Case study and analysis of intergenerational learning system among volunteer caregivers at the Canton of Vaud University Hospital (CHUV)

Join hands
The purpose of this study conducted at the Canton of Vaud University Hospital (Centre hospitalier universitaire vaudois, CHUV) is to observe the dynamics and conditions of intergenerational learning of volunteer caregivers aged between 20 and 80. This system involves spaces where support can be given, thereby allowing volunteer caregivers to exchange information and learn from one another.

The aim of this research-intervention is to gain a better understanding of the dynamics and conditions of intergenerational learning, i.e. how different generations learn, particularly the generation aged 65 and over. Activities therefore include observing and identifying possible patterns in the way each generation of volunteers assimilates life experiences, thereby contributing to learning dynamics within the group. To do this, we have chosen to observe a real on-the-ground context: volunteers from different generations, aged 21 to 81, who learn together how to take care of patients, in the caregiving ward of the Canton of Vaud University Hospital (CHUV). All new volunteers, regardless of their age, are considered caregiving novices when joining the CHUV's volunteer system. All volunteers therefore undergo an eight-day basic training course and support spaces have been set aside for volunteers to exchange information and learn from each other (focus group, analysis of practices).

First, we will analyse the support and training system proposed by the CHUV. We will then establish a target group of six volunteers under the age of 65 and six volunteers over the age of 65 years for the purpose of gathering their viewpoints on intergenerational learning and identify success factors for intergenerational cooperation. Using a protocol combining in-depth interviews and reflective workshops, we will ask the 12 volunteers in the two target groups about the transformative and emancipatory dimensions of the training system proposed by the CHUV.

The results obtained during this project will be presented in an original and interactive form in collaboration with the volunteers concerned. This will be done at a special volunteer day event to be organised by the CHUV in September 2019.

This project is partly funded by the Leenaards Foundation.


In order to study the dynamics and success factors of an intergenerational learning system that integrates individuals over the age of 65, we have designed a four-phase process: (i) analysis and observation of a system that brings together volunteers over the age of 65 and volunteers under the age of 65; (ii) one-on-one interviews to find out more about the expectations and interests of the volunteers involved in intergenerational learning; (iii) giving the volunteers interviewed the opportunity to experiment with a form of intergenerational learning (three reflective workshops) and finally, (iv) a step consisting in making use of the intergenerational output that volunteers under the age of 65 and volunteers over the age of 65 were able to produce during these workshops.

  1.  Analysis of the learning system used by CHUV for its volunteer workforce. Analysis of the learning system will be carried out as follows:
    a) Analysis of documentation and available instructions (requirements that must be met in order to become a volunteer, training syllabus, ethical charter, statistics, etc.)
    b) Interviews/discussions with those responsible for and those taking part in the learning system
    c) Observation of volunteer training, practice-analysis sessions and other group activities.
  2. Interviews to gather input from volunteers. We will use a protocol that combines narratives on the various practices with in-depth interviews. During one-on-one interviews, we will ask the volunteers to share their views on the transformative and emancipatory dimensions of the training system. Each interview will be semi-directive (n=12) with six people under the age of 65 and six people over the age of 65. We will also ensure a balanced representation of genders, as well an equal representation of novice volunteers (i.e. those still undergoing initial training) and experienced volunteers (i.e. those who have already completed initial training and have 2 years or more of caregiving experience). Each interview will be transcribed and coded using the content analysis software NVivo.
  3. Reflective workshops. Three reflective workshops will be held with all twelve interviewees. These will be group workshops to enable the interviewees to reflect on their learning as a volunteer. In terms of methodology, this approach is somewhere between analysis of practices, group interviews (or focus groups) and experiential narrative. The objective is to encourage intergenerational cooperation. We will not only lead these workshops, we will also observe them, paying particular attention to any patterns and similarities that we observe in the narratives of their experiences. The workshops will therefore serve as a means of gathering data to better understand how learning takes place between generations within this system. A dialogical approach (Ricœur, 1990) has been used in the design of these workshops. With this approach,  value is given to knowledge gained from experience. The underlying implication is that people acquire knowledge for themselves through their interaction with others within an environment that emphasizes the notions of recognition and reciprocity (Eneau, 2005). This narrative and intersubjective approach should enable experiences to be reconfigured by ordering them in a coherent way. This will facilitate the gathering of both personal and group input based on individual relationships, background and history (Delory-Monberger, 2014). This will make it possible to create ‘conditions for individuals to meet, exchange information and learn from one other. This is done at specific moments of time and space [...] that we call educational sociability' (Pentecouteau, 2015, p. 99).
  4. Elaboration and use of the output produced collectively by the group of volunteers during the reflective workshops (see above) and will be intended to serve the following objectives:
    a) Identify, capitalise on and highlight the learning achieved by volunteers through the output produced collectively (e.g. written or filmed cross portraits between age groups) which can then be disseminated and promoted.
    b) Collective learning: describing and giving feedback on one's experience is part of the learning process (Lainé, 2006). It is therefore also a form of intervention on our part.
Format: 2020
3.9.2018 to 27.9.2019
Project manager: 
Other/former employees: 

Saskia Weber Guisan


Centre hospitalier universitaire vaudois (CHUV)

Fondation Leenaards