Intergenerational Education Plan – The Adult Education Perspective

Bernhard Schmidt-Hertha

Questions to providers of intergenerational learning:

Course structure:

  • Is there enough time for intergenerational dialogues and discussions?
  • Does the group size support an intensive interaction of all participants?
  • Is it possible to apply the learning contents to real life situations, e.g. in the sense of community education?
  • Is there any learning material or didactical material for learners and trainers which focusses especially on intergenerational learning?


  • Do they regularly interact with other generations in their everyday life?
  • Do they have any experiences with intergenerational learning arrangements?
  • Are they experienced learners or could there be learning difficulties which might cause learning barriers?
  • Do participants of different ages have similar learning targets or do they follow very different aims? If the latter is the case, is it possible to satisfy those different aims within one course?


  • Are they prepared to teach intergenerational groups?
  • Are they used to working with heterogeneous groups, different types of learners and different learning targets within one course?
  • Are they trained to cope with conflicts and difficult group dynamics?
  • Do they have didactical concepts to make use of the varied experiences of different generations within the course? Are they able to take advantage of heterogeneity for the learning process?


  • Is there any assistance for learners and trainers if learning difficulties, conflicts, or any other problems occur?
  • Have the learners been counseled before they decided on an intergenerational learning arrangement?
  • Are the learners informed about what the course will exactly be like and what intergenerational learning is?
  • Have the trainers been briefed about the aims of the course, the participants’ expectations, and available materials?

Quality assurance:

  • Is there an early phase of formative evaluation planned to diagnose problems in the beginning and hence react on them promptly?
  • What strategies are applied to ensure the quality of the learning arrangement? How are the results of the course evaluated and documented?

Why intergenerational learning and solidarity matters – The Adult Education’s Perspective

Adult education provides great potential for the promotion of solidarity among different social groups and generations by creating space for social encounter independent from other contexts of life. While in school, interaction between teachers and learners is characterized by a hierarchical structure, “learning together”, without hierarchies, can best be realized in adult education, where representatives of different generations meet as learners. Adult education provides room for encounters in which an exchange between different generations is made possible and through which these individuals, in turn, learn to look at expectations concerning solidarity and togetherness from the perspective of the other respective generation. Joint learning and encountering older generations helps breaking up negative stereotypes regarding age. This deconstruction of negative images of age is essential to provide opportunities for active ageing, based on positive self-concepts during old age and respectful perception of competences among older adults.

In addition to these fundamental effects of intergenerational dialogues, different generations are able to learn from one another in contexts of adult education and to create new spheres of action for each other. While the younger generation can often be very important in familiarizing older learners with digital media, and in helping them using these, younger learners may, in turn, profit from older adults´ life experiences. Thus, joint learning also creates opportunities for using and expanding individual and generation-specific competencies as well as for strengthening the social participation of each and every one. Both of these aspects – competence development and qualification for social participation – can be considered the core tasks of adult education and they constitute an immediate contribution to social inclusion of all generations and to solidarity among all generations.

Mutual empathy among generations can be lastingly supported if adoption of perspectives of different generations and understanding of generation-specific world views and interpretation patterns is explicitly counted among the objectives of the educational measure. In the sense of “learning about one another”, the exchange about generational relations and the associated stratification of generations will then become the focal point of teaching-learning-processes. A precondition for this to happen is, on the one hand, the curricular leeway for the topicalization of generation-specific perspectives and experiences and, on the other hand, both willingness and interest on the part of the learners to enter into this exchange with other generations. Furthermore, this way of intergenerational learning requires special skills on the part of the teachers.

Accordingly, programs of adult education directly aiming at an encounter between different generations and going beyond joint study of a subject matter by supporting the adoption of the perspective of the respective other generation should be promoted. Of special interest in this context are programs of adult education that have an impact beyond the immediate learning context by enabling participants to enter into an intergenerational dialogue and by promoting social participation. The actual aim of such learning projects lies beyond the pedagogically pre-structured sphere of action and extends far beyond the time frame of the formal event. The objective is to engage participants to change the relationship between different generations in a self-controlled and lasting manner.

However, intergenerational learning needs to be strengthened in vocational contexts, too. Here, educational contexts such as vocational further training and in-service training offer great opportunities for topicalizing generation-specific approaches and experiences beyond the processes of everyday work. This seems to become ever more important the more retirement age is deferred. Thus, there is not only a need for appropriate education programs; but rather counseling with focus on intergenerational learning for companies and human resource developers, in particular, ought to be developed.

Yet another precondition for ambitious intergenerational learning projects – be it in a vocational or an extra-vocational context – are suitably qualified teachers. However, so far no supply structures for further training in the field of intergenerational learning exist for these teachers. Here, appropriate programs of further education for professionals working in this field need to be established and expanded.