Wednesday, February 11, 2009

TEFL Tells me what adult learners deserve (things kids can't handle)

I'm nearing the end of this experiment I like to call, "Certified Teacher Undergoes Condescending Months Training for TEFL Certificate."  It's going quite well.  I'm learning how much I already knew.  

My last two lessons have to do, specifically, with Business English Learners and Young Learners.  In the business module is a list that describes the needs of adult learners.  As a little side story, they've already told me that in the early 1900s, when formalized adult education took root, educators were teaching by the 'tried and true' methods used for Primary and Secondary school.  These did not work, supposedly.  The assumption, verified by the following list, is that the reverse is true - that children don't need the same type of education that adults require.  I'll list recommendations they make and then discuss my feelings afterwards.  I implore you, as you read, to think of two things.

First, why is the statement not only true for adult business learners, but for children as well?
Second, why is the statement not only true for adult business learners, but for other adults as well?

Let's see how that plays out, directly from the TEFLOnline module, with some unnecessary details omitted,

"How do adults learn and what do they expect from their teachers?  Below is a list of several factor affecting adult learners and their learning environment.

1.  Adults need to know why they are being asked to learn something, or why specific things are being taught.
2.  Adults need to learn experientially, that is, by experimenting with and applying the knowledge they are gaining.
3.  Adults approach learning as problem-solving.
4.  Adults learn best when the topic is of immediate value.  Adults are most interested in spending time on subjects that have practical relevance to their job or personal life.
5.  Adults focus more on the process and less on the content being taught.
6.  Adults come to the classroom with years of personal and work experience behind them.
7.  Adults learn better when instruction is individualized, when they can pace their own learning and tailor it to their specific needs."

TELF Goes on to discuss...

"Learning Climate

Whether the class is held in a traditional classroom setting or in the cafeteria, the teacher should establish a climate that is physically and psychologically conducive to learning, taking into account the following:

1.  Seating arrangements in which all the participants can face each other.
2.  A climate of mutual respect among all participants, emphasizing collaborative modes of learning that encourage an atmosphere of trust.
3.  Opportunities for students to express their own views since adults often appreciate learning from those who have had diverse experiences and/or hold contrary opinions."

Finally, we discuss the importance and application of...

"Teaching-Learning Strategies:

1. Teachers should involve adult learners in diagnosing their own learning needs, in formulating their learning objectives, and in choosing methods and curricula, as studies show that adults will make firm commitments to activities in which they feel they have played a participatory role.
2.  Learners should be encouraged to identify resources and straegies that make use of such resources in order to accomplish their learning objectives.  Teachers should also be firm in helping learners carry out their educational plans by constantly having learners evaluate their learning."

As I read through these lists, I can't help but think about how relatively radical they would be characterized had they been proposed at the elementary level.  I would imagine that, if one changed the statements to read 'young learners,' or 'elementary learners,' one would get laughed out of most interviews. 

Kids want to learn about things that relate to them?  Kids want to be involved in how they learn those things?  Kids want to learn together?  Kids want to feel as if they have something to offer?  Kids don't come into the classroom as blank slates?  No shit.  How the hell can this seem so valid when discussing adult business education and so radical when discussing children, especially poor children?  It's absurd and disgusting.  

We of so little faith.  Unbelievable. 

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