Article written by Professor Ioan Durnescu, University of Bucharest

The International Training School on Core Correctional Skills, Barcelona, July 2021

The pandemic crisis forced people and organizations to adapt their modus operandi and the way they interact with the others. Direct communication was the most affected reality of all. People were not able to travel or meet each other as before. Large gatherings were forbidden, such as concerts, conferences or courses. Schools were closed and students were invited to take online courses. For some academic subjects, online education went quite well. I am thinking here of the theoretical classes such as philosophy, law and so on. Other subjects though were not so easily responsive to the online environment. It is the case here of the classes that require interactivity, use of self, feedback and other processes that can develop deep understanding and behavioural modelling. Some academic subjects or training programmes are fundamentally transformative for the participants. For them, sharing knowledge and awareness is not enough. They demand intimate engagement with the personal values and attitudes of the participants and interaction with personal features such as emphatic capacity, emotional intelligence or likeability.  To develop these features, the educators need a safe environment were participants could experiment as in real life. They need to use role-plays, modelling, theatre and other experiential approaches that place the students in an ‘as if reality’. For these disciplines – such as social work, psychology and so on – the learning is deeply relational not only informative. We are only at the beginning of the online world that will come. We do not have yet the means to re-create the physical reality in the virtual space. Even if we have some technologies – such as virtual reality (VR) – they are still in their infancy or quite inaccessible for their price.

What is promising?

The solution is, therefore, to use the online environment for delivering knowledge and create other spaces or opportunities that will allow students to interact, exchange ideas and impressions, explore new ways of expressing ideas and emotions, receive feedback and support from their educators and so on.

Quite recently I have published a book –Core Correctional Skills –The training kit that is focusing on developing five of the most important practices that are associated in the literature with desistance or reduced reoffending: how to build up a working alliance, pro-social modelling, problem solving, motivational interviewing and cognitive restructuring (for more info, please visit: The initial intention was that readers will use this book as a self-help book (to improve their own skills) but also to help trainers to structure better their approach in developing these practices.

Developing these skills is based in my book on many exercises, examples, role plays, reflection points and feedback based on structured observation. As pandemic prevents trainees to meet and interact with the trainer, I have planned to turn the book into an online course that will have, besides the classical presentations and videos, a space where participants can share their learning experiences – such as the community of practitioners – and also their concrete practices. In this respect, practices from film casting – such as self-tapes – will be used among other innovative devices.

A Hybrid approach

However, in order to enhance the experiential and relational dimension of the learning, together with the Center for Legal Studies (Barcelona), University of Barcelona and CEP, we will launch an International Training School on Core Correctional Skills that will take place between 12-16th of July 2021 where we intend to find the perfect match between traditional and new ways for delivering trainings and to blend in what we have learned during this challenging period. Professor Chris Trotter – emeritus professor at Monash University/ Australia will open the course. Watch the interview with Chris Trotter here!

Some of the highlights of the programme are the skills labs (where participants will practice and video-record their own role plays), feedback from experienced practitioners and trainers, visits to different professional sites in Barcelona, how to conduct rehabilitation activities in the pandemic crisis and so on. We estimate that until then we will be able to travel and this event can be also a transition to the “new normal”.

As we count on a small number of participants (for a more intensive tutorial approach), those interested in partaking are encouraged to book their places as soon as possible. In case of cancelation for health reasons, we work on the money return guaranteed. I hope I made you curious, haven’t I?

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