Peculiarities of teaching english to adults
Specific features and methodology in teaching English to adults. Investigation of advantages and challenges of teaching. Factors, which can affect senior language learning. The methods of observational and correlational research are used in the article.
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Hukova A.M, Kostiuchenko O.V.
PECULIARITIES OF TEACHING ENGLISH TO ADULTS
The article deals with peculiarities of teaching English to adults. The purpose of the research is the investigation of specific features and methodology in teaching English to adults. This paper focuses on advantages and challenges of teaching adults. It reveals different cognitive, affective and physiological factors, which can affect senior language learning. It should be underlined, that these peculiarities have an impact on the studying process. We are going to identify these factors and then look at how courses and practices can be adapted to meet the needs of older learners. Actuality is determined by the growing necessity of English among adults. The methods of observational and correlational research are used in the article. In the nearest future, it is planned to continue investigation, developing and mastering of the methods which can help adults in English language acquisition.
Keywords: peculiarity, adult, advantage, challenge, factor.
methodology teaching еnglish adults
В статье идет речь об особенностях обучения взрослых людей английскому языку. Цель статьи - исследование специфических особенностей и методов обучения английскому языку взрослых людей. Выявлены преимущества и трудности работы, представлены различные когнитивные, эмотивные и физиологические факторы, которые могут повлиять на процесс обучения. В статье были использованы эмпирический и корреляционный методы исследования. Практическая цель состоит в таких аспектах: знание английского языка помогает построить успешную карьеру, расширяет культурную осведомленность и компетентность. Актуальность определена важностью и необходимостью владения английским языком. Перспективами на будущее являются: продолжение исследования, разработка и улучшение методов, которые могут помочь взрослым в изучении английского языка.
Ключевые слова: особенность, взрослый человек, преимущество, трудность, фактор.
У статті йдеться про особливості навчання дорослих людей англійської мови. Мета статті - дослідження специфічних особливостей та методів навчання англійської мови дорослих людей. Виявлено переваги і труднощі роботи з дорослими людьми, представлено різні когнітивні, емотивні та фізіологічні чинники, які можуть вплинути на процес навчання. Ми збираємося визначити ці чинники й потім проаналізувати можливості адаптації мовних курсів і програм відповідно до потреб дорослих. Існує багато переваг навчання дорослих людей, а саме: упевненість у своїх силах, зменшення відчуття ізольованості, відчуття соціальної належності до суспільства. Важливими є такі аспекти: знання англійської мови допомагає побудувати успішну кар'єру, розширює культурну обізнаність і компетентність. Наш досвід показує, що будь-які труднощі, з якими старші учні можуть зіткнутися під час навчання, будуть подолані за рахунок коригування навчального середовища і матеріалу, уваги до фізичних, афективних і когнітивних чинників, а також використання ефективної методики викладання, яка фокусується на процесі навчання, а не успішності.
У статті були використано емпіричний та кореляційний методи дослідження. Актуальність визначено важливістю й необхідністю володіння англійською мовою. Перспективами на майбутнє є продовження дослідження, розроблення й удосконалення методів, які можуть допомогти дорослим у вивченні англійської мови.
Ключові слова: особливість, доросла людина, перевага, труднощі, фактор.
Introduction. Nowadays knowledge of English has become the inherent part of people's life. That is why more and more people of different ages want to learn it. Many teachers will face the necessity of teaching adults. As from our point of view, it can be rather resourceful, especially if those adults are older than you are. There are many benefits of studying for older learners, such as increased self-confidence, increased feelings of health and well-being, reduced feelings of isolation, and increased engagement in the community, motivation and responsibility. Many adults are motivated to study a foreign language and there is now substantial evidence that they can learn a new language effectively. Our experience is that senior learners are excellent language students for a number of reasons. It is of great importance to keep in mind factors in deciding how to teach. They include the age and experience of learners, lesson and course objectives, expectations and resources. So, necessity of English knowledge lays in such aspects: English helps to build better career, promotes cultural awareness and competence.
Review of the related literature. English language acquisition by adults has a set of features, which make this process different from younger learners'. These distinctive peculiarities forced many scientists to make investigations on the features of studying process.
The research problem of teaching English to adults has been an object of many scientific papers: M. Knowles, H. Brown, J. Crandall, J. Peyton, C. Shank, L. Terrill, C. Ullman. M. Knowles in his research describes theories about learning and instruction for adults. Some suggestions which teachers can use in the classroom are given by H. Brown. An interactive approach to language pedagogy is described by J. Crandall, J. Peyton. Some aspects of dealing with adults are found in research of C. Ullman. These suggestions are drawn from theories of second language acquisition generally accepted as relevant for most second language learners.
The purpose of the research is the investigation of specific features and methodology in teaching English to adults.
Presentation and analysis of data. The article gives a detailed analysis of teaching adult learners. It can be very rewarding, but very challenging as well. «We must not forget we are dealing with individuals who have their own lives outside of school, some with very busy schedules», writes D. Moss . From other hand, adult learners are also better equipped for dialogue and exchange. Usually they come to class with a great motivation to know something new and with life experience that can be of great use to teachers. Focusing on the teaching peculiarities, we can mention such aspects, which make adults «grateful» learners. To make all these conclusions, the methods of observational and correlational research are used. We compared the specificity of children and adult learning for better understanding the peculiarities of teaching adults'
It is of great importance to stop on some features, which make study process of adults differ.
Life experience. Senior students have already seen the life from different aspects and when they bring this to the classroom they enrich the learning experience of the whole class [5, p. 432]. The investigation among teachers from Maritime College of Kherson State Maritime Academy stresses that older learners are excellent students to have in the classroom as they are always happy to talk about their experiences and give their opinions on variety of topics. However, sometimes it can seem challenging, because of their formed viewpoint. Besides the point, some teachers from Maritime College of Kherson State Maritime Academy faced this problem, when adult cadet came to study. It was rather challenging to find necessary methods, which would suit to his needs.
Great motivation. Adults' motivation is real. Speaking about their reasons to study, they are different. They may study to higher their intellectual level, to socialize with their mates or because it is something, they have wanted to do all the lifelong. Taking into account our teaching experience, we can make a conclusion that adult learner are usually more highly motivated and easy to work with. It should be mentioned that high level of motivation is one of the most important factors in determining effective language learning. «In fact, the motivation of senior learners is reflected by the fact that they rarely miss a class, participate very actively in the classroom and always do their homework, they are highly interested in each activity, wanting to know more», writes H. McKay [6, p. 58].
Social element. It was discovered that one of the reasons for adults to attend English classes is a strong social influence. The other important factor is a strong necessity to mix up with peers, show their belonging to the society. It can be realized through attending English classes, where the students meet and share their life experience.
Attitude. Our experience is that senior learners have a rather positive attitude toward language learning and life in general and are always ready to share their thoughts. They treat both their teachers and their group mates with the great respect and politeness [3, p. 146]. Teachers from Maritime College often comment on how responsible, considerate, and hardworking senior learners are, and what a pleasure they are to work with.
However, there are cognitive, affective and physiological factors, which can affect senior language learning. We are going to identify these factors and then look at how you can adapt your courses and practices to meet the needs of older learners.
Helping students hear. Hearing loss may have a direct influence on mastering language for adult learners. In order to decrease the negative effects of this auditory loss, teachers should try to adapt the aging ear in a number of ways by:
- speaking clearly and making sure that the students can see their lips and face;
- adjusting the volume for listening tasks;
- repeating listening texts for better understanding;
- using short films and videos which aid listening comprehension as students can see the face and lips of the speakers;
- avoiding classrooms with noisy background;
Helping students see. Defective vision increases dramatically as people age. J. Hardman, «Visual ability plays a great role in education as it is generally accepted that approximately 80 % of all learning occurs through vision» [3, p. 147]. To solve the problem with this loss in vision, here are some steps to follow, which are taken from our experience:
- use a larger print type for printed texts and handouts;
- make sure that senior students sit as close to the board as possible;
- write very clearly and understandable on the board;
- ensure that classrooms have a lot of natural light and that there is direct lighting for the whiteboard; if not, switch on the light.
Mobility. People tend to change the way they move with age. The body can lose mobility and flexibility. They may also suffer from arthritis and rheumatism and other diseases, which can restrict their movement. To deal with these changes we recommend doing the following things:
- make sure that older students have comfortable chairs and tables to sit;
- give more time for older learners to get ready with whole class communicative tasks where students need to stand up and move around the classroom;
- try to use more activities, which do not need to move a lot.
Memory. Research indicates that cognitive development, recall, and problem solving may show decline with aging . In order to overcome this cognitive decline which may get in the way of a new language learning, teachers can help seniors develop and maintain their cognitive ability in many ways:
- Introduce memory activities into classes. Use visual and auditory mnemonic devices, examples and memory associations' games to help adult learners rehearse and later retrieve vocabulary and expressions from long-term memory and use them.
- Regularly repeat and review grammar, vocabulary and expressions.
- Encourage students to draw on their wealth of experiences and to use cognitive strategies they have used successfully in the past in their current language learning environment [6, p. 75].
- Give more time for students to produce language without being interfered.
Sometimes it can be rather challenging, particularly if those adults are a lot older than you are. Many factors need to be taken into account, such as respect and making sure you do not patronize.
The article goes on to say about some pieces of advice about teaching adults.
1. Keep the Class Relevant to the Age Group. From our experience, many young teachers face the situation when their students are older. As a result, it is important to keep the topic of the class appropriate and be something that they will understand. H. McKay, «...it is always important to keep anything you talk about relevant so that the associated party will be more interested and in tune with what you have to say» [6, p. 117].
2. Be Passionate. We have made a conclusion, that having an interest in your own subject is very important. No one will learn anything if the teacher doesn't seem to care, and is not enthusiastic. Adults, and even children, can tell immediately if you don't have an interest in what is going on, and they themselves will then be likely to switch off. To overcome this problem, teacher should engage students in studying process. You have to be interested in the topic, involving the students by your enthusiasm.
3. Keep Them Engaged. From our experience we have noticed, that it is important to keep students engaged and interested in a topic. It is common teachers' mistake to focus only on those students who are active, leaving others without attention. It will not bring result for all the students. Try to work with everybody in the class equally, asking different questions more so to those who don't speak as often. Simply letting them do nothing, will not bring any progress.
4. Be Flexible. The experience shows, that many of young teachers go to their first lesson with all of the purest intentions. They will have perfectly written plan, usually including group work and the like, think that everything must go according to the plan. Sometimes, however, the class might veer off on a different path. It is important not to panic if this happens; just remember that as long as you keep on topic in some form, the class is a success.
5. Encouragement. «Every student needs encouragement at some time or another, and more so than adult learners», writes P. Lightbown [5, p. 459]. The older they are the more hesitant they may seem. This can be a particular challenge so it is important always to make sure that they are on board with the topic of the lesson and to focus on any disputable issue, if there is such need.
6. Dealing with Tension. Sometimes, group can include both senior managers and secretaries. This unusual mix may cause the bosses to feel uncomfortable at being at the same level. It is important to avoid speaking about everything, which might be connected with their common work, and to focus absolutely on the lesson to avoid confusions. It will be advisable to avoid such situations and make two separate groups of managers and secretaries.
7. Have Fun. It is not a secret, that if you are getting pleasant emotions, you will remember everything connected with this situation. That is why, it is important to make the class fun which will in turn engage the students a lot more. Think of different games and ideas which can be used during the lesson and get everyone involved. It will create a positive atmosphere and cheer some students up. It will also help to loosen up the atmosphere a bit and get some of the more shy students talking!
It is always important to remember, at the end of the day, adult students are also tired as the younger ones. They have more life experience and will be a lot more critical, perhaps even pick up on certain things faster, but they are still novices when it comes to English (for the most part) and your task is to teach them a new language [2, p. 142].
On the one hand, in the article are presented the advantages that come with teaching adult learners and the way you, as a teacher, can maximize their great potential for learning.
And on the other hand, we examine the challenges we face and suggest some ways to overcome them.
Our investigation analyzes some of these challenges.
Lack of time. Very seldom adult learners have tons of free time on their hands. More often they have full time jobs and careers, some study, and it's hard for them to combine it with English language course, find a lot of time to do homework and study after class.
How can we overcome this challenge? Rather than excusing them from doing homework or at home activities, give them several, but shorter tasks to do. For instance, instead of giving them a task that might take them from 20 to 40 minutes, give them a 5 or 10 minute exercise, but several, so that they may do one a day, in between meetings, or while they're on their lunch break. Ask them to watch a 5 minute video while they have breakfast and then summarize it. Try to keep the tasks short and relevant to the topic, but useful for language acquisition.
Frustration. Unlike children, adult learners tend to be very self-conscious, particularly about the way they speak and their pronunciation. They also tend to get frustrated more easily. They get discouraged if they think they've made little to no progress, especially advanced students who may feel they've reached a language plateau, beyond which they can't progress [2, p. 178]. Finally, they are also very hard on themselves sometimes, demanding unrealistic things like perfect pronunciation or listening .
How can we help them? First, inform your students on what should be realistic goals. Make sure they're clear on what the course program is for the year and what they are expected to learn. Also, explain to them that learning a new language is a quite challenging task and requires a lot of time and energy. Praise them even for small achievements. It will encourage them greatly.
Secondly, to help them follow their progress, end each class with a Production or Application stage, which will allow students to show their knowledge of the topic.
By far the best thing about teaching adult learners is the amazing things you'll learn from them. H. Brown, «Give them everything they need to advance and grow, but also be open to everything they'll share with you. You'll see how you grow as teacher too!» [2, p. 352].
Older learners need to feel comfortable and trust the teacher and the other students before they participate fully in the language classroom. Here are some of the things teachers can do to reduce stress and build self-confidence in older adult learners.
Find out what our older learners' motivations are for learning a language and adjust our methodology accordingly.
- Use humanistic techniques to build empathy between the teacher and students, and among the students [9, p. 12].
- Reduce the amount of error correction to build learners' self-confidence and to promote language production.
- Avoid time-limited tests, which may make senior learners nervous.
- Give adult students more time to get ready with activities.
- Promote a friendly and relaxed atmosphere in the classroom.
Our experience is that any difficulties, which senior learners may experience in the language classroom, can be overcome through adjustments to the learning environment and material, attention to physical, affective and cognitive factors, and the use of an effective teaching methodology, which focuses on the learning process rather than academic achievement.
Conclusion. In recent years, more and more people have begun to feel the need to be able to communicate in English.
It should be mentioned, that many factors need to be taken into account, such as respect and making sure you do not patronize them however many people sometimes feel that they are doing this without meaning to.
So our experience is that the life experience, motivation to learn, and positive attitude of senior learners provide them with many advantages as language learners.
Perspectives of the research. In the nearest future, it is planned to continue investigation, developing and mastering of the methods which can help adults in English language acquisition.
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2. Brown H. Teaching by principles: An interactive approach to language pedagogy / H. Brown. - White Plains, NY : Longman, 2001. - 491 p.
3. Hardman J. A community of learners / J. Hardman // Cambodians in an adult ESL classroom. Language Teaching Research. - 1999. - 3. - P. 145-166.
4. Lee I. Project work made easy in the English classroom / I. Lee // The Canadian Modern Language Review. - 2002. - 59 (2). - P. 282-290.
5. Lightbown P. Classroom SLA research and second language teaching / P. Lightbown // Applied Linguistics. - 2001. - 21 (4). - P. 431-462.
6. McKay H. Teaching adult second language learners / H. McKay, A. Tom. - New York : Cambridge University Press, 2000. - 234 p.
7. Moss D. Second language acquisition in adults: From research to practice [Electronic resource] / D. Moss, L. Ross-Feldman. - Washington, DC : National Center for ESL Literacy Education, 2006. - Access mode: www.cal.org/caela/esl_resources/digests/SLA.html/. - Title from the screen.
8. Smith C. Applying research findings to instruction for adult English language learners
[Electronic resource] / С. Smith, K. Harris, S. Reder. - Washington, DC : Center for Adult English Language Acquisition, 2006. - Access mode:
www.cal.org/caela/esl_resources/briefs/research.html. - Title from the screen.
9. Ullman C. Social identity and the adult ESL classroom / C. Ullman // ERIC Digest. - Washington, DC : National Clearinghouse for ESL Literacy Education, 1997. - P. 11-13.
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