Issue: 2019/2


This issue of Formamente presents a wide range of contributions related to Social and Human Sciences. Papers tackle issues concerning lifelong learning in general, also focusing on open and distance education in Northern European countries, as well as in Mediterranean ones.
In the Research section, project SHARPEN, carried out by 5 European Countries as a collaborative cross-regions survey, is discussed. Between 2016 and 2019, the project investigated the characteristics of Small and Medium Enterprises in the region of Western Saxony, in an effort to enhance Human Resource Management practices in rural areas. Thanks to innovative theoretical approaches and to practical working methods in SMEs, SHARPEN allowed students to experiment new forms of interactive learning, thus becoming itself one of the models that European SMEs could implement.
In addition, it is worth noting that in a quite globalised world where metanarratives collapsed long ago, the economy increasingly needs to develop concrete policies at either regional or local level and likewise to explore new possibilities provided by different dimensions of openness.
Finally, applying a hands-on approach to the learning process represents the major goal of UNESCO with respect to its recent Handbook on Measuring Equity in Education, which can be considered complementary to the Special Issue Vocabulary Development, published online in the open access journal “Education Sciences”.

HRM Challenges and Lifelong Learning in SMEs in Western Saxony

ABSTRACT. This paper deals with the specific characteristics of Human Resource Management (HRM) in Small and Medium-sized Enterprises in the region of Western Saxony, Germany. Our research provides a descriptive and explorative analysis of HR processes in the regional Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), their specific challenges and the status of Lifelong Learning (LLL). Thus, new insights and knowledge intended to contribute to research regarding HRM for SMEs were generated. The research results were obtained during the Erasmus+ project SHARPEN during which a collaborative cross-regions survey was conducted in five European countries from 2016-2019. This paper presents a review of the current literature relevant for HRM in (regional) SMEs as well as a discussion of the research results and recommendations for SMEs. It was found that the SMEs situated in Western Germany possess reasonably developed HR structures and processes and that Lifelong Learning initiatives are applied. For the benefit of the economic development of the region, offering ways to intensify the exchange of ideas and best practices as well as adopting theoretical constructs could allow the SMEs to gain new incentives for future projects.

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Mutual Benefit – Bringing regional SMEs and universities together through the innovative SHARPEN teaching methodology

ABSTRACT. Presently, many European countries (as well as the Federal State of Saxony/Germany) are facing similar demographic developments that will provoke fundamental changes in the respective labour markets in years to come. This situation will especially affect Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) that are based in rural regions with rapidly increasing numbers of retirees and an equally rapidly shrinking population of young people. The available theoretical approaches of Human Resource Management (HRM) and models are suitable for the conditions in large companies. However, SMEs are not “small” large enterprises, but they have specific characteristics that affect all HRM processes. HR Management varies from one SME to another and depends very much on the regional context. An SME in a metropolitan region needs a different approach to HRM than one in a rural region. The innovative Learning Module that marks the core of the Erasmus project SHARPEN addresses these issues. Students select SMEs in five European rural regions and describe the context of the selected regional SMEs, their internal constraints and, above all, the specific needs of HR Management in these SMEs. On this basis, students apply their theoretical HRM knowledge by modifying HR approaches and models for this selected SME. The innovative teaching methodology of the HR module combines state-of-the-art HR concepts and practical HR work in companies within one learning module. Besides that, the teaching methodology enables regional and cross-cultural cooperation between students, lecturers, SMEs. This is supplemented by learning with up-to-date interactive learning methods, e.g. guided discussions, presentations, teamwork and case study method for students. This paper focuses on the question to what extent this innovative teaching approach can help to solve this HR problem in European SMEs.

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Ethics and Politics in the Postmodern Condition

ABSTRACT. In this paper I analyze the postmodern condition with particular reference to the ethical and political spheres. Postmodernism attempts a radical break with all of the major strands of post-Enlightenment thought. For postmodernists as the French Jean-François Lyotard and the Italian Gianni Vattimo, the orthodox Enlightenment “meta-narrative” of progress and the “speculative” narrative of Hegel and Marx have lost their explanatory force. In particular, Lyotard speaks about five large meta-narratives of Western culture: 1) Christianity (understood also in the secularized form which its values have taken into modernity); 2) Enlightenment; 3) Idealism as a “theory of progressive freedom in history”; 4) Marxism, and 5) Capitalism. According to Lyotard, one can consider “the incredulity” towards these meta-narratives (méta-récits or grands récits) as postmodern. He points out that after Auschwitz it is impossible to speak of rationality and progress in Western history: In the twentieth century the Nazi genocide showed that history is not a continuous ethical progress towards the best. From the philosophical point of view the precursor of postmodern atmosphere is Friedrich Nietzsche. This German philosopher elaborated a radically anti-metaphysical thought and proposed an ethic of emancipation. Postmodernists refer to Nietzsche’s thought and theorize ethical-political practices aimed at the emancipation of women and socially weak subjects. Postmodernism’s rejection of “totalizing” theories with universal pretentions is complemented by positive celebration of diversity or “difference” and emphasis on the ethical demands of “the other”: this is, for example, the ethical perspective of Michel Foucault.

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Homage to Lord Crowther – 50th anniversary of the UK Open University Foundation

ABSTRACT. On July 23, 1969, the Chancellor Lord Geoffrey Crowther gave the inaugural speech of the UK Open University, renowned for the words starting its four paragraphs: “we are open as to people, as to places, as to methods, as to ideas”, stating a concept of openness which characterized the mission of the Open University and still does so. The concept of this institution has been set since 1963 with another name, “university of the air”, aiming to take advantage of the new technologies in order to allow higher education to reach a wider public, namely adult students. In this paper we focus on the switch that took place from 1963 to 1969 to the new concept, “openness”, that linked the two traditional aspects, “people” and “places”, with the methodological issue, coming in the same years from the curriculum theories. We then discuss how the concept of openness evolved thereafter, with the introduction, in the last 15 years, of the Open Educational Resources and the Massive Open Online Courses.We then report an extract of the transcript of Lord Crowther’s speech, after highlighting its importance in the history of Distance Education.

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Inter-generational Exchanges – The meaning of an integrated sustainable process for inland areas’ development based on vernacular knowledge

ABSTRACT. In the last decades of the nineteenth century, Mediterranean Countries have had to face the “global-grow phenomenon”, driven by financial and technological sectors. Such phenomenon triggered progress in productive, economic and technological fields, especially in the majority of the internal geographical areas. However, this improvement was not followed by a cultural and social growth in favour of people. Moreover, the high speed of changes did not allow the environmental adaptation required in many small communities. To switch from the theoretical framework to a concrete action, the MOTRIS development Program for the Mediterranean Regions has been drafted in 1999, funded by the Presidency of Sicily Government and held by the Italian-Egyptian Research Centre CRUEC together with several Euro-Mediterranean Partners.

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Contemporary National-Populism in Scandinavia – Identifying types and determining factors

ABSTRACT. This is a short, comparative paper about the contemporary National-Populist parties in the three largest Scandinavian countries. In it, the author argues that the label ‘National-Populist’ best describes the parties in Scandinavia. Furthermore, an identification is made of two main types of populist movements in the region and the general ideological developments are traced in order to identify which are shared, and which differ, among the parties in question. It also treats some of the factors that are likely to have caused the shared history and features of parties across the region, such as linguistic similarity, the states’ creation of an additional, regionalist level of nationalist feeling, and other socio-economic developments.

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Computational Thinking and Creativity in K-6 Education

ABSTRACT. Nowadays, computational thinking (CT) and creativity are concerned as core competences in the 21st century for everyone who wants to take a career and work in the ever-evolving digital society. This study presents a systematic literature review (2006-2018) aiming to highlight teaching practices and learning frameworks used to support the development of both computational and creative thinking skills of primary level education students. Over the last years, there is a trend for these competences to be conceived as complementary and synergetic abilities and approaches which should be delivered and promoted together in order to train students to be problem solvers and critical thinkers, by understanding and using the digital technology provided creatively. Since only four solid empirical studies have been found relevant to K‐6 education, the efforts made to combine these two thinking skills into teaching practice are still in infancy. The learning frameworks involved students mainly in game programming activities, as well as in programming activities related to art education where students should make use of technological resources, sensor cards and minicomputers. Limitations and recommendations for future research are also provided.

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Handbook on Measuring Equity in Education – Introduction

In line with UNESCO aims since 1946, namely that education is everyone’s right, Silvia Montoya, director of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), promoted this handbook to encourage equity in education as an active and tangible process that can be monitored. This is exactly what we deem today as a “crucial ambition”. The handbook is organized in 6 parts, that from theoretical assumptions and methodology issues to national planning for equity in education, provides resources, both theoretical and practical, to overcome even the most common educational gaps. As stated in the introduction by Chiao-Ling (Claire) Chien, Education specialist, and Friedrich Huebler, the Head of the Education Standards and Methodology Section of the EIS, “meritocracy, minimum standards, impartiality, equality of condition and redistribution” are the pillars of a classification of measures of equity.
A rich and detailed bibliography, a plethora of graphs and structured data feature every chapter, making the handbook quite a necessary tool for experts in the field. We are pleased to publish, for divulgation purposes, the Introduction of the handbook and sincerely thank the authors for allowing us to reprint it (Note of the Italian Editor).

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Vocabulary Development – Preface

It is not surprising that vocabulary is a learning tool that allows us to access conceptual knowledge. It is not surprising either that knowledge and richness provided by vocabulary pave the way to understanding or that the meaning of a word is determined by the context.
This collection of 9 essays, written between 2018 and 2019 and published in the journal “Education Sciences”, introduces new paradigms of theoretical reflection and likewise highlights innovative teaching practices. From a theoretical view, the complexity of the matter focuses on the continuum from word knowledge to its absence. As the authors point out in the Preface: “Readers who know a word in its fullest sense can associate experiences and concepts with it and continue the life-long process of word learning”. The Special Issue Vocabulary Development is edited by distinguished experts in the field, that are also the authors of the Preface: Timothy Rasinski and William H. Rupley.
Timothy Rasinski is Professor of Literacy Education at the Kent State University and director of its award winning reading clinic; William H. Rupley is Professor, Distinguish Research Fellow, and a Regents Scholar in the department of Teaching, Learning, and Culture, College of Education and Human Development at Texas A&M University and Editor-in-Chief of “Reading Psychology: An International Journal”. We are pleased to publish, for divulgation purposes, the Preface to this Issue and sincerely thank the authors for allowing us to reprint it (Note of the Italian Editor).

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