Intergenerational Learning

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”
― Henry Ford

With global boundaries becoming seamless; with innovation spearheaded by the incessant advancement of industries and technology, with unprecedented political upheavals and resulting wars etc., the world in changing in leaps and bounds. A constant need to keep oneself updated with the current situations is becoming pertinent. People are evolving to adapt to changes. However, it must not be forgotten that every evolution carries a trail of episodes that had a beginning somewhere, sometime, in the past. These episodes have led to a transformation in the world that each of us have started to live in at some point. How can one access knowledge about what has been, to be able to appreciate the present, and plan for an impending future? Apart from the conventional tools used to gain knowledge, learning personally from a life-story of someone who has lived a certain phenomenon, can be engaging. This calls for people from different generations to interact with each other and share knowledge and experiences.

Of course, learning is neither unidirectional, nor prejudiced to age, social and economic status, cultural origins etc., of an individual. When generations interact, knowledge sharing is mutual. How does such an endeavor materialize?

Through the project Generations in Interaction – Intergenerational learning as a constructor or identity and culture, we at the School of Educational Sciences and Psychology of UEF, intend to search for the meaning of IGL through innovative pedagogical practices and research aimed at exploring historical, sociological, political and societal dimensions of this concept.

Under the supervision of Professor Jyri Manninen and guidance of Senior lecturers, Juha Kauppila and Risto Ikonen, the students of education, adult education and career counselling, form the central work force of the project, responsible for the implementation and management of the intellectual outputs. Master’s degree students, Malavika Jaikumar and Sari Ikonen assume primary roles in project co-ordination, management and, piloting IGL in the Finnish society; along with their in-house student-counterparts, Paivi Vaisto and Consesar Massawe.

Implementation of IGL through innovative pedagogical practices.

The School of Educational Sciences and Psychology adopts Project-based Learning (PBL) and Service-Learning (S-L) as the methods for realizing non-formal IGL.

Project-based learning is a comprehensive teaching perspective, where students learn by pursuing solutions to meaningful problems by asking and refining questions, debating ideas, designing plans, collecting and analyzing data, drawing conclusions, communicating with others and creating artifacts (Blumenfeld, Soloway, Marx, Krajcik, Guzdial & Palincsar, 1991, p. 371). Ideally the learners have the most control of the learning process, which gives them the freedom and responsibility to make decisions about the pacing, sequencing and the content of learning. This also enables students to use their prior knowledge and experiences. (Helle, Tynjälä & Olinuora 2006, 292.)

Service-Learning pedagogical method draws its inspiration from the works of John Dewey, also known as the father of experiential learning where he postulates, learning is best done by direct participation in the activity emphasizing the importance of learning through experience, learning both within and outside the classroom, and embedding learning in one’s own goals, beliefs and expectations (Smith & Mckitrick, 2001, 2010). Defining this concept, Eyles and Gyler (1999) call it as “a form of experiential education where learning occurs through a cycle of action and reflection as students seek to achieve real objectives for the community and deeper understanding and skills for themselves. In the process, students link personal and social development with academic and cognitive development…experience enhances understanding; understanding leads to more effective action.”

The course that is being carried out in autumn 2018, incorporates PBL model of pedagogy, currently. We plan to create future courses embedded with S-L ideologies.

Project offerings for students

The School offers students with opportunities to conduct research for their Master’s degree thesis and Doctoral dissertations inside the Generations project, in addition to short-term internship opportunities. Applications seeking internship positions have already started arriving for the Spring-Summer, 2019 from both Finnish students and students of international exchange programmes.

Activities hitherto

The first period of the project, 1st September to 31st December 2018, started with intensive planning for courses fostering the concepts of IGL.

Active citizenship and non-formal education as a starting point for Museum pilot.

In this course the students will discuss the position and status of adult education, especially the significance of free non-formal education in the Finnish society and international context; the different forms of manifestation of active citizenship in Finland and abroad; and the practices of inter-generational learning as a constructor of identity and culture. Apart from reading literature the students will also visit institutions promoting free, non-formal education and active citizenship.

In line with this purpose, the first pilot that will be launched at UEF towards IGL is “Museums as contexts for dialogue between generations”. This is also the topic of Master’s thesis of Sari Ikonen.

Museums are ideological institutions that contain consciously constructed collective representations of how contemporaries perceive the society has formed and developed; the collected narratives exhibit both private and public values and identities, and as such offer the visitors opportunities to identify with something and distinguish oneself from something (Kallio 2009; Rönkkö 2009).  Museums are also increasingly seen as spaces for informal and nonfomal learning, where dialogues are opened and processed, and where room is given to new and alternative interpretations (Malmisalo-Lensu & Mäkinen 2009). Dialogues in museums can operate on different levels. As a visitor negotiates with the museum exhibition, they can engage in an inner dialogue with oneself, either consciously or unconsciously, and/or the dialogue can be external, with a friend, partner, guide, or any other person within the museum space (ibid.) This dialogue, just as Gadamer’s philosophical hermeneutics posits, results in all the parties engaging in it gaining new and deeper understanding of one another.

A museum, then, is an ideal context for intergenerational learning to take place. Gadamer’s philosophical hermeneutics places individuals within the historical context in a more abstract sense, while being in a museum while engaging in a learning dialogue places the individuals within a (constructed) historical context physically.

The objective of the pilot described here is to create a play-like intergenerational activity in a museum context that encourages discussion and exchange of ideas and experiences between the participants. These intergenerational dialogues are considered as learning opportunities and events. The pilot is researched as an example of intergenerational learning in action.


Summer School 2019

The School of Educational Sciences and Psychology will present a course on the concepts, theories, paradigms and practices in IGL in the Summer School Programme of UEF that will be held on 12-23 August 2019. The curriculum planning is underway.

For further information, please contact:

Project assistant: Malavika Jaikumar, +358413698539

Senior lecturer Juha Kauppila, +358 29 4452586

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