IMAL project wants to boost the participation of mature adults to learning activities

Innovation in Mature Adult Learning (IMAL) project aims to find the reasons behind the low participation of mature adults in learning. It also seeks to identify the most effective forms of learning.

The Associazione Per Formare – Associate Member of EAEA – from Rome, Italy, deals with professional and vocational training. During the past two years, 2013–2015, it has participated in the IMAL Learning Partnership project, financed by the Lifelong Learning Programme of the European Commission. The partnership was formed of six organisations from six different countries: Poland (coordinator), Denmark, Greece, Italy, Spain and Turkey, and carried out a study on learning of mature adults.

Country-specific information and a survey as sources

The project focused on two objectives: firstly, to find reasons for the low participation of mature adults (MA, 45+) in the key domains of adult learning and education and continuing training and professional development; and secondly, to identify the forms of education and learning — formal, non-formal, informal and alternative learning opportunities — that are most valued and meet the demands of individuals and communities. In order to achieve these objectives partners exchanged knowledge on learning patterns and identified best practices in partner countries for engaging mature adults in education and learning.

To understand and identify the reasons for mature adults’ low level of interest and motivation towards learning, the IMAL partners explored a broad spectrum of country-specific factors: the outlook on lifelong learning, financial considerations, legislation and macro factors providing situational contexts. In addition, the partners conducted an extensive survey with 1026 respondents, in collaboration with Francesco Marcaletti (PhD) (Center of Research WWELL – Sociology Department of the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore of Milan) based on issues arising from the collected information and discussions.


The four sections of the survey

The anonymous survey questionnaire has been first conceived in English and subsequently translated into the six languages of the project partners. It covers several topics, starting from a section devoted to collect personal data of the respondent, i.e. nationality, age, gender, employment condition, educational attainment.

Its first thematic section has been dedicated to past educational and learning experiences, with variables (evaluation scales) exploring influences on the educational pathways followed and consistency with subsequent work pathways. Second thematic section proposed questions about learning needs, influences on the needs themselves, as well as interests and preferences. Third questionnaire’s thematic section included variables related to concrete opportunities to learn and their effectiveness in different life spheres. Final thematic section covered different dimensions of motivation to learn, i.e. the easing, the hindering, and the commitment factors. What resulted from this structure is a set of 111 variables, personal ones included. The investigation conducted by IMAL partners constituted an updated study on mature adults learning which gathered information of people over 40 from six different countries.

Results are available online

The results of the survey are included in the Report of the project, in particular in the Report I: “Motivating for Action: What Makes Adults Want to Learn?” which presents scientific theories and a range of country-specific factors that affect and condition older adults in their learning decisions.

Report II: “Book of Best Practices: The Best Methods of Working with Mature Adults” offers a collection of good practices and tools proven effective in working with mature adults (focus on learners) and two workshop scenarios dedicated to educators’ development in MAs motivating techniques.

All studies and results are included in the IMAL brochure:

Further information can be found on the Facebook page of the project.

Text: Sergio Rossi and Alessandra MittigaPhotos: IMAL project, Moore Memorial Public Library

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