Conversation at the Venue

Conversations at the Venue
Students' Association of the Permanent University – University of Alicante
Vice-Rector's Office of University Extension – University of Alicante
Concepción Bru Ronda
Victor Manuel Pina Medina
Context: evaluation of needs and problems, prospects for achievement   
From the perspective of academic results and the practice of social skills, the so-called Cooperative Learning is a very interesting tool. The strategy focuses on the student and promotes collaboration among the students to help each other reach their goals.
Using cooperative learning with older adults is very productive, given that this group has a lot of knowledge they are willing to share.
The students of the UPUA have a great potential in languages a the need of improving their second languages. This is the perfect situation to put into practice the strategy of cooperative learning in the field of languages (English, French and German).
Also there is a high number of foreign residents, mainly Central Europeans, who live in the geographic area embraced by the UA. It is necessary to reach this important group in a sociolinguistic way, given the risk of exclusion.
Goals: improve the knowledge of English, French and German, facilitate personal and intercultural relationships, collaborate integrating European citizens and residents to our environment and promote linguistic voluntary service among the foreign residents that can share their knowledge with the Spanish older adults with a low knowledge of other languages.
Entries: Challenges that originate the project, place, dates and infrastructures, staff and participating people           

The Permanent University, collaborating with the teachers of the Diploma Senior,  the students of the Permanent University,  the associations of foreign residents and other volunteers who wanted to help, began to work in this iniciative in 2008. Resources of infrastructure (classrooms, computers, projectors, documents) and academic and administrative support have been provided in order to support this iniciative and help to its management, monitoring and evaluation.

Process: organization, methodology, coordination of resources      
At the beginning of each course, once the students have been registered in the Permanent University, those students interested in participating in the cooperative learning are called for an informative meeting to register them in the iniciative CONVERSATION AT THE VENUE, and to establish the:
  • Working Schedule.
  • Working hours.
  • Distribution of tutors and students in the different groups.
  • Organization of multicultural activities at the end of each four-month period.
Registration is free but the condition is to be member of the Permanent University during the running course, or to be member of the Association of Students and Alumni of the
Conversations at the Venue is developed during the academic course an hour a week in small groups with people who speak different languages at different levels.
Product: main conclusions and suggestions, created material, suggestions for the future, alternatives for improvement.       
The iniciative has improved the knowledge in oral skills (oral comprehension, interaction and expression) of English, French or German thanks to the reduced number of participants in each group. These skills are frequently neglected in the university teaching because of the large group of students and the lack of time. In this Good Practice, Conversations at the Venue the environment is familiar and is based on cooperative learning; the students overcome the fear of speaking in other language and practice among them.
The main tangible products are website, dossiers of documents of the users' interest, articles published by the media, BabelPost - Multilingual Newspaper, as well as the creation of a net of cultural geographical itineraries that help the older adults go deeper in the cultural patrimony of the Comunidad Valenciana. These itineraries, designed by the volunteers, have helped to draw the foreign residents closer and promote the integration of isolated groups. All results are published in Spanish, English and Catalan.
Among the alternatives for improvement, we are working in approaching this iniciative from intergeneracionality, integrating young students of the UA and students from Secondary Education Schools.
The Permanent University of the University of Alicante has organized local meetings with other centers and associations to share this knowledge with other interested organizations.
In international meetings the attending people have been invited to get to know these iniciatives and good practices that have been originated in the Senior voluntary service and promote similar activities in other countries and other cities of Spain.
Download the documents