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Do you feel inspired when you identify new solutions and tracks for your personal and professional journey? Have you already found these opportunities but still looking for financial support to achieve your learning goals? You should then try the Erasmus+ program.
By now, you have probably searched and looked into various possibilities to get funds. You have been struggling to navigate through the amount of information available while projecting in your mind the daunting perspective of an intricate process. Indeed, sometimes this seems like a discouraging task.
Learning is a Lifetime Adventure!
As an English teacher, I have always been interested in my CPD. From the very beginning, in my second year of teaching, I managed to win a Comenius scholarship (Exeter, England, 2011). Later, I successfully applied for several Erasmus+ grants. I am particularly fond of the project I won for my institution with Erasmus+ Key Action 1. This gave my colleagues and me the opportunity to attend professional development courses in various countries (Portugal-Porto, Spain-Benalmadena, Finland-Helsinki) and study at Bell Cambridge. Certainly, this represented a milestone in my teaching career.
Many colleagues and partners from abroad asked me for advice on how to write a successful application. So, I decided to write this article to share some guiding principles and useful tips.
To begin with, it is not that complicated as it sounds. However, you need to be aware that it takes time and energy to plan every detail well. Of course, if you use some efficient project management tools you can optimize the entire process.
First, I will outline my Erasmus+story and the impact it had on me. Then, in the second part, I will provide useful tools and resources for project design and management. Last but not least, I hope this will encourage more teachers to benefit from this enriching opportunity.
My Erasmus+ experience
Sicily, Cambridge, Exeter, Porto, Helsinki…what do all these locations have in common? Well, these are not only unforgettable places from my mental map; they are also exciting professional and personal experiences from my Erasmus+ story.
“Downloading” some thoughts and memories from my Erasmus+ story.
Needless to say, I enjoyed every moment spent on the shores of the Ionian Sea! Our time in Sicily was intensely diluted due to our dedicated Italian host Istituto Comprensivo Salvatore Casella. They had meticulously planned every detail to provide us a fully immersive in their cultural experience! We had a lot of takeaways from the artistic moments, the science-based activities, as well as from the Olympic Games! I particularly loved the insight into their amazing robotics course and lego-based transdisciplinary learning activities!
How to encapsulate in just a few words the essence of this experience? Generosity, warmth, friendliness, collaboration, enthusiasm, and the list could go on! The tears of joy from our pupils’ eyes at our final meeting were vivid proof of the quality time together! Undoubtedly, we all witnessed the unbelievably strong ties our students had developed with the host families and their international peers! Both parents and school staff had been fully committed to ensuring the best Sicilian experience for both pupils and teachers!
I must confess that I had learned a lot from our guided tours! We explored both less known places like the lovely town of Acireale with its fascinating Museo dei Puppi (Puppet Museum), as well as popular ones. I can still vividly remember the vibrant streets of Palermo and the picturesque Taormina with its breathtaking scenic landscapes, charming location, and archaeological heritage.
Erasmus+: an inspiring journey filled with ‘aha’ moments
I was genuinely inspired by the rich history of Palermo, with its Norman cathedrals and Baroque churches! Similarly, the impressive acoustics of Massimo Teatro, the exquisite Palatine Chapel, and the Norman Palace (Palazzo dei Normanni) with its unique Arab-Norman-Byzantine style left an indelible mark in my memory. According to our guide, this palace was the former seat of royalty during the Norman domination. Now it serves as the residence of the Sicilian Parliament and a Unesco World Heritage site. However, beyond the architectural value dating back to the 12th century, it is an outstanding emblem of multicultural collaboration. Actually, it is vivid proof that witnesses the possibility of harmonious coexistence between these three major antagonistic religious traditions.
I will definitely keep these invaluable memories deep within my soul, where time’s corrosive acid cannot alter them! Undoubtedly, I have learned so much from Sicilians’ vibrant spirit and their vitality and hardworking determination in front of the capricious face of nature!
Even now, I am still puzzled by the passionate and strange way they cherish and love their “mother Etna”! Indeed, its fertile lava soil provides rich harvests and exquisite wines. From my insightful conversations with the locals, I realized they still filter their reality through a mythological lens. Curiously, they often associate the mount with Medusa, the island’s mystical symbol, found on almost every trinket and souvenir.
What is Erasmus+?
For those teachers who are not yet familiarized with Erasmus+, you need to know that this is the European Union program for education, training, youth, and sport. It challenges organizations across all lifelong learning sectors, including school education, higher education, adult education, and the youth sector to apply for funding each year for life-changing activities. Briefly, the main aims of the program are:
- Young people can study, volunteer, and gain work experience abroad, to develop new skills, gain vital international experience, and boost their employability.
- Staff can teach or train abroad, to develop their professional practice, build relationships with international peers, and gain fresh ideas.
- Organizations can collaborate with international partners, to drive innovation, share best practices, and offer new opportunities to young people.” (https://www.erasmusplus.org.uk/about-erasmus).
The Programme is made up of three so-called “Key Actions” and two additional actions. For more details, you can visit their official website: https://eacea.ec.europa.eu/erasmus-plus_en.
How can you prepare a successful application for Erasmus+ Key Action 1 (KA1) Learning Mobility of individuals for school education staff?
Overview of general aspects.
- First, you start from the official webpage of Erasmus+ where you can download the Programme Guide 2019: http://ec.europa.eu/programmes/erasmusplus/resources/programme-guide and https://ec.europa.eu/programmes/erasmus-plus/programme-guide/introduction/how-to-read-programme-guide_en.
- Here you find everything you need to know. It is a long document, but in Part C you find detailed information on procedures for a
grantapplication. Additionally, there you find the financial and administrative regulations related to the award!
- Next, look for the website address of your National Agency! Here you find useful information, including your country’s priorities for the current year! You should take these into account when you write the proposal: http://ec.europa.eu/programmes/erasmus-plus/tools/national-agencies/index_en.htm;
- Find a reliable and trustworthy course provider. The difficulty arises from the puzzling number of online databases with training courses
. Thereare several ways to find it, either on Facebook groups or by reading the feedback provided by former participants or going directly here https://ec.europa.eu/info/funding-tenders/opportunities/portal/screen/how-to-participate/partner-search.
You need to know that some great course providers offer support for filling out the application form. For example, in my case, it was Euneos, a trustworthy Finnish course provider. They have provided lots of support materials to be adapted for our school and invaluable help with the process. You can find or contact them here http://www.euneoscourses.eu.
Tips on how to start writing the KA1 Erasmus + project for your school.
Use efficient project management tools.
My advice is to start with a thorough needs analysis of your institution. Thus, you can identify the key areas of improvement.
A great way to do this is to use analytical tools like the problem tree/ the solution tree analysis. The latter is a handy tool to organize your ideas more effectively. If done systematically, it can ensure the success of your entire project.
Let me give you an example to understand better. For instance, in our case, we aimed to approach two strategic priorities from the wide spectrum of identified needs for our school. Our first area of improvement, which we had diagnosed, revealed the necessity to implement a long-term policy plan on internationalization. Secondly, we established the need to promote innovation and quality in education. More specifically, it was vitally important for our school to exploit the potential of digital technology in the didactic process.
What is a problem tree/solution tree analysis?
This tool provides an overview of all the potential causes and effects triggered by an identified significant problem. This is essential in planning because it gives a better understanding of the context. A problem tree involves writing causes in a negative form (e.g., lack of knowledge, time, financial resources, etc.).
“Reversing the problem tree, by replacing negative statements with positive ones, creates a solution tree. A solution tree identifies means-end relationships as opposed to cause-effects. This provides an outline of the project plan, including the activities that need to be undertaken, the goal and the outcomes of the project as well as the range of projects or interventions that need to occur to solve the core problem.” (http://evaluationtoolbox.net.au/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=28&Itemid=134 ).
Many teachers tend to take for granted this stage and treat it superficially. Actually, this is by far one of the most important stages. You will definitely not regret it if you spend more time on it. I spent a few days only to clarify this part! Indeed, I agree it looks time-consuming. However, I did not regret doing this! Especially after the feedback given by our National Agency, which evaluated our application among the first 12 from over 500 submissions!
In our next post, we will be sharing strategies for developing a coherent European Development Plan for your institution. This is another essential part of your application form which weighs a lot in the evaluation process.
Keep in mind the deadline and don’t postpone until the last week! Unquestionably, a well-written application needs quality time and reflection to ensure its success!
Good luck and should you have any questions, feel free to contact us! Dare to apply, enjoy writing your project, and let us know if you were successful!
Further reading on teacher professional development.