Connection is the best methodology: an intergenerational project

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Perhaps you don´t call it Project Based Learning but you are actually developing projects. Maybe you don´t have a name for it, but, believe me, you are using a methodology or, probably, more than one. You are creating your own methodology, the one that best fits into your every day teaching. Let's look at an example.

There was a time when we weren't aware of the methodologies we were actually using in the classroom, but we did use them, or a version of them.

This is my experience, one of the best experiences I have ever had since I started teaching, more or less twenty years ago. At that time, I was teaching at a traditional university, that is, not an online one, as is the one I teach at nowadays. I taught what they told me to teach, I couldn't choose, I was at the end of the queue. I taught many different technical "Englishes", such as English for Computer Engineers, English for Library Studies, English for Engineering, English for Naval Studies, Business English...and so on.

Those students were under a lot of pressure in their degrees, so I tried to make my classes fun, so that they could relax a little bit (experts call it gamification now) and they enjoyed it and learnt a lot, at least that was what they told me: we ran, we had classes outside, in the countryside, we had contests, among other crazy ideas, quite innovative at University at that time.

Besides, you could see that many of them felt very uncomfortable with their English knowledge. Their self-esteem, having to do with the English language, was not very high, actually it was quite low.

At the same time, I was also teaching English at a Senior University, that is, a University for adults over 55. In Spain, most people of that age had studied French in school instead of English.

So I had an idea: volunteers would come with me to the Senior University for an hour in order to help me. Some of them came. Then, magic happened. And I will never forget it. Neither will they. I told the seniors:

- Hi, today, instead of one teacher, you are going to have seven, you are very lucky!

After being introduced, my University students went around the classroom and they started helping the seniors with the verb to be, their vocabulary and their doubts.

It is important to remember that these University students were not studying to become teachers, so English was just a secondary subject to them.

After that class, some of the volunteers’ comments were:

-Can I come back every week?

- I don't know much English but I was teaching them!

And from the seniors:

-Are they going to come back?

Of course, the visits to the Senior University continued on a regular basis, I didn't have to suggest it, they just went because they wanted to.

On the one hand, the seniors were delighted to have young people in the classroom, more help and individual attention. On the other hand, my University students’ self-esteem regarding their English language rose exponentially, as well as their motivation, interest and commitment. The general atmosphere during the lessons became more positive and there was an incredible feeling of unity in the group. Nowadays we would call it Emotional Education, Project Based Learning or Service Learning.

Perhaps you are not aware of it but, of course, you are using methodologies in your classroom, and probably, not just one. Actually, you are developing your own methodology, suiting your personality, your students’ necessities and the available resources.

But the name doesn't matter.

It really doesn't.

What I mean is that we all innovate in our classes, whether we have a cool name for it or not. Innovation is adaptation. Innovation is observation and creativity. Innovation is what you do every day in your classroom caring for your students. That is why connection is the best methodology and the best innovation.

Ingrid Mosquera Gende, PhD.

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