The present project is the result of the cooperation of three different institutions working in the field of adult education. Today, we’d like to introduce ourselves and briefly discuss our concerns, so that the ties that bond us become more evident and our readers can understand why we are so devoted to working together!
The coordinating institution is the Official Languages School of Vigo (EOI Vigo). We are a state-run language-teaching centre for adults in Spain, which can issue official language certificates. In our courses we teach nine different languages ―Chinese, English, French, Galician, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, and Spanish for foreigners― certifying students up to CEFR level B2 in all these languages and C2 only in English, French and Galician, and there are also teacher training courses on offer. Our main goal is to endow our students with the necessary tools to use language effectively and autonomously, being fully aware of not only the social but also the cross-cultural implications underlying each language. Within the current economic climate, EOI Vigo fulfills a vital role in fostering the improvement in the employability of Spanish youngsters and in facilitating the lifelong learning process of the adult population, both by providing a competence-based approach to language teaching and by issuing CEFR-adapted language diplomas. Therefore, we could say that one of our school’s main long-term objectives is to improve the motivation of these students with so different needs, so as to reduce school abandonment and the interiorisation of successful learning to learn strategies.
EOI-Vigo renders language services to the southern area of the Galician province of Pontevedra, with headquarters in Vigo and six branches (one in the Viguese neighbourhood Coia, and five in the Galician towns Cangas, Nigrán, Ponteareas, Redondela and Tui).
This area has a rather industrial profile centred on the car industry, granite factories, fishing and other sea-related industries and trade, and tourism. In this context, languages are very important for many of our approximately 6,500 students, who come from all walks of life from 14-year-old adolescents still at secondary school, young adults starting their working life, middle-aged seasoned workers or professionals, to pensioners with a desire to go on learning. Furthermore, EOI Vigo has almost a hundred students with special needs that run from students with a wide range of mental impairments to physical disabilities that require ear aids, crutches, wheelchairs, visual aids, and even a few blind students.
Our goal is to make our students autonomous language learners, able to apply the linguistic knowledge and skills to contexts in which they are relevant, be them of the public or private spheres. To achieve such a thing, our school is applying an action-oriented methodology based on the principles established by the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) whilst revolving around the main tenets of task-based learning and focusing on the development of strategies of lifelong learning. Such a concept, central to the Europe 2020 Strategy, aims to endow students with the necessary tools and strategies to manage their own learning process, something which will allow them to successfully transfer skills into other areas of their lives.
In relation to the concept of lifelong learning, it is also noteworthy to mention the wide array of initiatives developed by the teaching staff so as to offer a multidisciplinary and updated education, which incorporates the latest trends and which is materialised in a number of work groups and seminars focused on aspects to be improved or which could be interesting for our institution, such as an eTwinning work group, a standardisation seminar aiming to unify approaches across language departments and a drama group which reflects on the application of drama-based instruction in the classroom and its benefits.
Moving on to the second member of the project, let us introduce Fundacja Addenda from Poland. They operate in the sphere of non-formal and informal adult education and are especially interested in innovation in adult education in the areas where education meets and interlaces with culture, art and social life.
Currently, they are focusing mainly on people over the age of 40 (the middle aged and elderly) especially this facing all kinds of educational difficulties, caused by social, geographical, economical and other obstacles and problems.
They organise, animate and support various educational and cultural events, workshops, seminars, lectures, discussion meetings, happenings, courses and training conducted in a way that stands out from common practice. In their educational actions they concentrate not only on providing skills and knowledge but also on creating active educational approaches, curiosity and cognitive courage, involvement of oneself and others.
A Very important part of their activity is international cooperation and exchange, performed as common projects (at present we coordinate the international project “Follow the story – applied storytelling as a motivation and encouraging strategy in adult education” ), workshops and trainings for international groups of adult educators (this year we plan to run the course “Improvement, Development, Inspiration” on enhancing cognitive functions and motivation) and taking part and organising international conferences, meetings, study visits and job shadowing. Finally, they also cooperate with small rural and suburban institutions/organizations (like Cultural Clubs, NG0, Country Women Associations, Parishes ) organising for them various educational activities (English courses, art classes, seminars and workshops on brain functioning and memory).
Addenda promotes innovation and high quality of theoretical reflection, but at the same time we keep in touch with everyday life and its problems. Having very strong academic powerbase, they desire to create a bridge between accomplishments of contemporary culture, science, technology and everyday life. Their ambition is to develop methods and language that would allow us to extract their importance and meaning for the non-formal and informal adult learning.
One of the main goals of this organisation is to create a common platform, a framework (also a legal one) for the people, with different backgrounds, who are interested in innovation in adult education. In their ever-expanding team they have practitioners and researches, people representing various disciplines like pedagogy, psychology, philosophy, literature, social communication, fine art and science, with rich and broad experience in all kinds of adult education. The people who were all united by the same passion – developing and exploring new ways in learning, out of the formal educational systems. They work mostly as volunteers, but on regular base –a volunteer’s contract. The average number of our learners a year is 120 people.
Finally, the third partner is UNIEDA, an Italian association for the education of adults.
is an organisation of political representation within the Italian Third Sector, which continues the work of the Italian Federation for Continuing Education (FIPEC) created in 1998 to bring together within one association the ‘Popular Universities’ and other important organisations involved in education and training, as well as to carry out activities within the lifelong learning milieu. UNIEDA is, therefore, an umbrella organisation, whose members (currently 60) are Popular Universities, Third Age Universities and Italian cultural associations.
In fact, the Union devotes its efforts to the organisation and development of a third dimension in the national educational system – the dimension of continuing education and lifelong learning – through cultural associations, extra-scholastic organisations directed at the personal growth of individuals, the Popular Universities, Third Age Universities, leisure time universities and other initiatives offering the opportunity to exercise the right to learning offered in the contract regulations and legislation, adapted to the levels of current needs and demands of workers, young people women, senior citizens and pensioners. Moreover, the Union promotes co-operation with Faculties of Educational Sciences and Adult Education as well as other disciplines or institutions suited to encouraging continuing education in order to bring together all the various levels of training for professionals in this field.
While promoting adult education at national level, Unieda has always considered didactic methodologies extremely important. The teaching of English language is very common in Italian Popular Universities, especially among 55+. As a consequence it is essential to find always new and effective ways of teaching.
During the years we have developed different methodologies, even innovative, to enrich English teaching with the involvement of other disciplines: artistic (drama, singing, literature), autobiographical practices (to improve motivation and personalize the path of learning). It was possible because the constant cooperation of different departments of our University, which were able to create multidisciplinary classes and courses. We have always supported an approach to the language which was able to support the knowledge and exploration of the culture of Anglophone countries.
In this project, the three participating institutions can exchange professional and experiences staff: English teachers with a wide experience in life-long-learning, in didactic methodologies and European projects; experts in didactic methodologies of adult education and a shared interest in helping students’ develop meaningful learning strategies that will help them continue with their education no matter how hard it may seem.