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Anum SulaimanEIA Program ParticipantsCommunit y IMAESC Students

Directed by: Anum Sulaiman (2023 - 2024)

Anum, a twenty something adult educational professional, is completing her Masters in Adult Education for Social Change (IMAESC). She is currently in her third semester, in the shivering town of Tallinn, Estonia. As part of her program, she is doing a placement at an organisation. She enters into the halls of the European Innovation Academy (EIA) - a non profit institution for entrepreneurship education, with her classmates unsure what to expect but excited for the journey. As they are thrust into a new world of startups and entrepreneurship, Anum and her classmate Rona are assigned to create a new 5 day program for the company’s entrance into Singapore. How does Anum go about this? What does she learn? How does this fit into her identity as a professional and adult educator? Find out through her eyes.



Lessons Learned for my Future Landscape as a Professional


Reality, Documentary

Sense making - immersion into a new world

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I entered EIA not knowing much about startups or hackathons, let alone what a training program for them would consist of. So as a first order of business, Rona and I, sat down to do some desktop research to understand what existed out there. However, this was not enough. As indicated in Kolb’s experiential learning theory (1984) learners create knowledge through experiences, and so Rona and I felt the necessity to immerse ourselves in this new space. We did this through a number of ways. An interview with Helina Loor (an entrepreneur, learning and development expert, and part of the Estonian Training and Companies Union) gave us a bird’s eye view of the education and startup scene in Estonia. We then zoomed in further by conducting a focus group discussion with a group of entrepreneurs and startup experts to learn from their experience. And finally, to get into the mindset of participants themselves, we conducted participant observation at the EdTech Hackathon at Tallinn University. Here project ideas under themes such as Transformational Learning through Digitization, Language Studies, Personalized Learning and Teacher Succession and School Excellence exposed me to exciting new ideas in the startup, education and technology scene. This was supplemented through workshops on AI and the Future of Technology, Business Models and Pitching which provided me an awareness and background of how these spaces functioned. Furthermore, problems in the education sector were attempting to be solved through novel solutions such as learning platforms, project and narrative based learning, job boards and virtual laboratories and many more ideas.

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This was inspiring to see as an example of ‘anticipatory competency’, i.e. the ability to imagine, understand and create a vision for the future and a ‘strategic competency’ to collectively develop and implement actions (Rieckmann, 2018). As academics while we are often able to recognize problems we are not able to imagine futures to change them, which has made me feel helpless. This was an example to me on how as an adult educator I can think outside of the box and work on problems I find. Moreover, some sessions also showcased how to conduct a session. For instance, the Pitching mentoring session by Gleb Masltsev started out by a framing of what to expect, an experiential demonstration with an audience member, interactive moments with the audience to recognize patterns, explaining of key points and concepts behind actions, and then another experiential practice by a volunteer to put into action what was learnt and get live feedback. This was a good example of process modelling for me as an adult educator on how to bring knowledge to life and conduct effective sessions.

SENSE MAKING -immersion into a new world

Collaboration- the key to a solid foundation

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Vella (2002) highlights how while we may have expertise in some areas a collaborative dialogue approach is paramount when working with adults. This principle was central to Rona and I's outlook on the project. Not only because we were new to this world, but because a collaborative process with people having on ground experience is always more effective and impactful than working in isolation. We thus kept an iterative approach centred around feedback. This included starting with a list of question at the beginning from the EIA Head of Program, conversations and validations with the EIA Country Manager, in depth discussions with the entrepreneurship community and culminating with a Stakeholder Design Workshop. The Design Workshop was held with all members of the EIA team, including those not involved with our program, to get various perspectives, and our classmates at EIA who were working on other projects . Our agenda centred around validating our approach, confirming priorities, receiving recommendations and discussing next steps. An online Miro board was used for everyone to provide input, debate and comment on our process thus far. This was a moment of co-creation, where we worked with the EIA team, instead of for them and an example for me on how to proactively create a collaborative workspace.

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Another vital moment of collaboration for me was working with Rona - my first time doing a placement with a classmate. As a team we batted back and forth ideas about the project, had working sessions around cups of coffee at EIA, reflected at university about our experiences and brainstormed during quiet moments of walking homes. Through these interactions I experienced the social side of learning, based on communication and seeing how others learn, react and work (Ruijters & Simons, 2020). Though we were quite similar in our approach, ethics and values I learnt much from Rona’s way of working, and how she presented herself and her work which I look to carry forward in my professional life as well. Moreover our discussions around experiential and participant focused pedagogy, and a desire to make our work practically applicable led our program design to be based around the participant journey with daily learning objectives, participant outputs, resources and a per hour timetable. This process was an example for me to engage in skilful practice ( Gioli et al., 2017) and helped cultivate my employability skills of teamwork, communication and interpersonal skill (Harvey et al., 1997) as a professional. It also showcased how to inculcate adult educator pedagogy into the work I do.

Collaboration - the key to a solid foundation

Values - what makes us who we are

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At the end of our placement Rona and I discussed our values we strived for and embodied during our project. One of these was the idea of excellence, and impact. Through our journey and process the final product Rona and I created truly felt like it was useful. And as per the feedback we got from the EIA team it was something they could take forward. It was thus good to see how the values I uphold can be and are instilled in my work.

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Another value important to us was openness and learning. Part of being a professional is being able to handle not knowing with integrity, and keeping learning central to one’s practice - being a self-directed and autonomous learner (Ruijters & Simons, 2020). Rona and I recognized we were not experts in this type of work (though we came with previous experience) and thus approached it with curiosity and thirst for knowledge which helped us adapt to the new environment. Reflecting on this learning based mindset made me think about my orientation towards being a learning professional or lifelong learner, and how being a professional is a mindset, not just an occupation (Ruijters & Simons, 2020).

Values -what makes us who we are

The End.Or the Beginning?

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Our professional identity is not static. My placement experience at EIA exposed me to a different side of adult education through entrepreneurship and startups. It also allowed me to develop competencies and transferable skills, inspired my approach and methodology to tasks, and highlighted my values for my future landscape as a professional.

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Gioli, G., Tomei, N., Kumar, A., & Sijwali, S. (2017). The development of employability skills in higher education curricula: A transnational comparison . In Adult education and work contexts: International Perspectives and challenges comparative perspectives from the 2017 wuerzburg Winter school (pp. 161–182). essay, Peter Lang International Academic Publishers. Harvey, L., Geall, V., & Moon, S. (1997). Graduates’ work. Industry and Higher Education, 11(5), 287–296. https://doi.org/10.1177/095042229701100504 Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experimental learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. Prentice-Hall. Rieckmann, M. (2018). Learning to transform the world: key competencies in Education for Sustainable Development . In Issues and trends in education for sustainable development (pp. 39–60). essay, UNESCO. Ruijters, M. C., & Simons, P. R.-J. (2020). Connecting professionalism, learning and identity. Eesti Haridusteaduste Ajakiri. Estonian Journal of Education, 8(2), 32–56. https://doi.org/10.12697/eha.2020.8.2.02b Vella, J. K. (2002). Learning to listen, learning to teach: The power of dialogue in educating adults. Jossey-Bass.

The End. Or The Beginning?