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Empowering Individuals with Disabilities through Metacognitive Training: Insights from Groep Ubuntu from the Safe4All Project

    The Erasmus+, Safe4All project aims to contribute to the creation of suitable and safe working environments that will in turn facilitate the labour inclusion of people with disabilities. To do this, the project has been developing training materials that will upskill and re-skill both experts in safety at work and experts in training persons with disabilities. To dig into the approach behind this ‘Toolkit for Trainers’ we spoke with Louise Van Laere and Johan Warnez from Groep Ubuntu – a network organization with a strong focus on enhancing the quality of life for vulnerable individuals, based in Flanders, Belgium. They have brought an innovative element to these materials by applying the ‘metacognitive’ approach. What does this entail? Read our interview below to find out!

    Question by EASPD: Could you describe Groep Ubuntu’s involvement in Safe4All?

    First of all, Louise and Johan stress the relevance and importance of inclusive training materials: “This training has the potential to reinforce the skills that a person needs to be flexible and to adapt to the environment”. Their main contribution to this Toolkit has been to provide the training principles and methodology. They have combined elements of “What to Teach” – the concepts of safety and health at work – with content on “How to Teach” – the process of learning and of the training. This complementary content base ensures that participants are not only equipped with the necessary knowledge but also with the tools to continue their learning journey towards more inclusive training effectively.

    Question by EASPD: What is metacognition and why is it important in the learning process?

    Metacognition is a powerful tool for enhancing cognitive skills. It’s not just about learning; it’s about learning how to learn, problem-solve, adapt, and make choices. Thus, “the metacognitive approach becomes even more crucial for individuals with disabilities, who might face additional challenges in the learning process”, state Louise and Johan. The benefits of the metacognitive approach extend beyond the workplace. Adaptive skills, problem-solving abilities, and cognitive flexibility cultivated through this approach empower individuals to live independently. Louise and Johan tell us that this also leads to “improved employment, social participation, inclusion and an overall higher quality of life.”

    Question by EASPD: How can the metacognitive approach be applied in the training on safety and health at work for people with disabilities?

    The metacognitive approach is to be applied in the Safe4all Toolkit through what Lousie and Johan term “mediational interventions.” These interventions are designed to facilitate learning not just about content, but also about the learning process itself. An inclusive training requires the trainer to presume competence and adopt an active modification approach. The former aspect refers to “approaching people as wanting to be fully included, wanting acceptance and appreciation, wanting to learn, wanting to be heard and wanting to contribute.” The latter involves “building on existing competencies, fostering a sense of security”, and encouraging a growth mindset. By combining these, Johan and Louise feel confident that trainers can create an environment where individuals with disabilities can thrive.

    Question by EASPD: Are there any specific challenges or considerations when applying the metacognitive approach to individuals with disabilities? If so, how can they be addressed?

    Louise and Johan acknowledge that applying the metacognitive approach to individuals with disabilities is not without its challenges. One significant hurdle is dispelling the notion of ‘not being able.’ For them, trainers and facilitators “must shift their mindset to presume competence, fostering a belief that every individual has the potential to learn and develop transversal skills.” This transformation in mindset is critical for the success of the metacognitive approach, whereby the methodology to teach cognitive skills is adapted to the learning needs of the trainee. Furthermore, Louise and Johan highlight the importance of cognitive education. There’s often a “lack of knowledge of the possibilities and added value of cognitive education for people with disabilities”. Thus, by emphasizing the value of cognitive skills and integrating them within the training course of the Safe4All Project, Groep Ubuntu aims to bridge this knowledge gap.