A model for an intergenerational learning centre: the rules of the game

The analysis of best practices in intergenerational learning/education, managed by the Units research group, uncovers several recurring and indispensable elements. These should be the key elements of any intergenerational learning proposal. When we talk about learning situations, we are referring to planned, deliberate circumstances, able to generate positive outcomes on the lives of their participants. Examples include situations that make people feel better, in which they can use skills in an ongoing manner. These should prioritise long-term positive effects over fleeting emotional impact and produce a positive change in people’s lives.

We speak about „model” to mean a collection of guidelines (“the rules of the game”) that ensure the desired outcome when applied, even in different environments and circumstances, provided they are clearly stated and obeyed. So why do we need a “model” for educational initiatives generally, and for intergenerational activities specifically?

Experience teaches us that education can take many forms: our parents educate us, and so too our friends and our society. Even a specific event that happens to us can act as an educational experience. We educate ourselves by observing others, picking up behavioural traits or attitudes we learn from other people. However, if we want something to achieve an educational setting, something that has a positive impact on an individual’s life, it cannot be something improvised or spur-of-the-moment. Equally, however, it cannot be designed in a laboratory, copied from the pages of a one-size-fits-all instruction manual. This is why we need a model – it is a supporting tool for education initiatives, a system that enables us to plan, realise, oversee and evaluate the initiatives, ensuring that they are delivering the promised positive change and individual growth.

Which are the prerequisites for a model of intergenerational activities/initiatives/projects?

  1. Any educational or learning initiative must have an idea of a person; this is what we refer to as the human dimension;
  2. any educational context must have a strong identity, and must be clearly outlined, with the intended beneficiaries, the methods, duration and locations all defined; this is what we refer to as the planning dimension;
  3. finally, each context must define its own characteristics and those of the beneficiaries of its educational initiatives, which can facilitate or hinder the practical implementation of the activity; this is what we refer to as the operational dimension.

Based on the three dimensions it is now possible to summarise and highlight those elements, in bullet points, that should be taken into consideration in order to transfer the rules of the model into a specific intergenerational project. 

  1. Human dimension

Vision
Mutual reciprocity

Personnel
Beneficiaries

  • Planning dimension

Location
Building
Objectives
Physical layouts

  • Operational dimension

Oversight and coordination
Personnel training
Pedagogical supervision
Evaluation

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