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Study tour; a tool for learning and creating change. (Ed. # 49)

Newsletter AGTER. March 2021

One method of adult education used in the last fifteen years has been the study tour. This method allows different tools used in popular education to be put into action, all the while taking into account each participants personal experience.

Since its creation in 2005, the association AGTER has developed its own methodology for the Study tour. This methodology is based on the same philosophy that underpins the association’s online knowledge base creating a common vision and questioning the dominant ideology by comparing real and diverse experiences. AGTER organised multiple Study tours, summaries of which were made into videos and publications in order to share them with anyone who didn’t participate. This bulletin will allow you to easily access these documents (in French and Spanish), so that you may experience your very own virtual study tour.

Mirian Garcia and I, both academics, took part in the first trip which brought a group of Cuban technicians to France and Spain in 2005. With our colleagues we borrowed this concept for ourselves, and adapted and developed it to suit our own territorial development activities in Cuba. Based on this experience we published a book that codified the methodology, which you can access via this bulletin. [Bombino Y.; García, M.; Echevarría, D.; Pérez, N.; 2014; Viajes de estudio: experiencia metodológica para el aprendizaje por contraste. CCFD – Terre solidaire. Ruth Casa Editorial, Panamá.]

Knowledge creation is an active process during which people assimilate new information that then comes to complement already acquired knowledge. This process however isn’t simply the add-on of new information, but rather an exercise of identification, association, symbolisation, and the reaffirmation or questioning of the previously acquired knowledge. It is for this reason that the Study tour was designed as an act of creation, one where learning came from actions. The exchanges that are proposed, provoke the meetings of different logics, perceptions and visions, each originating from the specific historical, social and cultural background that defines each person’s daily life. What makes this process of knowledge building especially valuable is the moment when the social practice involved in this process is taken into account, the social practice of the other (…). What makes the other different, unique, heterogeneous is precious (…) let us then recognise this diversity, rather than rejecting it or brushing it aside. (Rigal en Rivero, 2005 : 415) . It was in this vein that Mirian Garcia suggested at the final meeting of the Cuban Delegation’s study trip to Europe in 2005, that the process which lay at the heart of the Study tour be defined as learning through contrast.

When being confronted with the content each new exchange produces, whatever one’s role, coordinator, host, or participant, every person is forced to question their preconceived knowledge, interests, opinions, motifs or personal experiences. The person assesses whether to give the newly acquired knowledge value or meaning, and if they should generalise or transfer this knowledge to new experiences and specific socioeconomic contexts. This new knowledge allows for the transformation of one’s own concepts, opinions and practices, and leads to a gradual process of short, medium and long term change. Furthermore, this knowledge also contributes to finding novel solutions to the different problems and difficulties that may be encountered, and enables the implementation of strategies to deal with any future challenges.

The study tours use a methodology defined by;

a) Expressing the practical and theoretical, by favouring the practical. By letting the participants describe their daily lives and the problems they face, the ensuing discussion will create a form of common knowledge, allowing the participants to understand the connections and contradictions at the heart of social realities, and therefore devise and put into place actions to transform them.

b) The reasoning stems from each person’s individual experience, but leads to reflection on what the organisation, community or society each person belongs to, is doing and experiencing

c) Contextualised knowledge. The theoretical and practical knowledge that each study tour mobilises is indicative of the cooperative thinking and learning processes which underpins it, and illustrates a teaching method that is based on comparing and contrasting different opinions and knowledge. This method, based on diversity, stimulates the exploration and knowing of oneself.

In the study tours, the social actors are critical protagonists of learning that swap roles continuously during the collective knowledge building process.

To summarise, the central characteristics of this learning process are the following;

• It takes place in the spaces of everyday life (sometimes within families) and workplaces of the people that receive the group.

• It allows the participants to discover diverse realities, different to their usual living conditions, to improve their analysing abilities and to find new ways of applying them to their own lives.

• It is a meeting space for dialogue and reflection, where social practices and exchanges of traditional and academic knowledge develop solidarity, collaboration and shared experiences. Such a space encourages the comparison of different and contrasting experiences, stimulates critical thinking and the capacity to invent, and motivates the participants to act, to self learn, and to bring about change.

• It operates as group mediator by creating a space to participate and collaborate. This space however will not be exempt from diverging opinions and occasional confrontations, whose mediations favour inter-learning, the formation of values, qualities and social norms. The group is a social organiser, creating spaces for new experiences. (Rigal in Rivero, 2005: 416).

Thus designed and implemented, the study tour can be a powerful tool for learning, either for a smaller group with reduced numbers, but also for a much larger group of people if complemented with adapted materials: videos, audio recordings, publications, and an educational approach which allows for the same tour to be carried out virtually.

*Dayma Echevarria, Doctor of sociology, is a Professor at the Centro de Estudios de la Economia Cubana (CEEC), University of Havana. She is a member of the Cátedra de la Mujer y del Equipo de Estudios Rurales, and the Red Desigualdades y movilidad social en América latina (DEMOSAL). She is also a member of AGTER.

**Rigal, Luis. La escuela popular y democrática: un modelo para armar. En Rivero Baxter, Yisel, Clotilde Proveyer Cervantes (comp.) (2005). Selección de lecturas de Sociología y Política Social de la Educación. Editorial Félix Varela. La Habana. Pp 389-417


In this bulletin you will be able to find the links to videos of the 3 study tours organised by AGTER. They are all accessible online, and in this way you will be able to take part in these trips, albeit virtually. (Only in French and Spanish)

This bulletin also includes some documents unrelated to the study tours.

• Four study cases (in English) taken from a document produced by the recent ICCA Consortium - Indigenous Peoples’ & Community Conserved Territories & Areas

We remind you that you may also find our previous bulletins via this link

Translation from French : Niels Zwarteveen