrating pupils in both the presentations about their activities in schools as well as in the meeting itself. It is therefore very welcome and corresponds fully with the concept of the OPEDUCA project to invite all partners to include their pupils actively at the next partner meetings. Due to the challenges of the detailed work in class as well as in the work with partners from the regions it would have been desirable to have more time in Zalau to talk about the next concrete actions in "Business Class". Overall it was an extremely successful meeting".