Speak Up for Learning


Democracy can resist the authoritarian threat if it is transformed from a passive spectator democracy into an active participatory democracy. Erich Fromm

In a previous article, we introduced learning journey Speak Up for Learning which is part of the educational programme EUQ. At the heart of the text were the tasks contained in the worksheets (Situation I and II) and the methodological commentaries addressed to teachers. The aim of the methodological commentaries was to clarify the nature of the tasks focused on developing a democratic culture among secondary-school pupils. The tasks outlined were intended to prepare the students for independent speaking related to democratic efforts to ensure fair access to people with learning disabilities. Let us recall: the tasks in Situation I serve to elicit student interest in a particular issue experienced. In Situation II, in addition to the questions, we offered a textual resource - the text of the European Citizens' Initiative. Let us then look at the two subsequent phases of the learning journey (Situation III and IV) leading to a developed civic consciousness. Imagine that the students have just read the text of the initiative and in Situation III we start talking to them about the text they have read.

Situation III

What problem are the authors of the initiative pointing out in the text?

What solution do they propose?

What changes do they expect by adopting the proposal?

Take a position on the statement: Students may be treated differently in other Member States which could hinder their right of free movement as granted by the Treaties, resulting in repercussions on their education and integration into society.

Give some reasons for supporting your chosen idea for a European Citizens' Initiative.

How do you think success in learning relates to success in employment?

Prepare and deliver a speech

A) the Minister of Education on the occasion of the adoption of the European law on learning disabilities, which unifies the approach of the European Union countries to pupils with specific educational needs,

B) the head teacher/principal at the opening ceremony of the school year, emphasising the principles of equality and fairness in education,

C) the mayor/mayoress of the city at the opening of a new classroom at the secondary school to help improve the education of pupils with learning disabilities.

Functionally incorporate an idea of a famous person into the text of the speech.

Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Marie Curie-Skłodowska

Education is not preparation for life. Education is life itself. John Dewey

Education is learning what you didn't even know you didn't know. Daniel J. Boorstin

Education is for improving the lives of others and for leaving your community and world better than you found it. Marian W. Edelman

The only educated person is the one who has learned how to grow and change. Carl Rogers

The illiterate of the future are not those who can't read or write but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. Alvin Toffler

Now school is by no means the world and must not pretend to be; it is rather the institution that we interpose between the private domain of home and the world, in order to make the transition from the family to the world possible at all. Hannah Arendt

Methodological commentary on Situation III

The introductory questions draw pupils' attention to the substance of the European Citizens' Initiative - the problem, the proposed solution and the expected improvement. In addition to helping learners to slow down mentally, the questions related to the text keep their attention and ideas in one context.

Obviously, having an opinion is not the same as knowing. The challenge of taking a position on an idea creates a space for cognitive development through more complex problems, such as formulating a position on a claim and its justification. Discussion of the text can be guided by a variety of questions: what do students think about the reasons for the chosen idea? Do they all agree with them? Would they be able to justify the idea differently? Would they be able to contradict the claim or the reasoning?

Before writing the text comes a high-level question (How do you think success in learning relates to success in employment?) - a question with a high degree of generality, in this case about the relationship between learning and employment. All the questions, answers, insights, experiences, discussion inputs form the thought base for the successful creation of the speech.

This is followed by writing a text. The speech does not need to be long and may only take the form of a conveniently readable draft, as persons in public office usually have limited time to prepare a speech. It is advantageous and methodologically sound to give young speakers a choice in selecting a rhetorical role and topic. During the writing process, we don't let young people wander around in the digital universe and worry about finding statements about education; we offer them straightforwardly. Taking advantage of any of the ideas offered is an option, not an obligation. Meanwhile, their functional use means that they can be quoted or paraphrased freely.

The presentation of the speech is the culmination of the learning journey. The rhetorical difficulty of the presentation can be graded - the easiest form is a public reading of the text; the most communicatively demanding version is a speech without the help of the text. Both the text of the speech and the digital recording of the speech should be considered as a tangible result of the learning journey.

Situation IV

Evaluate the speeches presented in terms of the requirements of rhetoric style.

Which ideas in the speeches caught your attention? Discuss them.

Methodological commentary on Situation IV

The conclusion can be divided in terms of subject focus, although this is not a necessity - the rhetoric criteria of the speeches can appear in mother language lesson, and the problem of learning can appear in a discussion form in civics, ethics, or even in the classroom (e.g., as the beginning of a conversation with a student who does not show interest in learning).

The EUQ programme is based on the systematic development of democratic consciousness among pupils in primary and secondary schools. The starting point of the programme is the conviction that the development of democratic consciousness is not based on the reproduction of principles or mechanisms given from above, but above all on thinking about the civil and legal equality of people, on communicating the origin, development and legitimacy of relations in a democratic society, on experiencing their individual and collective usefulness. The EUQ programme is an educational invitation to schools to offer pupils the opportunity to discover the viability of the democratic system, its relationships and institutions as embodied by people in the past, present and possible future.

It is understandable that when we talk about democracy at school, we think primarily, in terms of subject focus, of the educational area of Man and Society and, within it, specifically of the teaching of civics and history. The learning journey towards a democratic culture that we have described seems to defy common expectations - it leads to the goal that language teachers are normally supposed to strive for. The EUQ programme currently contains 250 cognitively graded learning journeys which - in the form of worksheets and methodological sheets - can help not only in the teaching of civics and history, but are a concrete example of comprehensive learning support in the teaching of mother language and literature, foreign languages, biology, geography, informatics, ethics, specialized and other subjects. At the same time, if we are concerned about democracy in school or democratic schooling (and we should be), we go beyond narrow subject focus and at the same time as we are teaching, we are shaping, training and refining the democratic processes of the school. We show learners the (inevitable) path from democratic knowledge to democratic action.

Finally, let us underline an obvious point: the quality of the learning outcome depends on the quality of the learning process. What precedes it, what the preparation for it looks like, on what cognitive basis the student's production and the oratorical presentation is realized, is crucial for the emergence of a quality learning outcome - in our case, a ceremonial speech. Admittedly, before writing a speech it is useful to know that the audience needs to be adequately addressed at the outset or that the solemn circumstances of public communication create space for the text to be emotionally attuned. But this is only half of the preparation - the other half, reliably bypassed in our secondary schools, is teaching young people what and in what social circumstances to communicate with the text. To illustrate: imagine a high school student, interested in the universe from a young age, who has to write a speech at an international astronomy congress. How much information and what quality of knowledge does such a student have before writing? How will this student's thought or knowledge base affect the quality of his/her text and interest in writing? Can his/her writing be expected to lead to a content-dense and linguistically imaginative expression? On the other hand, what might the same speech, thematically and situationally, look like from a classmate who is not interested in the universe and who knows only enough about it to know that it exists?

There is no need to worry about democracy. It is enough that we develop democratic culture in schools in a modern way - methodically, constructively, with digital support and taking into account the cognitive profiles of pupils. In this way, the danger can be avoided that young people, while remembering many different data and information, will passively register or accept, without deeper reflection, violations of the democratic principles of equality and justice as citizens.

The presented learning journey is part of EuQ, a programme for the development of a European democratic culture, which has been developed on the basis of the DaCoSiDe methodology.

All of the cited dispositions were defined and described by a team of authors led by Darina De Jaegher and are part of the Database of Cognition and Social Interaction Descriptors (DaCoSiDe).

All rights reserved EDUAWEN EUROPE, Ltd.

Karel Dvořák PhD. – DaCoSiDe expert tasked with the creation of A2/B1-level methodological guidelines and certification tools


DE JAEGHER, Darina – DVOŘÁK, Karel – ĎURIŠ, Boris – GREGOROVÁ, Ivana – HORNÁ, Dagmar, KRATOCHVÍL, Viliam – MNÍCHOVÁ, Jana – RYBÁROVÁ Monika. 2023. Referenčný rámec pre rozvoj európskej demokratickej kultúry. Bratislava : EDUAWEN EUROPE (in print)

FROMM, Erich. 2008. To Have or To Be? New York : Continuum. 176 p. ISBN 0-8264-1738-8

COUNCIL OF EUROPE. 2018. Reference Framewok of Competences fo Democratic Culture. Context, Concepts and Model. Volume 1. Strasbourg : Council of Europe, 83 p. ISBN 978-92-871-8573-0