Publicado por Irina
People tend to think that adults are the easiest age group to teach, and in some ways this may be true. Adults tend to be less problematic and more disciplined in learning a language. They usually have a clear idea and understanding of why they are learning the language and how to take advantage of it. Adults are able to sustain their level of motivation for a longer period of time because they know that learning a language is not going to be an overnight experience. Additionally, we can draw on their previous knowledge and life experiences to engage them in different topics.
Adult language learners are notable for a number of special characteristics:
• They can engage with abstract thought. This suggests that we do not have to rely exclusively on activities such as games and songs, though these may be appropriate for some groups of students.
• They bring to the classroom rich experience which allows teachers to use a wide range of activities with them.
• They have expectations about the learning process, and they already have their own set of patterns of learning.
• Adults tend, on the whole, to be more disciplined than other age groups, and crucially, they are often prepared to struggle on, despite boredom.
• Many adults are able to sustain a level of motivation by holding on to a distant goal in a way that teenagers find more difficult, due to the fact that motivation itself is a critical factor in successful learning, and knowing what they want to achieve is an important part of this.
Adults are, however, never truly problem-free learners, and they have a number of characteristics which can sometimes make learning and teaching problematic. They can be critical of your teaching methods and activities. Their previous learning experiences may have predisposed them to one particular methodological style which makes them uncomfortable with unfamiliar teaching patterns. Conversely, they may be hostile to certain teaching and learning activities which replicate the teaching they received earlier in their educational careers.
Adults tend to be under-confident about their language learning process. They may have experienced failure or criticism at school which makes them anxious and under-confident about learning a language. Many older students worry that their intellectual powers may be diminishing with age. They are concerned to keep their creative powers alive, to maintain a sense of “generativity”. This is directly related to how much learning has been going on in their adult lives before they come to a new learning experience.
Good teachers of adults take all of these factors into consideration. They are aware that their students will often be prepared to stick with an activity for longer than younger learners, though too much boredom can have a disastrous effect on motivation. As well as involving their students in more indirect learning through reading, listening and communicative speaking and writing, they also allow them to use their intellects to learn consciously where this is appropriate.
As teachers of adults we should recognize the need to minimize the negative effects of past learning experiences. We can diminish the fear of failure by offering activities which are achievable and by paying special attention to the challenge presented by exercises. We need to listen to student’s concerns and modify what we do to suit their learning needs in many cases. Some of the principles of adult learning are discussed in more detail in the readings that follow.