Introduction the Methodological Guide

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The Methodological Guide which is presented is intended to introduce basic elements and teaching strategies for seniors citizens and how to teach them.

The document consists of: factors influencing the selection of teaching methods and techniques, teacher’s role, teaching methods and techniques, and teaching tips.
The learners are expected to:

  • get knowledge in different learner types;

  • get acquainted with the cognitive process (motivation, logical thinking, intelligence, memory) of the respective learner group;

  • get acquainted with the physical characteristics and the socio-emotional needs of the learner group;

  • build teaching skills – how to carry on their classes effectively and choose and apply the best teaching methods and techniques in their classes;

  • get familiar with some practical advices and be able to implement them in class.

Your main objective as a tutor is to involve the audience, to reach them and to teach them about the subject.
To select the most appropriate methods and techniques for a particular group of learners, it is of great importance to identify the learner types constituting the group. In general the learner types can be classified e.g. as follows:

  • visual learnerslearn through seeing. They need to see the teacher’s body language and facial expression to fully understand the content. They may think in pictures and learn best from visual displays including diagrams, illustrated textbooks, videos, flipcharts and hand-outs. During a lecture or a discussion, visual learners often prefer to take detailed to notes to absorb the information;

  • auditory learnerslearn through listening. They learn best through verbal lectures, discussions, talking things through and listening to what others have to say. Auditory learners interpret the underlying meanings of speech through listening to tone of voice, pitch, speed and other nuances. Written information may have little meaning until it is heard. These learners often benefit from reading texts aloud;

  • tactile/kinesthetic learnerslearn through moving, doing and touching. They learn best through a hands-on approach, actively exploring the physical world around them. They may find it hard to sit still for long periods and may become distracted by their need for activity and exploration.

Sometimes you will present to a diverse group with different backgrounds and learner types. Therefore, when you present to a diverse group, you should try to consider all learner types. However, if you present to a more homogeneous group of learner, you may choose to present emphasizing one strategy over the others.

1. Factors influencing the selection of teaching methods and techniques.
1.1. Cognitive process.

  • reaction to novelty is not reduced;

  • intelligence is not reduced but information processing slows down, thus possibly causing memory problems;

  • ability to deal with multiple tasks is reduced;

Logical thinking:

  • concept formation skills are not reduced;

  • behavioural aspects:

    • seniors can assimilate new information but sufficient time must be given to learning;

    • new knowledge can be better retained if it can be associated with pre-existing memory content;

    • seniors profit from clear examples;

    • seniors demonstrate a knowledge of new information best when distractions are kept to a minimum;

    • seniors function best on tasks which are in one way or another linked to the everyday realities they deal with.


  • reliable decline in intellectual ability does not occur until in the late 80s for most people;

  • there is a decline of speed of response;

  • some decline in intellectual ability is likely to be found in people with physical problems and in people from socially deprived environments.

Memory (retention and forgetting):
Senior citizens:

  • profit from a review of information that may has been learned previously;

  • respond best to well-organized information;

  • respond better to tasks that require short-term memory

  • need additional time to retrieve previously learned information, benefit greatly from reviews

  • understand the content best when the topic is presented by using various teaching strategies, e.g. lectures, demonstrations, hands-on, etc.

1. 2. Physical characteristics
Physical changes do not prevent learning but there is a relationship between physical condition, speed of intellectual response and the degree of active thinking a person can accomplish.

  • Seniors respond best to a learning environment in which adequate time for input, decision-making and output of information is planned;

  • Inevitable decrease in muscle control (for an ICT course, both the mouse control and keyboard use are difficult);

  • Vision difficulties (for an ICT course, the screen resolution, font and font size will influence the ability of the seniors to assimilate the information from the computer screen);

  • Auditory difficulties (high-frequency sounds sometimes are difficult to hear; background noise lessens the ability to assimilate the appropriate sounds, etc.);

  • The ability to sit for extended periods of time or to sit and stand repeatedly and/or suddenly is greatly reduced.

1. 3. Socio-emotional needs

  • Age changes the view of seniors of their role in life, responding to liberation from the norms society has set up for them: men become more passive (after a lifetime of responsibility and decision-making, they feel more free to shrug off responsibilities) whereas women become more aggressive, committed and domineering;

  • Friendship with seniors who are not relatives may serve as a replacement for the warmth and companionships traditionally provided by family members;

  • Seniors can provide useful information for instructional planning by describing their background;

  • Seniors are able to contribute much to a lesson when their varied life experiences are incorporated into the instructional planning;

  • Seniors demonstrate personality traits that are somewhat “age unique”;

  • Seniors profit from work where “friends” assist one another;

  • For many seniors, the educational level of the younger people (computers, electronic gadgets, etc.) fascinates and frustrates and is a source of latent longing;

  • For some seniors the skills involved in formal learning tasks have not been used for a long time. They are apprehensive about learning and are particular anxious about their own ability to learn;

  • Using a positive approach and avoiding any type of stereotyping can help involve the curios but insecure seniors.

  • Seniors profit from approaches which attempt to limit the amount of stress and fear of failure.

2. Teacher’s role
2.1. The Opening

  • the opening of each session should hold a bit of excitement, a touch of enthusiasm, a promise of something new;

  • if possible, all seniors should start from the same understanding base. If not, the slowest learner should receive the most attention.

2.2. Activities

  • plan short tasks;

  • when focusing on new concept, allow time for thinking;

  • first provide information, then seek immediate feedback;

  • encourage seniors – warmth, positive teacher comments and approval;

  • provide for different types of learners – some prefer to work alone, others prefer to work in groups;

  • provide opportunities (before and after class) where teacher/learner trust can grow;

  • review new concepts immediately after introducing them and again at a later time.

2.3. The Closing

  • assign homework for the purpose of review and encouragement;

  • give detailed instructions;

  • build enthusiasm for and inters in the next session.

3. Teaching methods and techniques

  • peer support” – support provided by peers to peers in the learning process. This method enables especially senior learners to develop and improve interpersonal relations, to control and self-assess their individual capabilities and to learn better without feeling uneasy always to ask the teachers (students);

  • individual work – requires individual approach to learners (seniors). This method makes possible the match of individual consulting and assessment with individual objectives and assignments set according to the degree of mastering the subject taught;

  • lecture by teacher – the teacher (student) explains to the learners (seniors) and after that answers the questions raised by the latter;

  • interactive lecture – it encourages interaction between the teacher and the learners. The teaching process can be conducted in the form of questions and answers, doing a variety of exercises and discussions on particular case studies. It is very suitable for foreign language and ICT training. It establishes a relaxed atmosphere, as well as confidence in learners;

  • demonstration – the learners are shown in practice how to best cope with a particular situation or how to best perform a set of activities. It is considered to be appropriate for teaching ICT skills to seniors;

  • critical situation analysis – learners describe cases which have caused serious difficulties. The group discusses the main facts which define each of these situations and make a decision upon the additional information needed, as well upon the teaching required for solving the problems presented;

  • teaching with breaks – enables learners to determine their own time and pace of learning by using teaching materials prepared in advance. It is very suitable for computer-aided training or self-study. It implies interactive work and considers the individual needs of each learner;

  • pair work and small group work - giving the learners the opportunity to check their ideas with just one other person, which helps them feel validated before having to offer answers in front of a whole group;

  • team and competitive games – they are as inspiring for seniors as for young. Every senior was once a kid, and if you as a teacher can provide a comfortable environment for them to behave a little bit like this again, the results can be excellence. Of course not all seniors are ready for boisterous games and role plays – this kind of teaching might be completely different to anything they have previously experienced. In this case, explaining the educational theory behind the activities usually helps them realize that it is not just for fun, it is actually to help them learn. Starting slowly and building an environment of trust can help all seniors be ready for a more creative, young-centered course.

4. Tips on teaching seniors
General tips

  • always begin on a positive note - greet people and provide support and assurance;

  • obtain information on learners’ interest, capabilities and needs during the first session and build on them later throughout the course;

  • present the topic of the session clearly;

  • start with the easiest task – one that can surely be carried out by everyone;

  • review new/strange/little used vocabulary and avoid jargon and acronyms;

  • provide adequate time for feedback;

  • be patient and adjust your pace to the learners’ needs and abilities taking into account the slowest ones. It is more important that everyone in the class understand and appreciate the subject covered than that you cover everything you planned to. Reassure the fast learners that everything not covered in the class is in the lecture notes;

  • show seniors respect and patience. Many seniors believe they can not learn new things at their age. By encouraging and talking to them about their fears, you can help them to understand that they can learn;

  • do not refer to seniors as being “old” because you are insulting them. Being old does not go hand in hand with them being incapable of learning;

  • be careful not to imply that lack of knowledge in any way indicates stupidity, weakness or inadequacy;

  • repeat your instructions often. Speak slowly and clearly. Show seniors how to accomplish a particular task, and then guide them through the process of doing it themselves;

  • understand that seniors often learn differently than younger people, and require more individualized attention;

  • try to anticipate questions because many seniors might be too nervous to ask them;

  • small errors are encouraged to learn from and to lose fear of the technical equipment;

  • listen to seniors and learn about life when they were young. They have much to teach you;

  • plan frequent breaks every 45-60 minutes;

  • try to create optimal working conditions (e.g. adequate lighting, suitable ergonomics, limited noise interference).

Useful tips on teaching ICT

  • be aware of any mobility or ergonomic issues the seniors might have. Make them comfortable in front of the computer. Familiarize yourself with Microsoft’s Accessibility tools which can enable you to make the text on the monitor appear larger and more readable;

  • leave out, if possible, unnecessary and/or potentially confusing technical information. Focus on the practical applications of ICT;

  • help seniors overcome the fear of the computer right away. Take apart an old computer and point out the memory, processor and video cards. Explain the role of each. Show them the mouse, keyboard and monitor and how each plugs into the computer box;

  • the most important thing to teach anyone just learning how to use a computer, is that there is nothing that they can do to break it;

  • try to give examples that are relevant to seniors, e.g. you might mention that they can use Word to type letters to friends;

  • create a list of common computer functions, menus, commаnds and buttons with explanations on how to use each. Give it to the seniors so that they can practice using the computer when you are not around;

  • use analogies to express new concepts. For example, password is as a tooth brush: you should change it often and never share it. To show how fast a double click should be, tell them to say “knock-knock” as they double click.

  • limit text to be typed during activities. Some learners might have limited typing skills;

  • introduce the BIGPRINT profile (Microsoft Accessibility Tools);

  • end the session by telling the seniors that they should practice using a computer a few times a week, so they can retain what they have learned and build new computer skills;

Useful tips on teaching English

  • vocabulary repetition using motoric activities, e.g. by throwing a ball and asking the other learners words in English;

  • explain vocabulary by using internationalisms (expressions which are similar in almost all European languages);

  • seniors can learn new vocabulary easily if you use games. In this way they will not only enjoy themselves but also can link the new vocabulary to a particular experience;

  • combine audio input with visual presentation of new material;

  • repeat concepts in different ways and via different sensory channels;

  • do not correct pronunciation extensively.

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