I cannot wait until my next project meeting – it’s without doubt the highlight of any Erasmus+ programme. As an Erasmus+ coordinator, I have been invited to but also hosted countless project meetings, and each is a whole experience of its own. It may be just a few days in the school calendar but these are moments that stay with you for life! At the same time, they are the backbone of any project so it’s crucial to plan them right – and here’s how.
Project meetings – or transnational project meetings as they are officially called – are face-to-face sessions that bring together the students and/or the teachers that belong to the partner schools. Usually there are two meetings in a school year and they are the culmination of activities that are prepared online or within the individual schools in the preceding months. Therefore in roughly half a year, this is one week in which the participants are able to join forces and communicate effectively to fulfil the project objectives. Plus there is a little time allocated to exploring the culture of the host country and building new friendships. What happens at each Erasmus+ meeting determines the success of the project as a whole. Essential to this success is the timing and the location of each meeting which, when done right, will create the right environment for the project to thrive overall!
A successful Erasmus+ project needs a calendar of meetings set out from the beginning. The coordinators in charge must establish good communication from the application stage in order to create a timeline from the get-go. This means that each partner must be open and honest about their commitments in the year, whether it be school celebrations or exams or parallel projects, in order to mark out the best dates that suit everyone. Depending on the theme of the project, designated school and local events can be incorporated in order to compliment your scheduled activities.
For example, we once hosted our partner schools during national celebrations and this introduced our visitors to the parade and the cultural festivities taking place across town. With another Erasmus+ project, we attended a meeting abroad that focused on teacher peer evaluation. The training and materials we received from that experience were then integrated into the whole-school training on peer evaluation a few weeks later. Therefore coordinators need to map out a project that harmonizes with the school agenda and the local cultural scene too.
It is also important to set dates that align with the demands of the project and the activities that need to be fulfilled. With the first meeting often acting as a preparatory session, the second meeting should take place just a few months after. This is so that once the activities are underway, the participants are able to meet and monitor their progress during the first few steps. The second session is an opportunity for ironing out any obstacles in the project or making the relevant adjustments to the original draft of activities. The third meeting is often in the second year of the project’s operation which gives the partner school a window of 6-8 months from the previous interactions.
This gives ample time for the bulk of the project to be completed. Participant schools are now fully immersed in the project focus and are able to create materials, hold meetings and gather teacher and student input. It is also a period when schools are halfway through the project and bonds are firmly established between the participants. You will witness teachers and students taking initiative and exchanging ideas in online meetings and platforms in anticipation of the third location. Make sure the gap between the second and third meeting is enough for your ideas to flourish. It should also provide a little breathing time in case for whatever reason the original activity deadlines are not feasible.
It is common for the first meeting to take place in the country of the leading Erasmus+ project coordinator. After all, it’s where the groundwork of your shared mission is formed and therefore needs the direction of the person who initiated the idea. The first meeting will also bring to the surface the relevant strengths that each partner school has to offer, which can then help with the location choices. You will quickly detect the skills of each coordinator and how they match the project objectives. For example, if you are working with a technical school, then it is best to use their Erasmus+ coordinator for the more creative aspects of the project. Another coordinator may be more theoretically-trained and able to coordinate the report-writing required towards the end of the project. This assignment of roles will then help with the selection of locations.
The second and third meetings are often dedicated to the core activities of the project therefore the locations selected must accommodate the project objectives. If your project has a sports-related focus, choose locations with the best training grounds and facilities. If there is a considerable amount of filming or recording taking place, source the partner school with a strong media facility or an active group of tech-savvy students that can help produce the media outputs.
It is also advisable to select Erasmus+ countries that offer the ideal weather conditions for your activities – pin-pointing specific months will help you get the right combination! For a little inspiration on what activities to do, this sample here is food for thought. Also, some of you may be concerned about the safeguarding of your students therefore this list is packed with some of the safest destinations to visit.
The final meeting is a time to reflect on the project upon completion but also showcase results therefore the best location is one that will allow your work to shine! Decide on the country that offers the ideal environment for celebrating and disseminating results to other stakeholders. See which partner schools have ties with local authorities and government bodies – this could allow the final meeting to include a presentation to an education board or Chamber of Commerce or a start-up in order to gain greater publicity! When it comes to all locations, it is best to figure out the “value-added” elements of each option and allocate them in the right order.
For further guidance, be sure to contact Travel Edventures to perfect that Erasmus+ project agenda!