Effective learner-oriented educational approaches for low-skilled adults, including refugees, asylum seekers, migrants

This module focuses on guiding adult educators to advance social competences by working with low-skilled groups such as refugees, asylum seekers and migrants.

The following module is addressed to adult educators in order to develop social competences particularly to work in an effective way with target groups such as low-skilled adults, including refugees, asylum seekers, migrants.

Different methods are explained, divided in different categories:

  • Problem-oriented experiential learning and reflections;
  • Participatory approach reversed training/flipped learning;
  • Intercultural awareness in education
  • How to understand the learning needs and learning style of the low skilled, including refugees, asylum seekers, migrants.
  • To develop adult educators’ social competences particularly to work effectively and constructively with low-skilled adults, including refugees, asylum seekers, migrants.
  • To improve the ability of working with low skilled groups
  • To foster capacity of learning among adults
  • To increase the participation of the target through new approaches which can be implemented with the target.

Social competence is important for adult educators in order to achieve their learning objectives with their target. It is just social skills. According to many authors, “it is a complex and interconnected set of skills that enables us to navigate social interactions and initiate and maintain relationships with others” (Stichter et al, 2012).

Social competence concerns three areas of functioning:



  1. Cognitive: understanding social rules, being able to understand another’s perspective, and taking in, remembering and expressing ideas to others.
  2. Emotional: being able to manage emotions, matching ‘energy’ or level of emotion to the social situation.
  3. Behavioural: using social skills effectively and age-appropriately, such as taking turns, making eye contact, sustaining a conversation, negotiating conflict.

Why is it important to develop good social competence? It helps us to develop strong social supports and work effectively with others.

More and more, we live in a complex and connected world, and the ways in which we connect are increasingly fast paced and fragmented. The challenges of social media, living away from extended relatives and familiar communities, having to form new social supports, and having to work with groups of people, all add to the need for high levels of social competence. We know that individuals who struggle with social competence are more likely to have trouble in forming lasting and supportive relationships, or may have poorer outcomes in mental health & wellbeing as adults. Individuals with better social competence achieve better career success (Amdurer et al, 2014).

In order to be effective in working with adults, it is important to know your learners and have a general understanding of how adults learn.

To best reach adults, you should focus on in the development of your training five key factors:

How to Reach Adult Learners
Make sure your course is:
• Immediately useful
• Relevant
• Welcoming
• Engaging
• Respectful
  1. The material presented should have immediate usefulness to the learners.
  2. The material presented should be relevant to adult learners’ lives.
  3. The training environment should be welcoming so that all learners feel safe to participate.
  4. The training presentation should be engaging.
  5. The training should be presented in a respectful manner, where learners have an opportunity to share their experiences
Make Connections
Stories, cases, and anecdotes help make connections.
Do you have a story related to your topic ready to share with your audience?

So, fostering capacity for learning among adults could be recognised as a constant development of competences. On an individual level, an adult has to identify which of the competencies they already possess.


Experiential learning engages learners in critical thinking, problem solving and decision making in contexts that are personally relevant to them.

This approach to learning also involves making opportunities for debriefing and consolidation of ideas and skills through feedback, reflection, and the application of the ideas and skills to new situations.

Experiential learning consists of the following four components (Woolfe 1992, 1):

  1. The student is aware of the processes which are taking place, and which are enabling learning to occur.
  2. The student is involved in a reflective experience that enables him/ her to relate current learning to part, present and future, even if these relationships are felt rather than thought.
  3. The experience and content are personally significant: what is being learned and how it is being learned, have a special importance for the person.
  4. There is an involvement of the whole self: body, thoughts, feelings and actions, not just of the mind; in other words, the student is engaged as a whole person.

It is important:

  • To appreciate the value of student-centred experiential learning;
  • To analyse the elements of experiential learning;
  • To develop guidelines for teaching through experiential approaches; and
  • To relate experiential learning to education for sustainable futures.
Traditional learning activities Experiential learning activities
Teacher-centred/focused Student-centred/focused
Learning outcomes are prescribed to a fixed rubric or scoring system Learning outcomes are flexible and open
Aim to explain knowledge and/or skills by transferring information Aim to develop knowledge and skills through experience
Fixed structure, high degree of facilitation Flexible structure, minimal facilitation

The training course ‘M-Easy’ uses the problem-oriented experiential learning and reflections approach as its methodology basis on open educational resources (OERs)  and innovative digital era Mobile applications.

This online M-EASY course is designed to provide learners a medium to test and develop their mathematical skills in order to apply them in everyday real-life situations which will enable them to better integrate into the society.

The training course is a learner-focused and starts with the Self-Assessment tool, which is freely-available in the web-site. It will help learner to assess his/her mathematical skills and to receive detailed update on 27 important mathematical skills which may be needed to improve a little or to take more extended learning course. After the training, the learner  is encouraged to take the same assessment test again and compare the results with the  initial score, in order to self-evaluate his/her improvements.

Two more self-learning materials to develop learner’s mathematical skills are the OERs which stand on the mobile devices using Android Operating System: e-Directory and Set of Mobile Apps.

e-Directory consists of carefully selected and tested existing apps for mobile phones and dedicated to refresh and improve the basic mathematical knowledge.

The Set of Mobile Apps “M-Easy” consists of 21 mobile exercises oriented on solving life-oriented situation and covers shopping, budget, travel, leisure and many more real-life situations. The learner will be ready to use the obtained via these exersices knowledge straight away!

Taking into account that the training/learning process is innovative and includes combination of on-line experiential learning activities and face-to-face sessions with reflections, it is advisable for adult educator to read the Learner’s Guide (http://measy.lpf.lt/learners_guide_en.html) which gives the directions for managing the training course M-EASY then it will be organised with the help of adult educator- facilitator.

Participatory approaches (PA) include a range of activities with a common thread: enabling ordinary people to play an active and influential part in decisions, which affect their lives. This means that people are not just listened to, but also heard; and that their voices shape outcomes.

The right to participate

That all people have a right to play a part in shaping the decisions that affect their lives sounds obvious, but is not easy to achieve.

Hearing unheard voices

Using PAs involves seeking out unheard voices and creating the safe spaces that allow them to be heard. It is often people who have the least say in decisions about their lives that are most affected by using the methods.

Reversing learning

PAs are about letting go of preconceptions in order to learn from the wisdom of community members. This means being prepared to unlearn what has already been learned.

Using diverse methods

Using a range of PMs helps draw in as many people as possible to undertake learning and analysis on an equal basis.

Intercultural awareness and social compentences are essential skills to possess when working with people from different countries. These competences are especially crucial for adult education with refugees and asylum youth, as we may be called to work with adult with various backgrounds, experiences, and cultures of origins, beliefs and understandings. Intercultural awareness in adult education today challenges us to understand refugees from a socio-cultural perspective and to be able to work with and respect differences and similarities in those who use our services.

The lifelong learning is very important to foster social inclusion and integration of the low skilled, including refugees, asylum seekers, migrants.

It is advisable for adult educator/facilitator to be acquainted  as well with the developed within the project training materials for the workshop for local communities “ Successful Integration of Low-Skilled Adults Through Education”: Set of 10 success stories and e-Guide (see http://measy.lpf.lt/training_course_en.html).

This workshop  gives a clear message about the importance of lifelong learning for integration.  The 10 success stories present how education, lifelong learning and efforts of the socially excluded people themselves may open new opportunities and ease the challenging process of integration. This success stories will help you as an adult educator to sensitize yourself towards tolerance, equity, diversity, empathy and understanding of your learners’ needs. You will be more aware about necessity of lifelong learning, about the impact of well-performing education and training systems on providing low-skilled adults with the skills required by the labor market and the economy, while allowing them to play an active role in society and achieve personal fulfillment.

The globalisation is fast evolving process due to which the world is getting smaller and smaller every day.

In order to find our place in it and to live peacefully and comfortable we should learn to accept and understand the incredible diversity amongst human population.

People see, interpret and evaluate everything in very different ways. What is considered an appropriate behaviour in one culture is frequently inappropriate in another one. When we do not know each other, we experience doubt, fear and mistrust of others regardless of colour, religion, gender or any other stereotypical excuse given as to why we fear others. Due to this reason, it is essential to be aware of the differences between the different nations, ethnicities, cultures and religions. In this way, we increase our community awareness and strengthen the feeling of mutual trust, tolerance, understanding and friendship.

When we break the barriers (we have built around us) and start to learn more about the others and to accept the similarities and differences we evolve and improve ourselves. The community awareness helps the people to grow and opens doors to unlimited possibilities in terms of travel, new friendships, new opportunities and wider perspective of the world we live in.

The role of the local communities on fostering inclusion and integration of low-skilled adults through education and learning is crucial. That is why it is important to develop adult educators’ civic and social competences in training of local communities’ practitioners in order to engage them in fostering the low-skilled adults to life-long learning. The staff members and volunteers, who work at local community centers, staff of non-governmental organizations and adult education centers  at the grass-root level have to be able to motivate the low-skilled adults to constantly improve their competences by joining educational courses and be more active in the social life of the local communities.

Within the avove mentioned Workshop for local communities, the  e-Guide  raises the main topics of the European Union strategy 2020 and stresses a demand/challenge to Europe to create more cohesive and inclusive societies which allow citizens as well as newly arrived immigrants to play an active role in the labor market and democratic life. The important topics presented in this e-Guide and connected with this Module are:

  • Europe against poverty
  • Addressing the integration challenges in local communities

The local community have to be more aware about necessity of lifelong learning, about the impact of well-performing education and training systems on providing low-skilled adults with the skills required by the labor market and the economy, while allowing them to play an active role in society and achieve personal fulfillment.

Thus is why it is important for adult educator- facilitator to organize the self-learning using the developed training materials for Workshop. This workshop is innovative as it covers a great need over the European Union to increase engagement of the local communities to help motivating low-skilled adults, including refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, to participate in lifelong learning in order to foster their inclusion and integration. The workshop stresses that the education is a key to promote common European values, foster social integration, enhance intercultural understanding and a sense of belonging to a community, and to prevent violent radicalization.

By the end of the self-learning of this Module, adult educators will be able to:

  • promote the sense of tolerance, empathy and mutual understanding
  • improve social, civic and cultural adaptation skills
  • break stereotypes
  • promote empathy
  • motivate the low-skilled adults to constantly improve their competences by joining educational courses and be more active in the social life of the local communities