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On this page we selected definitions regarding key terminology of non-formal education, key-competence based learning and Democratic Citizenship Education.

Key Terminology: What is...

(Community) Animation

encouraging people and communities to initiate social change on their own, working with (not for) individuals and groups to encourage them to become more active citizens and resilient communities; bringing out the best through motivation and inspiration. Not suggestive of any hierarchical relationship between the worker and the community.

(Systemic) Coaching

individual support based on autonomy and personal responsibility. Coaches pose challenging questions (without giving advice!) to help their clients (“coachees”), identify possible solutions, and think about them independently. Systemic coaching is all about solving problems independently and responsibly.

Community development work

see community animation.


skills, knowledge, and attitudes, that one needs for effective action in a modern society.

Key competence

universal skills, knowledge and attitudes that one needs in work, free time, civic, social and private life. Also called transversal competence. More

Transversal competence

see key competence.

Formal education

learning in an organized and structured environment, such as a school or an institution of higher education. Formal learning is intentional and leads to recognition and accreditation. More


The ability which helps us process the wealth of information collected in our minds and forge connections between different pieces of information in order to find a solution to a problem in a new way, or to come to a new understanding of the problem itself. More

Informal education

a non-institutionalized, unstructured form of learning. May occur in the family, in the workplace, in the local community, or in daily life, on a self-directed, family-directed or socially-directed basis. More

Non-formal education

all learning environments other than formal education activities that assist people in developing their skills and knowledge as citizens, consumers, or parents. Intentional from the learner’s point of view, voluntary and organized. More


a process of developing in public social activity, cooperative self-organization enabling involvement in public decision-making. As a didactical approach, empowerment means supporting each individual to act in a self-responsible, purposeful and effective manner. More


a helpful, empathetic approach which brings out and makes maximal the use of people’s skills and talents. It suggests ‘helping along’, ‘bringing together’, ‘building on’ the existing skills and talents of people. More

Citizenship Education

facilitates the knowledge and competencies necessary to involve people in societal discussions and decision-making processes in a democratic way. More

Constructive feedback

enhances the quality of interpersonal cooperation by improving communication, relevance (helps to improve individual and team actions by sharing specific observations) and moral quality (showing interpersonal respect).


A positive approach towards plurality and equality according to a huge variety of characteristics, i.e. ethnicity, age, gender, religion, physical abilities, socio-economic background, etc. More

Education for democratic citizenship

see Citizenship Education


practical work with direct beneficiaries, grass roots, ‘bottom-up approach’ – the worker is not afraid to get involved – a ‘hands on’ approach.


subjective state where self-actualization coincides directly with learning. It occurs when one leaves his or her comfort zone, faces new challenges, and overcomes them through one’s own capacities. The ratio of challenges and capacities needs to be well balanced. More

Forum theater

a method of the “theatre of the oppressed”, developed by Augusto de Boal. Forum theater reflects social reality and motivates active participation. It uses everyday experience with violence or discrimination, develops small scenes, and finally seeks behavioural alternatives. This happens collaboratively between actors and audience. Everybody is allowed to take part in the play.


an action for change driven by a desire to develop one’s potential or fill a lack in society or one’s community. It has clearly defined goals and impacts, and has a defined time frame. Less complex and smaller than a project.


stimulation to do something, to be surprised, to be willing to take action. The discovery of opportunities or combat with challenges. Receiving enthusiastic encouragement for making an effort with self-confidence.


any person learning something in a formal, non-formal or informal educational setting.

Learning outcome

knowledge, practical skills, or attitudes achieved in any learning process.


supporting (usually) less experienced people in self-development through a more experienced mentor. Mentoring helps them to overcome their challenges and reflect on learning goals. Oriented toward the personal needs of the client (“mentee”). Involves elements of advising, coaching, accompaniment, motivation and training.


a theoretical consideration of something’s properties, such as its foundations, regularities, styles, or form. Good for reflection on a higher level of abstraction, such as a group conversation about group dynamics.


an action for change driven by a desire to make use of a community’s potential or fill a lack. It is focused on a clear, small goal and has a small impact; it has a defined time frame and is done with small effort and almost no resources.


shaping a common learning or discussion process. A moderator offers methods and guides the process without voicing his or her own opinion, passing judgement, or taking sides.

Intrinsic motivation

vital to self-directed learning, the intrinsic joy in doing well for the resulting personal satisfaction. The key to intrinsic motivation is the fulfillment of one’s talents and potentialities. What motivates a person depends on their personality, the other people involved, and the context.


any person taking part in non-formal and/or informal education.


different mechanisms people use to express their opinions and to exert influence on decision-making processes that take place in the society - in politics, economics, social and cultural life. More

(Social) project

an action for change driven by a desire to make use of the existing potential and chance to fill a lack in society or the community. It has clear goals and impacts and a defined time frame.

Sustainable project

a project which aims at long-term social change in its social, economic and ecological dimension. A sustainable project does not have to last forever, but the change needs to be long-lasting.


a planned and facilitated learning event in non-formal education.


a learner engaged in formal education.

Target group

main or direct beneficiaries of a social project.


one directional transferral of knowledge from a teacher to a learner in any kind of setting.

Volunteer work

any kind of work for the social good without financial benefit and pressure from outside for doing it.

Comfort zone

the range in which a person is confident of their personal skills, knowledge and attitudes. This relates to a relaxed consciousness about oneself.

Learning zone

the range in which skills, knowledge, and attitudes are partially mastered, and partially need to be aquired. This is related to a partial consciousness of one’s personal competencies.

Panic zone

skills, knowledge and attitudes which we are not (yet) able to master and will not be achieved in the near future. A confrontation with situations where people feel that their competencies are not developed enough for managing the situation.


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External Glossaries

Terminology of European education and training policy: 130 key terms
Published by: European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training: PDF | Online

A Lexicon of Learning
Published by: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development: A to Z dictionary of what educators mean when they say...

TVETipedia Glossary
Published by: UNESCO-UNEVOC Centre for technical and vocational education and training: TVETipedia Glossary

EPALE Glossary
Published by European Commission: EPALE Glossary

Translation of youth work related items
Published by German IJAB:

A joint project of the Competendo Community. Implemented with financial assistance of the European Union