After going through quite a challenging competitive process in their high school years, young adults start their university lives and during these years they feel the need to develop themselves not only in terms of their careers, but also in terms of their personality and as social beings. For many young people, it is very important for them to feel independent during this process of exploration and experience gathering for getting to know themselves better with a focus of their goals. However, the process of stepping into adulthood, which may seem extremely exciting and full of hope, can also be quite confusing. Uncertainties concerning the future, indecisions, or pressure from peers or family may lead to pessimism and as a result, may make it more difficult for them to draw a path that suits them.
We believe that the people such as family, educators, mentors, and institutions such as universities and companies involved in the lives of young people can support them in this late adolescence period, so that emerging adults can develop the necessary self–discipline to organize their life, to integrate decision–making and responsibility into their lives in an adaptive fashion.
We are aware that a society in sound physical and spiritual health, one that works efficiently and enjoys life in full is possible through support provided during periods of childhood, adolescence and passage into young adulthood. Starting from pre–school education and continuing until the end of the university, special programs that develop self–awareness and life skills ensure that individuals are equipped with the extremely important tools needed for development in addition to the store of knowledge provided by formal education. The aim of many educational institutions, in other words that of raising curious, exploring and questioning individuals who know themselves, can pick a profession they love in line with their areas of interest, can enrich their lives through personal interests, and are capable of establishing fulfilling relationships, is only possible through the spread of such programs.
In line with this, we believe that in addition to targeting academic and professional development of students, university education should also provide support for increasing their individual and social awareness. We would like to emphasize that a holistic approach to the development of young adults is necessary in universities, and as institutions of education, universities have an important role in this critical process. At the stage when identity formation continues, there is much that can be done at the higher education level to support young people in discovering their potentials and to properly guide them in achieving self–actualization.
The journey of awareness is a process that starts at birth and continues all through life, remains open to development. Because it is closely related to the spiritual health, the personal maturity and psychological potential of the individual, developments in the awareness of the individual play an important role in determining the quality of life and in actualization of the self.
To give momentum to students’ growth, the courses make use of the principles of experiential learning. In other words, opportunities are created for enabling students to take part in experiential work that will require them to reflect about themselves. The experiential work sometimes involves the analysis of a film by drawing connections with their own lives, requires them to question their ethical values in the discussion of a case, and at other times, have them to take part in a reenactment where they will be expected to actively express themselves in a conflict situation.
Most of the class work involves group activities, which enable students at various levels of awareness to learn from each other, and also to create opportunities where they can get involved with each other, so that their social skills can develop. Depending on the aim of the actual exercise, this work may be conducted in small groups of 2 or 3, or in larger groups of up to a dozen students. Every group activity is complemented with sharing mechanisms in order to place the experience in a meaningful context and to facilitate its consolidation.
Students also conduct individual work outside class, in parallel to the coursework or in a manner to complement it. During these activities, students reflect and write their feelings and thoughts considering issues such as personal goals, areas that need development, difficulties experienced in relationships, experiences of stress and similar topics. Instructors who are responsible for teaching the course provide feedback to their reflective writing.
As in many programs that focus on life skills, trainers in this program need to play many roles in addition to that of educator. In their various roles as teacher, guide, mentor, or facilitator, the trainers focus on providing the most suitable support to match student needs. During the delivery of the ALIS course, the instructors value the idea of acting as role models to their students. With this aim in mind, from time to time trainers try to establish a role model by sharing with their students examples from their own life experience and processes. At the same time, during classes and interactions with the students, trainers are sensitive and respectful towards the varying identities, values, cultures and needs of the students. They strive to construct a free, flexible, creative and motivating environment that will make it possible for each student to develop their own awareness. They adopt the approach of not only a trainer but also that of a mentor in order to cater to various student expectations and needs, and to guide them as needed. Approaches that ALIS trainers need to adopt are listed below:
– Acting as a role model to participants
– Being motivating and energetic
– Observing and being sensitive to differences
– Flexibility and creativity
– Being able to cater to various expectations and needs of participants and guiding them