Decisions and Dilemmas III: Making Learning about the EU Motivating and Meaningful

This project was a continuation of the previous projects Decisions and Dilemmas I and II. It aimed to further support educators across Europe in teaching about the European Union in a motivating and meaningful way that resonates with students. We hope that through this, students became more aware and active in Europe’s democracy. The ambition of this project was to make educators, and thus students, aware of the importance of the EU and the complexities that accompany policy and decision making in the EU.

Project Aims

The project aimed to spread the content (resources) that were developed in three previous projects (D&D1, D&D2,  and Teaching Europe) to educators and citizens living in Europe.

PRESS KIT: What Do Students Learn about the European Union?

EUROCLIO - European Association of History Educators, released a research report, Teaching Europe, that analysed how all the 28 member states teach about the EU. Surveying national textbooks revealed that EU member states teach about the EU with an emphasis on externality and dates, figures, and institutions. The following press-release presents a brief overview of current resources and initiatives for teaching about the European Union. EUROCLIO, committed to active citizenship education and history taught in multiperspectivity, recommends that there is room for improvement.

Press Kit: What Do Students Learn About the European Union?

People Involved

The project included eight partner countries, where the country coordinators of each country organised national training events with the project materials in their local languages. Coordinators also contributed to the project by identifying relevant communication channels for the dissemination and awareness raising campaign. Additionally national trainers were responsible to host workshops with the project materials during their national events, and during one of the other trainers. The people involved were:

  • Bulgaria: Bulgarian History Teachers’ Association, Petya Georgieva and Bistra Stoimenova
  • Croatia: Croatian History Teachers’ Association, Igor Jovanović and Vedran Ristić
  • Cyprus: Association for Historical Dialogue and Research, Loizos Loukaidis and Alev Tugberk
  • Czech Republic: History Teachers’ Association of Czech Republic, Jiri Benes and Eva Zajicova
  • Finland: Finnish Association for Teachers of History and Social Studies, Kati Hynonen and Kirsi Ruhanen
  • Latvia: Latvian History Teachers’ Association, Edgars Berzins and Ansis Nudiens
  • Portugal: Portuguese History Teachers’ Association, Joaquim Freire de Carvalho and Miguel Barros
  • Spain: Spanish Association of History and Geography Teachers, Marino Maqueda and Maria Jesus Campos

Trainings

The following activities were part of the project: An international train the trainer event, a series of national training and awareness raising events, the translation of open educational resources and research results from previous projects and the implementation of a European dissemination and awareness raising campaign.

The aim of training events was to help educators promote learning about the EU that is both motivating and meaningful for students. This is because the teaching practices in most European countries are not preparing young people to fully participate in Europe’s democracy. Over the period of April until August of 2018, several national training events were organized. These were organized as follows:

  • April: Cyprus
  • May: Bulgaria, Croatia and Cyprus
  • June: Czech Republic, Finland and Spain
  • August: Latvia and Cyprus

On top of these trainings , EUROCLIO also organized a “Train the Trainer” seminar in February 2018, during which educators that participated in the training events were thought about why teaching about the EU matters, they had access to exemplar learning resources that they could use in their own language, and were trained on how to use these resources to make learning about the EU motivating and meaningful (because the resources are inquiry based and make use of active methods)

Outcomes

A variety of resources were disseminated to educators and students alike, which fall under the following themes related to the development of The EU project:

The way the EU is currently being taught - These resources were spread in order to help educators to critically reflect on the way the EU is currently being taught and the implications of this approach, and therefore be triggered to develop their own vision on how teaching about the EU should ideally look like.

  • The results of a comparative analysis of the way European Integration is currently presented in school textbooks in all 28 member states (conducted in 2015).
  • Scans of the maps, cartoons and photographs that are used in these textbooks on the pages dealing with European integration.

Post-War Europe (1944-1951) – These resources were spread as they 1) help educators to engage students with the challenges facing Europeans, and their hopes and fears for the future, as the continent emerged from a war-torn first half of the 20th century, and 2) help youngsters understand why a group of political leaders wanted to establish a means of facilitating social and economic integration leading eventually to some kind of greater political integration.

  • A collection of 24 life stories of ordinary people living in Europe after the end of World War 2. All of these stories are written up from the lives of real people. The stories are presented to help students to empathise with the human side of the years 1945-49.
  • Evidence files under the themes: Changing borders, New governments, Life goes on, Infrastructure destruction, Hunger and hardship, Destroying the National Socialist world, Displaced people and refugees, and Never again. Students can use the materials in these files to research what life was like in Europe the period 1945-49 and make judgements about how useful the different types of sources are for different purposes.
  • A learning activity “Life in Europe 1945-1949 – What was it like to live in postwar Europe?”
  • A scripted drama “Rising from the Ruins: Rebuilding Europe after World War Two. How did the aftermath of World War Two lead to the founding of the European Union?”

The EU in the context of the long search for stability – These resources were spread as they help educators show to students that the European project has been different from the previous attempts to manage conflict and establish stability in Europe:

  • A multi-stranded timeline “Managing conflict in times of change”.
  • A learning activity “Managing conflict in Europe in times of Change: 1648 – 1945. What can we learn from a timeline about conflict management in Europe?”
  • A learning activity “A comparison of European peace treaties. What are the similarities and differences between some of the key European peace treaties?”

The EU in the context of a changing world – These resources were spread as they help educators show to students how and why decisions are made and exploring the dilemmas that Europe has faced, and continues to face, and how the EU has adapted to changing international circumstances in the second half of the 20th century and the early years of the 21st:

  • A learning activity “Old fears and new threats: Western European defence negotiations – How revealing are the negotiations over European defence 1948-1954 about the hopes and fears of the people involved?”
  • A learning activity “Why has it proved so difficult to agree a common European foreign policy? Examining the evidence to explore dilemmas and decisions about European foreign policy.”
  • A learning activity “Exploring the Common Agricultural Policy What is the CAP and is it still needed?
  • A learning activity “The challenge of European stability – How stable has Europe been 1945-today?”
  • A learning activity ‘Unity in Diversity’: What makes it possible for European countries to work together to operate as a global power?
  • A learning activity “Economic imbalances in Europe. What kind of dilemmas may result from our economic choices?”
  • A learning activity “The EU and trade in a global context. How does European trade policy affect African chicken farmers?”
  • A learning activity “Should we feel anxious about Europe’s energy dependency?”
  • A learning activity “Opening Europe’s Borders for People and border controls in a (post)Schengen world’. How did the migrant crisis shake the foundations and principles of the European Union?”

“Teaching Europe” research

The aim of the research was to answer the question on “how is European integration taught in the final two years of compulsory education in the 28 member states of the European Union?”

The goal of the research was as follows:

  • Help improving the way teaching and learning about the EU is taking place
  • Establish the common features and fundamental differences in teaching EU throughout the different EU member states
  • Provide a response to the wishes expressed by EU institutions to improve teaching on European integration as enhancing social cohesion within the Union
  • Nourish the European debate on how to articulate identification with the European project for a shared future

Educators that were involved in the project were asked to identify 2 school books for history education which are most widely used to teach European integration in member state and analyse their EU-related contents, and the 2 books most used in another social science subject and analyse their EU-related contents. They were then asked to fill in a questionnaire that was divided into sections, in order to have a full image of what the textbooks cover on European integration.

  • Textbooks details
  • Coverage of the EU
  • The origins of the EU & EU integration
  • Enlargement of the EU
  • EU institutions and policies
  • Historical figures
  • EU in relation to your and other countries

The data accumulated has been analyzed and the full scope of research can be found here. However, the conclusion is as follows:

  1. Presentation of EU consists of a mostly positive narrative
    • EU history is detached from other history
    • EU is seen as external and there appears to be little room for ordinary people
  2. Future recommendations and directions
    • EU history should not be detached from the rest of history. It has been almost 70 years since the signing of the Rome Treaty and the EU has been a key factor in many areas of life in Europe.
    • Methods should be motivating and should be based on active teaching and learning methods.
    • EU should further invest in developing innovative educational resources, and make existing ones available in more languages.
    • EU should increase its focus on school education.

Project Managers

Steven Stegers
Acting Executive Director, EUROCLIO - European Association of History Educators

Judith Geerling
Senior Project Manager, EUROCLIO - European Association of History Educators