Sharing Best Practices in Teaching English for 50+

The third project meeting

Tallinn 24 – 25 September 2018

The third project meeting took place from 24 to 25 September 2018 in Tallinn, Estonia.

The meeting was attended by 9 people from all partner countries - 2 English teachers and project managers.

The meeting took place in accordance with the prepared agenda:

The most important conclusions from the meeting:

  1. the order of meetings in the project has been changed:
    • The 4th meeting will take place in Poland - January 2019 / setting the deadline to November 10, 2018,
    • During the meeting, the teachers will have the opportunity to observe a group of 60+ students at an advanced level. After the classes, a focus study will be carried out to indicate differences in the methodology of teaching older groups, which has so far been the biggest problem in the project.
    • The 5th project meeting will be held in Romania - April 2019
    • The 6th meeting will take place in Estonia - August 2019
  2. C1Training for teachers must take place between June and August 2019 in Lodz - the exact date depends on the progress of work in the project but the decision should be made during the meeting in Poland - January 2019
  3. In addition, before the 4th meeting, surveys should be conducted for students aged 50+ regarding opportunities, barriers and difficulties in teaching .

During the third project meeting English language teachers had the opportunity to observe the classes:

  • In the B1 group with the majority of young students (2 people were over 50 years of age).

Observers stressed that the classes were conducted in a structured and logical manner using useful materials. Great emphasis was placed on the grammar. The group was not homogeneous, but the teachers paid particular attention to the needs of weaker students. He explained everything exactly and tried to involve the students in classes

  • In the C1 group with the majority of 50+ students (over half of the students).

The group was very attentive and committed. The teacher encouraged the students to correct mistakes, which they willingly did. The teacher moderated the work of the group very well. One of the observers stated that the lector and the students created a closed world of learning and teaching.

The Class Observation Sheet was used in accordance with the findings of the previous meeting as an auxiliary tool in the assessment of classes.

In addition, each partner prepared and presented the presentation on the situation of 50+ people in each country.

The second project meeting

Cluj - Napoca 19 - 20 April 2018

The second project meeting was short and mainly aimed at the presentation of curriculum in each of the partner countries and observation of the English classes conducted by Romanian partner. During the first day of the meeting, teachers from all partner countries presented the core curriculum for each of the previously selected levels:

  • A2 + - Poland
  • A.2.2 – Estonia
  • A2.3 - Romania.

Presentations were prepared on the basis of pre-established template.

The coordinator presented the outcome of the evaluation of the first meeting which clearly indicated the need to structure - the preparation of the Class Observation Sheet is the response to this demand.

The observed classes were conducted by two teachers. The first class at level A.2.3. was mixed age group and the second class at A.1.3 level a group of mainly 50+.

At that time, the project managers discussed administrative and financial issues related to the project implementation.

After the meeting all the partners had a late dinner.

The second day of the meeting began with discussing the teachers’ observations after peer watching each lesson (this is not the result of the Class Observation Sheet, but a loose discussion):

  • classes are longer than in other partner countries - they last 2.5 hours,
  • due to the length of classes, a lot of time is spent on revising the material in the other partner countries revisions are less frequent due to shorter classes)
  • interactive boards and other ICT technologies are actively used, both in younger and older groups. In addition to developing language skills, the use of ICT tools helps the older generation to get used to the new technology. The Polish partner diversifies the activities using the interactive whiteboard and the Estonian partner does not use them at all.
  • the attitude of the students is very open - they talk in English before the classes (which in principle does not happen in Estonia), they also give their opinion on the conducted classes
  • the way the classes are conducted by each teacher is very different - it may result from the specifics of each group and the personality of the teacher.

While discussing the outcomes of the class observation, the following question arose what teachers benefit from the observed activities related to the project. It was stated that just observing the activities of each partner was valuable, but it will not help to achieve the project's goal, which is to create a set of guidelines for teaching 50+ groups.

The coordinator explained that the first three meetings are aimed at getting to know each other, creating the space for cooperation and comparing the situation of 50+ people in each country. However, it was decided to reschedule meeting No. 4 (Romania) and No. 6 (Poland), so that the 4th meeting will be once again held in Poland in order to conduct additional observation of classes of 50+ (less and more advanced) groups using the Class Observation Sheet.

After conducting all the activities planned in the project, a focus group meeting will be held where:

  • experience from observing the classes in all partner countries will be summarized
  • ideas for additional dissemination of the project will be collected
  • differences in conducting classes for mixed groups, typically 50+, will be discussed. The subject of techniques and methods developed by the coordinator organization, who have been conducting classes for groups of 50+ for many years, will also be discussed and has extensive experience in this area.

The partners agreed that the next meeting will take place in Tallinn in September and will also last for two days. The exact date will be set in June.

After the meeting, the partners went out to have a farewell lunch.

The kick-off meeting

Łódź 16 – 18 November 2017

The first meeting was held at the Coordinator's Office – Studium Języków Obcych Modern Languages Center in Lodz, Poland.

On the first day of the meeting the activities for teachers and project managers were divided between them.

The teachers took part in the English lessons for 50+ students run by Magda Dworakowska.

Project managers discussed the meeting plan, exchange the signed partnership agreements. In addition, the coordinator clarified the issues related to the implementation of the project and the budget was discussed. Each of the financial categories and the rules for project settlement were clarified.

It was agreed that all partners must keep the described documents related to the project's expenses, in particular those ones on travel, each partner will prepare the appropriate contracts for the project staff and the teachers involved in the project - they may be volunteering agreements.

It was agreed that 6 project meetings would be organized and the best days for them would be the end of the week (Friday and Saturday). As the deadline for the final training with the set of guidelines for 15 teachers from partner countries, the turn of June and July 2019 was chosen.

After the meeting, the teachers and the project staff went out for dinner

The second day of the meeting started with a short tour of the MLC Foreign Language College and the presentation of its history by Anna Idzikowska - Dabow Managing the Director. Then the representative of each partner organization presented and discussed the presentation describing the history and functioning of each institution. The presentations will be posted online in Google Drive.

After the presentations, the partners compared the situation of each language school involved in the project and found out that, despite their different locations, each organization faced similar problems, such as high maintenance costs, summer break, the increased importance of in-company courses and one-to-one classes.

Next the project manager from Poland, Katarzyna Brzozowska - Kołat presented the background of the project and its assumptions to all participants:

· the college has taught 50+ students in their dedicated groups for more than 10 years now, there are no regular 50+ courses in partner institutions. All in all, in each partner organizations there are 50+ students.

· 50+ students also join and assimilate in mixed age groups, but some of them report specific needs, including:

· the demand for so-called. "Survival English" and lifestyle English,

· classes should be rich in vocabulary of everyday language,

· the participation in courses also provides students with non-linguistic needs such as the need of belonging to specific community,

· older learners have difficulty understanding the contextual vocabulary, over-emphasize linguistic correctness, and have difficulty in active listening exercises.

As the difficulty in teaching of older learners encountered by teachers in all partner countries is similar, the project partners will work to develop the set of best practices and tips for older learners.

After presenting the background for the project, the coordinator presented the work plan for the project: 6 meetings are scheduled; two in each partner country, the dates of subsequent visits will be planned in well in advance. The second project meeting will take place in Romania in Cluj-Napoca in April 2018. The Romanian partner is to propose the most suitable dates for it by mid-December 2017.

At each meeting, the project coordinator and 2 teachers who teach 50+students will participate in each meeting. It would be best if the same teachers attended all the meetings. The first three meetings will include benchmarking work and at the next three ones the set of tips and practices will be worked out.

Before the second meeting, in each country the presentation of the syllabus at the level chosen by each team will be made i.e. A2+ for Poland, A 2.2. for Estonia and A 2.3. for Romania. It was agreed that the set would consist of 3 parts – the conclusions from the comparison of the syllabus in each partner country, the situation of 50+ people (socio-cultural issues), the development of the survey made among 50+ students and teachers and the conclusions resulting from it.

It was agreed that each partner country would be responsible for preparing one part of the set. In order to determine exactly who is responsible for what needs to be agreed at the Skype meeting in December 2017.When the set is ready, the lesson will be conducted in each partner country and afterwards each teacher will assess its usefulness.

The next stage of the joint meeting for teachers and project managers was the discussion on the project logo. Eniko Gaspar, the project manager from Romania, agreed to prepare the logo for the project by the end of December 2017 which will be based on participants' suggestions and in collaboration with the project coordinator, who will send the additional materials by mid-December.

According to the participants of the meeting:

· the logo should be simple and contain clean colours,

· it should refer to emotion,

· the logo may be based on a pictogram,

· it can present: hands in welcoming embrace, faces of elderly people in graduation hats, a teacher and student’s silhouettes and the board with the project acronym.

After the lunch break, the partners had free time and met again at 5p.m. – the teachers participated in the workshop run by Magda Dworakowska, and then in the mixed age group lesson, while the project managers discussed the administrative issues.

The project coordinator presented and discussed the project evaluation plan.

Key findings:

· after each project meeting, a suitable survey will be completed by the participants,

· during the project the survey to assess the quality of work in the project will be carried out 4 times: March 2018. September 2018, March 2019, September 2019,

· in August 2018 and July 2019 a study to assess the implementation and progress of the project will be conducted,

· in addition, the instructions with tools for evaluating the Set of Guidance for both teachers and 50+ students will be provided by the coordinator.

The communication platform for the project and the project website - Facebook profile have been selected. By December 4 the coordinator will create online tools for the partnership.

All partners agreed to use the network of their national and international contacts to disseminate the results of the project. The coordinator will prepare a tool for describing and recording dissemination activities. Each partner on their website will provide information about the project and the link to the Facebook.

The coordinator provided the currency exchange rate on the date of signing the agreement with the Polish National Agency -29 September 2017.

At the end of the meeting, all the partners had dinner together.

On the last day of the meeting, the teachers participating in the 50+ group and the mixed group lesson shared their observations and remarks on the differences in each group's work. The 50+ group was more focused on the tasks that required active listening, the teacher divided the material that required analysis into smaller "portions" and repeatedly reproduced them. A great surprise for observers was the lesson warm-up which included personal experiences of the students - a form unique in Estonia. All students were encouraged to actively participate in the class; the teacher constantly monitored whether the learners were doing all the exercises and whether they were understandable. The teacher provided the students with the correct answers in the tasks if the group could not provide them.

The mixed age group works faster and although they are at a lower language level, they seem to be at a higher level than the 50+ group. The atmosphere in the group is as friendly as in the older group, but students require less attention and less incentive, the group performs active listening tasks more actively and speaks more fluently.

After discussing the activities, the meeting was summed up, the level of the syllabus needed for the next project meeting was selected once again and the evaluation questionnaires were handed out.

About the project

Prolonging life and improving its quality and the declining fertility of European Citizens make it necessary to prolong the activity of the elderly. It not only concerns professional activity but also active participation in social and cultural life.

By 2030 almost half of Europe’s population will be 50 years old. In order to prevent the negative effects of the change in the social structure, different programs for active aging have been already implemented. One of the elements that facilities lifelong performance is continuous education, including learning languages.

Lifelong learning is a challenge not only for learners but also for educators of older age groups.

According to our observations and available research, people over 50 require a different approach and curriculum than younger people.

Within the framework of the project implementation in Poland, Romania and Estonia, we want to support teachers who work daily with people over 50.

In all partners organizations actions aimed at active aging are being carried out, mainly in the form of English classes for 50+ people, financed from various sources.

However, the teachers who teach these groups in each partner institution encounter similar barriers and difficulties in their daily work.

Through the exchange of good practice and experience, we want to increase the knowledge and competences of English language teachers of 50+ people which will enable them to prepare curriculum and activate this age group.

As a result of our two-year cooperation we will create a collection of Guidance and Advice (PLO) which will be free and available to all people interested in it