14 SES 08 A, Intergenerational Learning in Context
The paper builds on the one presented at the previous Helsinki ECER conference. It investigates intergenerational learning in the family in more detail and with the help of new methodology. This stage of research focuses on enhancing the accuracy of the results obtained so far and their further analysis using a methodology (see below) which can mediate a deeper understanding of the issues. We intend to elaborate the thesis that the amount of culture of sharing (cohesiveness and strength of family ties) affects learning in the family and vice versa. The research questions focus on:
- content of intergenerational learning in the family;
- directionality of intergenerational learning in the family;
- who teaches whom in terms of the three generations;
- how learning is perceived in terms of the three generations;
- how learning in the family occurs;
- in which conditions learning in the family occurs.
The authors use two concepts as their starting point: lifelong learning and intergenerational learning. Intergenerational learning in the family is defined as a process through which family members of any age acquire skills and knowledge and develop attitudes and values, based on their day-to-day experience, on different occasions, and learn from all generations in the family. Learning in the family is not limited to a particular age, even though it is obvious that each life stage attracts learning of different skills and by different ways, and what is learned is perceived differently.
The main feature distinguishing learning in the family from other types of learning is the focus on participants from different generations. They may be two successive generations or two next but one generations. The learning is mainly social (values, attitudes), cognitive (knowledge, information sharing) and sensomotor (skills), and can be either intended and conscious or unintentional and below the conscious level. Learning in the family changes as the family members age, as they become increasingly independent and mature, as their relations and topics dominant for the family and its members in specific life stages of the family cycle change.
The authors’ previous published research results suggest that the potential of intergenerational learning in the family is closely connected to family characteristics such as communication in the family or the family climate and cohesiveness (sharing). Briefly put, these features determine a ‘family culture’ which may be labelled ‘pro-learning’, i.e. supporting learning in the family provided the culture is accepted by its members. These family characteristics show a strong degree of correlation. The stronger the ‘pro-learning’ family culture, the better the conditions for learning in the family. The analogy with learning organizations (Cherrie 2008) has proved fruitful since both entities share a number of characteristics.
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