Key competencies for Lifelong Learning in education of seniors (KEY)

The KEY project was conducted within the framework of Erasmus+ Strategic Partnership. It started in September 2014 and was completed in September 2016.

Project Partners

Three European organizations participated in the project. It was co-ordinated by the Pro Scientia Publica Foundation from Poland, and the other partners were Ca’ Foscari University of Venice and Kairos Europe, Great Britain. The initiator and manager of the project was PhD Aleksandra Marcinkiewicz-Wilk.

Why the project was created

The inspiration for the project was the fact that education is at the core of the modern information society. Lifelong learning is essential in the new dynamic reality, because only through continual education is it possible to keep up with constant social change. In developing the project, therefore, reference was made to the key competences required for lifelong learning designated by the European Union. On this basis, three key areas in the development of the education of seniors were identified. Elderly people are the target group, because it is they who are most vulnerable to social exclusion, especially in the age of the dominance of new technology.

Educational paramaters

Three series of workshops, developing the key competences for lifelong learning for seniors, were prepared for the KEY project – interpersonal, English language, and new technologies (creation of an internet blog). The element linking all these workshops was a personal biography of the participant. In the interpersonal section, each participant developed their own biography, which was then translated from English during the workshops. The next step was to post the biography on a blog, as part of the new technolgies workshop. 45 seniors took part in the project – 15 from Poland, 25 from Italy, and 10 from Great Britain.

Scientific aspect of the project

It is worth noting that, apart from the educational aspect, the KEY project also had a scientific dimension. Qualitative and quantative research was conducted during the duration of the project. Quantative reasearch was conducted by means of questionaires, both before and after the project, with the aim of assessing the effectiveness of the workshops. Focus groups were also organized at each stage in order to evaluate the workshops. During these focus groups, the seniors expressed their opinions about the workshops, indicating both their strong and weak points. On the basis of this, valuable feedback was obtained, which enabled the programme of activities to be adapted and improved.

Practical conclusions for the education of seniors resulting from the KEY project

On the basis of the experience gained during the project, it is possible to apply practical conclusions for the education of elderly people :

Recruitment is a key factor. It should be noted that in preparing the project’s programme of activities it was assumed that the participants already have at least a basic knowledge of English and computer skills. Thus, the recruitment process should attempt, as far as possible, to select a homogenous group of seniors.

Flexibility. During evaluation of the project, it was the opinion of many seniors that there were too few lessons (each module consisted of 10 lessons of 1.5 hours each). This time limit often left them hungry for more, as some of the lessons were so interesting for them that they wanted to continue. Thus, it is important that as far as possible the lessons should be flexible.

The senior as a party to the education process. It is very important that seniors should be treated as a party to the education process. This means that the senior should be familiar with the subject matter of the lessons and have some influence on the shape of the workshops. Seniors should feel that they are not just passive participants in the education programme, but that they also have some say in its formation.

Interesting and practical activities. From the feedback obtained from the participants, the attractiveness and practicality of the lessons was very prominent. Seniors, as people who “no longer have to do anything”, expect the lessons to be interesting. It is also important that the lessons should have some practical bearing on their lives, as they don’t want to waste their time on something which is impractical and irrelevant. Reference to their own experiences should also be part of the lessons, because then the content will be better assimilated.

Group atmosphere is a very important factor in the success of workshops, and can be influenced by both seniors and teachers. It is very important neither to judge nor criticise seniors during the course of lessons. Participants should feel accepted and able to comfortably express their own thoughts during group forums, without fear of being laughed at. This is particularly important when working on personal biographies, because sharing life experiences is often difficult and a great challenge for the participants.

Material adapted to elderly people. Material used during the lessons should be adapted to the specifics of the elderly. Texts should be printed in large type, tasks should be clearly defined, and notes should be confined to the relevant content of the lessons.

Summarising, evaluation of the KEY project shows that the workshops were interesting for the participants, and had a positive effect on an increase in their key competences in lifelong learning.

The project was appreciated both by the Polish National Agency of the Erasmus + Program (good practice example designation, nomination for the national Edu-Inspirations 2017 award) and the European Commission (Success story).

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