CLEAR Focus Group

Back at the starting point of NECE in 2004, several participants pointed out a few weakpoints they had identified in the transnational dialogue despite the fact that the conference was a great success. An evaluation conducted by the Federal Agency showed that one reason why the exchange was unsuccessful is that although the participants were using the same terms in their discussions, they had a different understanding of these terms.The initial solution approach was to create a glossary of terms.

However, it soon became evident on the one hand that there were limitations to this approach since finding a standardised definition of terms, in itself a very difficult task, would by no means guarantee that all parties would actually use these definitions. On the contrary, discussing different concepts was identified as one of the productive aspects of this type of conference. If one were to concur with the philosopher Francois Jullien, it is precisely this gap that creates a space in which something productive can potentially develop[i]. The CLEAR (Concept Learning for Empowerment through Analysis and Reflection) Focus Group was set up in the spirit of this theory and is therefore linked to the launch of the NECE network.

A lot has certainly been accomplished since the first NECE conference was held in 2004. 

What is CLEAR?
CLEAR is all about bringing the above-mentioned considerations into the classroom.
Education is intended to teach students how to think critically and independently – and to reflect on and discuss what concepts such as "democracy" and "human rights" really mean instead of learning definitions monotonously off by heart. The starting point of CLEAR is that there are a number of ways of interpreting terms and this is precisely where the CLEAR concept comes into play. "CLEAR is thus not meant to clarify misunderstandings through authoritative truth by trying to give definite answers to questions considering meanings and definitions of terms, concepts and understanding. Rather, CLEAR provides a concept-learning methodology that fosters learning processes of (self-)reflexivity, multi-perceptivity and information literacy for concepts central for political debate and societal change.” CLEAR is intended to teach students how to explore the potential meanings of a term and to reflect on them.

CLEAR is based on three basic principles:

1) Democratisation/collaborative construction of knowledge
2) Shift of focus from truth to meaning
3) Fostering critical judgment

The CLEAR Focus Group has developed methods of using discussions to teach groups of learners about a definition or concept and/of exploring the historical development of a term. Learners in international groups realise that the way in which individuals perceive a term is frequently determined by their own biography and personal experience. These methods are outlined on the website.

“...Because of this experience, I feel more confident sharing my views on difficult subjects”. (CLEAR participant )

The CLEAR methodology is based on the methodology of Human Rights Education (HRE) and Education for Democratic Citizenship (EDC). CLEAR aims to foster learning processes that develop attitudes, skills and knowledge in learners that allow them to actively take part in social and political affairs. Generally speaking, this ambition is expressed in the term “empowerment”. CLEAR strengthens individual reflection and encourages the capacity to cooperate with others - regardless of perceived or experienced “differences”. CLEAR can be applied not just in educational settings but in professional and societal settings too. It focuses on fostering competencies relating to citizenship education as well as intercultural awareness. These competencies include:

•Cultural awareness: enabling learners to understand that the meaning of concepts is influenced by cultural factors, such as language, religion, and personal beliefs.
•Historical awareness: enabling learners to understand that the meaning of concept depends on the historical context and to substantiate different meanings over time.
•Media literacy: enabling learners to develop a critical attitude towards concepts used in media and awareness that concepts can be interpreted differently.
•Communication skills: making learners aware of the loss of meaning involved in any communication and translation and teaching ways to better clarify what they mean to others.
•Power of language: making learners aware of the impact words can have on people’s beliefs, perceptions and behaviours.
•Legal literacy: making learners aware of the implications of the fact that legal concepts can be and are interpreted differently by judges, lawyers, policy-makers, activists and others.

The principles of the CLEAR methodology are outlined in detail under this link.

[i] Jullien, Francois: L'écart et l'entre (German title: "Der Weg zum Anderen, Alterität im Zeitalter der Globalisierung".

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