The relevance of LXD in European youth work
For the youth sector, we have leaned heavily on the two main, continental actors for methodology, funding and quality improvement, namely the European Commission, primarily through its youth programme Erasmus +, and the Council of Europe, primarily through its Youth Department. Both of these institutions cover all of the EU, as well as a number of countries bordering the union.
For the youth sector, the following documents have been selected and reviewed:
The current European Youth Strategy does not mention Learning Experience Design (LXD) or any design practices specifically for youth workers. But it does have a strong focus on engaging young people and mentions the need for youth workers to adapt to the new needs and interests of young people to truly connect with them. It also stresses the importance of using digital tools and finding innovative ways to reach out to all young people. Especially those with fewer opportunities.
This capacity to adapt and create innovative programmes for young people is closely related to LXD, as the concept is founded on the capacity to design meaningful and authentic learning experiences for each learner.
While setting guidelines for youth work practitioners, neither the European Charter on Local Youth Work nor the CoE Recommendation on Youth Work mentions LXD or any similar practice directly. However, they both clearly state the importance of establishing learning environments that are playful, meaningful, and engaging, but also promote autonomy and the development of critical thinking skills.
The importance of involving young people throughout the process - from designing to implementing, and evaluating activities and projects - is highlighted in both documents. This clearly indicates the need for youth workers to have the tools and the capacity to design learning experiences in a learner-centred approach.
The Competence Model for youth workers to work internationally mentions specific competencies the facilitation of individual and group learning in an enriching environment and the design of programmes. Both of these are concepts closely related to LXD and contain many common elements.
In other words, LXD seems to be a new concept in the field of youth work and non-formal learning, but mostly in semantics.
The concept of designing learning processes or establishing rich learning environments that are engaging and learner-centred while taking the learner’s needs into account has been, and is, part of European youth work and non-formal educational practices. Several concepts are in focus in the youth work sector, which are also part of the backbone of learning experience design. Among these are:
The active participation of young people in all stages of the learning process, including its design;
The focus on young people’s needs and interests;
The capacity for youth workers to be creative, innovate and adapt to new realities and contexts;
The capacity to combine and create methods and approaches that result in meaningful learning experiences;
Adherence to non-formal learning principles
These dimensions are fundamental to international youth work and correlate to aspects of LXD. These correlations contribute to our understanding that LXD can be an innovative approach that assists youth workers to fulfil their mission of supporting young people’s personal development and active involvement in society.
Crucial for both LXD and European youth work is the learner-centredness and the contextualisation of the approach. However, with regards to the value focus, which is so important in European youth work, LXD is not automatically on the same page. Youth work promotes human rights, participation, democracy and intercultural dialogue. These values are important layers to add when adapting existing LXD tools to this field.
Another very important aspect of the design process in youth work is that young people should be co-designers whenever possible. This aspect of the learners being actively involved in the design process of their own learning experience is not fully present in the LXD design original concept but needs to be seriously reflected upon if LXD is to become relevant for this field.
Based on the reviewed documents there is a clear need to create learning experiences in digital environments that young people know and use. We find that LXD is a constructive response to the need for innovation and creativity in the field, potentially also covering digital environments. As a whole, it fuels out-of-the-box thinking and represents a new opportunity for the kind of competence development of youth workers that these documents request and promote.
This article is included in our project research report "Learning experience design in the school system, youth sector, and museum field". Check more information here, and download the full report here.