In his guest blog Brian Findsen raised the issue of the forgotten middle generations in intergenerational learning. Programmes often bring young people in contact with older people, but informal intergenerational learning takes place always and everywhere; colleagues differing in age learn from each other, parents and their children learn from each other.
Research (Corrigan, McNamara, O'Hara; 2013) shows that intergenerational learning is an excellent methodology for enabling transformative education. People learn from one another through observational learning, imitation, and modelling. Intergenerational learning programmes create significant learning opportunities and a transformation in attitudes between generations. As a side-effect, intergenerational and intercultural solidarity is also fostered, a thing to cherish in the current socio-economic climate in Europe.
Intergenerational learning comes with a number of principles:
- Mutual and reciprocal benefit: All participating generations should gain benefit.
- Cultural grounding: The needs context and attitudes of cultures differ widely. An approach adopted in one area may not work or be relevant in another due to these differences.
- Participation: The participants should be fully involved in shaping the activity and feel a sense of ownership - connecting the generations.
- Community bonds and active citizenship promotion: Engagement across the generations to emphasise positive connections with the aim of building stronger, better connected communities with increased social capital and citizenship.
- Asset Based: Build on strengths for success, understanding and mutual respect.
- Challenging ageism: Both young and old are victims of ageism. Meeting each other means that they can explore who they really are and what they have to gain from each other.
- Good planning: Attempt to create positive changes which are an addition to naturally occurring processes.
- Cross-disciplinary or inter-disciplinary: Broaden the experience of professionals to become more involved in working in an inclusive way and to think much more broadly about how they undertake their work.
This video that encompasses all of the principles of intergenerational learning went viral last year.
There are also a number of interesting European-wide initiatives in the field of intergenerational learning. Here are some of my favourites:
- There is the European Approaches to Inter-Generational Lifelong Learning (EAGLE), that mapped policies and practices and developed a toolkit for Intergenerational Activities (funded under Grundtvig)
- There’s also European Certificate of Intergenerational Learning (ECIL), funded under the Lifelong Learning Programme. This project aimed to further develop a distance learning course on intergenerational learning
- Finally, there is the European Map of Intergenerational Learning (EMIL), funded by the Beth Johnson Foundation. A collaborative network of members working together to support intergenerational learning taking place across Europe. The EMIL website contains a lot of useful material on the subject including case studies on interesting practices and country profiles.
What we can learn from these initiatives is that organising intergenerational learning can be challenging as well as valuable. We need to find the right content to which different generations can relate and contribute their knowledge and understanding. The learning environment should evoke participatory involvement of all and establish mutual respect amongst the learners.
But, even more, without over-theorising, do you have examples of intergenerational learning taking place in your day-to-day life? Sometimes challenging things just happen in front of you!
Simon Broek has been involved in several European research projects on education, labour market issues and insurance business. He advised the European Commission, the European Parliament and European Agencies on issues related to education policies, lifelong learning, and labour market issues, and is Managing Partner at Ockham Institute of Policy Support.