A year of learning through the eyes of instructors

By Caitlin Ware, Inserm

(posted 29th March 2018)

Silver Santé is studying the impact of mental training techniques, such as meditation practice or language learning, on people in later life. A year ago, volunteers in the first wave of the Age Well Study in Caen, France, were randomly assigned to a group practicing one of these activities. During this time, their instructors have witnessed the participants’ motivation, enjoyment, and personal growth.

Several of the instructors have been impressed by how motivated the volunteers appear to be.

Meditation instructor, Titi Tran, said: “All of the participants are very motivated to apply what they’ve learned to their own meditation practice; they’re able to integrate what they learn in class and apply it to themselves.”

English instructor Corinne Schimmer also commented on the participants’ dedication and motivation: She said: “I would probably say that one of the most striking aspects is the high motivation in the group, and that it has increased as the months have passed.

“The volunteers mention that despite the fact that they are supposed to work for about 20 minutes per day, most of them work for much longer than that. Some people say that once they’ve started they can’t really stop working – not because there is an exam at the end of the course, but really because they seem to be enjoying it.”

Indeed, enjoyment seems to play a big part in their motivation: “Some of them enjoy learning English because they want to be able to travel, or talk with friends,” noted Corrine. “I think they actually enjoy the process of learning English in itself.”

As participants were randomly assigned to the meditation or English interventions, they were not always placed in their preferred group. However, most participants quickly came to appreciate their designated class: “Two or three participants would have preferred to learn English, but they were also happy to practice meditation. Now they’re used to it,” said Martine Bachelor, meditation instructor who also stressed the importance of group cohesion. She said: “From our perspective, we rapidly observe the effects of belonging to a group; the participants listen to one another and get to know each other.”

Corinne also highlighted the social dimension saying: “I think that the volunteers will miss coming to the classes once the study is over, and probably not only for the learning process, but for the social aspect.” Similarly, Titi remarked: “Now that it’s been 12 months, they are starting to think about when the experiment will be over and I think they are already a bit sad that it’s ending.”

Finally, the instructors have mentioned the positive impact of the study on their teaching. Corinne concluded: “I also find it very invigorating to review my teaching techniques in this context; it makes me have a look at the learning process in a completely different kind of way. So all in all it’s a very good experience for me as a teacher as well.”

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