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Decoding the Disciplines in European Institutions of Higher Education: Intercultural and Interdisciplinary Approach to Teaching and Learning
Start date: Sep 1, 2016, End date: Aug 31, 2019 PROJECT  ONGOING 

Decoding the Disciplines in European Institutions of Higher Education: Interdisciplinary and Inter-Cultural Approach to Teaching and Learning is a transnational project that aims at introducing to European institutions of higher education a set of innovative teaching tools that will help European professors to integrate students of immigrant and refugee background into the European educational system. The project will utilize teaching tools from the three-year “History Learning Project” (2008–2011), developed by an international scholarly team at Indiana University (IU) in the U.S.A., which included Dr. Jolanta Mickute, now an assistant professor of history at Vytautas Magnus University, a holder of Ph.D. in Jewish History from IU, and an academic expert and consultant at the Ethnic Kitchen, a partnering organization in this project. The expert team of the project also includes an expert from another partnering organization, National University of Ireland, Galway: Dr. Simon Warren, a pedagogy specialist, who has been applying the HLP's teaching tools in his work as well as helping his colleagues apply these tools in their teaching.This innovative teaching pedagogy titled “Decoding the Disciplines” (DD) has already been applied in such varied disciplines as polar science, creative writing, literature, law, computer science, and others—not just in the field of history, as the HLP title suggests. The pedagogy teaches, among other things, to identify bottlenecks in teaching topics that are discipline-specific, multi-layered, and emotionally charged. In substantive disciplines and the humanities in particular, it shows how to approach subjects in question from multiple viewpoints in order to develop a more rounded, objective, and hence a much more empathetic understanding of historical individuals belonging to another ethnicity, gender, race, age or class. In other words, in the sphere of higher education it will address the ever-growing ethnic, religious, and cultural diversity on the European continent at both institutional and personal levels. In addition to three local student conferences at Vytautas Magnus University, National University of Ireland in Galway, Roma Tre University, an international conference at VIVES University College, a scholarly journal, and an Open Educational Resource, the project will set in place an elaborate peer monitoring scheme among teaching staff of all partnering institutions that will ensure efficient implementation of the new methodological tools on the part of every participating professor. Throughout the project the participating professors, under the close supervision of project experts, will prepare a set of guidelines that will help other professors, who have not directly participated in the project, use the new methodological tool set in their classes after the project is over. This way the sustainability of the project will be ensured. The focus groups of students on whom the new methodological tool set has already been tested show 10-30% improvement in their performance. Thus, it is expected that introduction of this methodological tool set to European institutions of higher education will help improve student performance and excellence of teaching in the increasingly inter-cultural environment across Europe.In the sphere of higher education, this project will address the ever-growing ethnic, religious, and cultural diversity on the European continent at both institutional and personal levels. On the one hand, it will help the teaching profession to address the challenges arising out of the refugee crisis and the immigrant integration dilemma, which has greatly influenced the EU member states on European, national, regional, and local levels. On the other hand, this project will help the new immigrant and refugee students to adjust to their new learning environments while allowing the Europe-based students to address their discomfort with the fast pace of social and cultural change in their respective societies and schools. By way of the new DD methodology, all participating institutions will develop common educational frameworks of reference at their institutions of higher learning, which they all need as they are currently facing the growing numbers of immigrants of diverse backgrounds in the EU: war refugees, asylum seekers, economic migrants, people escaping gender-based or religious discrimination, and others. They will exchange and validate their knowledge, practices, and competencies, engaging into an inter-cultural dialogue at the European educational level.

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