Supporting democratic progress in Ukraine.

IFES Ukraine

The International Foundation for Electoral Systems

How an Interactive Training Course Changed Educational Practice at a Ukrainian University

Oleh Matvieievskyi is a law, criminology and forensic science lecturer with over 20 years of experience. For many years he taught cadets at the National University Odesa Maritime Academy in Ukraine using traditional approaches. From bell to bell, students concentrated on the teacher and every class they filled their thick notebooks with notes.

A few years ago, Matvieievskyi was convinced that there was no alternative to this teaching method. This belief was reinforced by the academy’s rigorous discipline and his previous experience.

“To be honest, when I encountered the interactive teaching methods the first time, I did not take them seriously – they seemed to be childish and naive,” said Matvieievskyi.

Last year, Matvieievskyi’s vision of effective teaching changed dramatically as a result of his involvement in an interactive civic education course, Democracy: From Theory to Practice, developed by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Global Affairs Canada (GAC) and UK aid. In 2019, the Odesa Maritime Academy became one of 22 higher education institutions in Ukraine teaching the course and Matvieievskyi was entrusted to be the first course teacher at the academy.

Matvieievskyi during a training on interactive teaching methods organized by IFES with the support of USAID, GAC and UK aid

The course aims to develop knowledge, skills and attitudes that relate to effective participation of students in politics and society. It stands out from other disciplines taught in Ukrainian universities because of its interactive teaching methods. Each teacher of the course must learn them during the initial training in which Matvieievskyi participated.

At first, Matvieievskyi was skeptical about the proposed methods and the course in general but changed his mind after several trainings and classes with students. He was amazed at how actively the cadets became involved in the work, quickly mastered material of the interactive classes and enjoyed working in groups with their peers.

“This course significantly differs comparing to the other disciplines,” he said. “It consists not of the usual classes where the teacher mostly asks students to repeat material he has provided them during the lecture. It calls for interactive exercises that are more effective for teaching young people.”

“It consists not of the usual classes where the teacher mostly asks students to repeat material he has provided them during the lecture. It calls for interactive exercises that are more effective for teaching young people.”

As a part of the course, Matvieievskyi’s students also developed their own projects. They divided into teams, researched challenges in their communities and developed possible solutions. Students covered topics like the presence of dangerous staircases near the university, improving Duke Park’s landscaping in Odesa and assisting homeless animals by supplying an Odesa animal shelter.

“Most of the topics of the students’ projects surprised me a lot,” said Matvieievskyi. “I thought that students would concentrate on global abstract problems such as water conservation, clean air or protecting whales in the ocean. Instead, they focused on specific local issues.”

Matvieievskyi’s students present the projects they developed in the Democracy: From Theory to Practice course.

The course’s success with students inspired Matvieievskyi to dramatically change his teaching practices in his other courses. For instance, he has transformed the criminology curriculum using interactive teaching methods so that students can more efficiently master the material.

“The course encouraged me to significantly change my teaching methods,” he said. “I have been teaching for 23 years and to some extent I got used to the methods I have been applying during that time. However, the course Democracy: From Theory to Practice inspired me to change my principles. As a teacher, I grew up, despite the fact that earlier I felt like I had no space to grow.”

“I have been teaching for 23 years and to some extent I got used to the methods I have been applying during that time. However, the course Democracy: From Theory to Practice inspired me to change my principles. As a teacher, I grew up, despite the fact that earlier I felt like I had no space to grow.”

Matvieievskyi believes Democracy: From Theory to Practice has expanded the outlook of his students, who now are inspired to contribute to social and political development in their community as well as throughout Ukraine. He is convinced introduction of this course in higher education institutions for all students can positively impact the development of democracy in Ukraine.

“Democracy: From Theory to Practice was created for students who study political science, history or other humanities and people who want to be active citizens. It helps find their role in a society and make as much as possible out of it,” said Matvieievskyi.

IFES’ activities in Ukraine are made possible with support from USAID through the Consortium for Elections and Political Process Strengthening (CEPPS), GAC and UK aid. Established in 1995, CEPPS pools the expertise of three premier international organizations dedicated to democratic development: IFES, the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute. CEPPS has a 20-year track record of collaboration and leadership in democracy, human rights and governance support, learning from experience, and adopting new approaches and tools based on the ever-evolving technological landscape.

Since 1994, IFES has played a key role in the emergence of democratic electoral processes and institutions in Ukraine. Through this period, IFES has developed a reputation as a reliable source for impartial analysis and high-quality technical assistance in the fields of electoral and political finance law reform, election administration, civil society capacity building, civic education and public opinion research.

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