The PEERMENT Project: Community of Practice
"After a while and as these people share their knowledge, their expertise, they learn together".
The European project PEERMENT (Peer- Mentoring for Teachers "Change - Builders") was born out of the implementation of the concept of "community of practice" theorised by E. Wenger.
What is the PEERMENT project?
PEERMENT, its name deriving from ‘peer-mentoring' is an educational cooperation project at European level, founded by Erasmus +. Six partners are involved in this project, from 5 countries: Malta, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, and France. These organizations are associations, NGOs, or professional institutes. The University of Malta is the lead partner.
It combines peer mentoring, as an action research methodology, and the cross-cutting theme of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) to interrogate:
- How can peer mentoring bring sustainable development to life in the formal education system?
- By extension, what is the role of the teacher in transformative education and education for global citizenship?
The mission of the project was to pilot a model which, tried and tested by teachers and scientific partners (the "education specialists"), will enable Peer Mentoring for Sustainable Development to be integrated as a reliable tool for reaching SDGs and to be recognised as a new professional "competence".
What is peer mentoring?
“It is based on a constructivist view of learning, the idea of shared expertise and the model of integrative pedagogy, where teachers are trusted, and their professional autonomy respected” (Kirsi, 2014). Through this project, peer-mentoring focuses on the balanced, horizontal relationship between peers/all expert and learning “mentors”. In French, it could be more appropriately translated as "coopération entre pairs".
Why peer mentoring for ESD?
Peer Mentoring spaces have been designed to strengthen the didactic skills in ESD/ GCE but also the personal and social development skills of teachers. At the start of the project, many of them confided their difficulties in implementing ESD: personal involvement on the topic, how to "deal with controversial issues", isolation, the place of minority or overly theoretical SD in the curricula or the living environment of the schools.
What are the first results to be shared?
It shows that mentoring is one of the most effective methodologies for transforming schools into "learning communities", supporting teachers in building skills and confidence, and strengthening the provision of ESD in schools by "opening up" the subject and teams. More generally, peer Mentoring is a lever for improving the quality of education: by placing itself at the service of ESD, citizenship, intercultural exchange, and educational contents, it also contributes to SDG 4.7.
Beyond the initial expectations of the project, it has also had other positive results: teachers have learned to replicate the mentoring to other subjects, to add explicit mention of SDGs in the curriculum (Malta). The teachers were able to overcome the generational gap, it even proved to be one of the most interesting aspects of the training courses.
Finally, the crisis related to COVID-19 - which disrupted the finalization/dissemination phase of the project- demonstrated even more clearly the importance of ESD as a tool for a better future and the need for an environment of mutual support and educational cooperation. It generated new needs for peer support and mentoring, including the need for interaction and sharing of resources online.
The project website https://peerment.eu/
By Carole Coupez, Solidarité Laïque, French partner of the project