Meeting students need no matter the age


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Meeting students need no matter the age

  1. 1. ““Adult Schooling: The Dream of Studying”Adult Schooling: The Dream of Studying”Meeting Students Needs No Matter The Age: The New Educational ChallengeMeeting Students Needs No Matter The Age: The New Educational ChallengeAt present, more and more people decide to return to school and finish theirprimary and secondary studies. Also many adults have decided to join universitiesor to start tertiary studies. But is the teaching of adult learners the same as theteaching of children? What are the specific needs these persons may have? Do alleducationalists agree that there is one way of teaching adults? Considering theteaching of English, what has been researched in relation with this topic?To begin with we must consider the term “andragogy” which, according toSadlin (2005), can be defined as a method or a way of teaching adults; “the art andscience of helping adults to learn.” This term may be easily confused with“pedagogy”, which is specific to the education of children and adolescents. One ofthe differences posed by Sadlin is that the adult educator should act as a facilitatorwho is responsible for the creation of a climate of mutual trust and respect; he orshe should foster collaboration, openness and authenticity in his or her classes.According to Knowles (1984)the adult learner can be definedas one that bases all his studieson his life experiences, so theyimmediately connect tasks withtheir lives. Another classificationprovided by him is that thelearning must be relevant to them; therefore it must have a clear purpose and aplausible objective. In addition, he also mentions that those kinds of learnersshould move from dependence towards self-directedness when learning. This1
  2. 2. means that although, they may rely on the teacher at the beginning of the learningprocess, they should try to strike a balance and become more independent to be incontrol of their learning process.Many useful contributions were proposed by the field of psychology, forinstance Salzberger and Wittenberg’s (1983) expectations of the way students seetheir teachers: as a source of knowledge and wisdom, as their objects ofadmiration, as judges or as authoritarian figures. Another important point is theconcept of “anxiety” which according to some psychologists may have its roots ininfancy. It is also important to highlight that learners learn differently in dissimilarsituations for example secondary school students differ in many aspects from adultstudents. All teachers should bear in mind that there are different stages in thedevelopment of identity. Erikson distinguishes eight stages: “1) Oral-sensory, inwhich the basic issue is trust vs. mistrust; 2) Muscular-anal, in which the basicissue is autonomy vs. shame; 3) Locomotion-genital, in which the basic issue isinitiative vs. guilt; 4) Latency, in which the basic issue is industry vs. inferiority; 5)Puberty and adolescence, in which the basic issue is identity vs. role confusion;6)Young adulthood, in which the basic issue is intimacy vs. isolation; 7) Adulthood,in which the basic issue is generativity vs. stagnation; 8) The final stage, in whichthe basic issue is integrity vs. despair” (cited in Knowles, 1980: 45). The last threestages mentioned before, describe the adult learner. All these characteristics anddifferences seem to be present in all adults or at least in some of them and theycome in handy when understanding them.However, there has been some controversy about andragogy and itsimplications. For instance, the adult educator Griffin (1991), who subscribes to amore sociological view of adult learning, argues that andragogy lacks a “sense ofhistorical, economic, and cultural forces that shape the possibilities for and the2
  3. 3. meaning of individual growth and transformation.” This may also be equated withthe fact that it cannot be considered to be apolitical and neutral and that we shouldtake into account the opportunities that adults have to study. Those may varyaccording to their cultural background, their social status, their economic situationamong other factors. The concept of andragogy considers that all humans are thesame and have equal needs and opportunities, which is perceived as a vaguegeneralization that ends up being a total failure.If we consider the current situation inour country, we may clearly see thatnot all adult learners choose to studyfor the same reasons. Many peoplehave to finish their studies becausethey need them to get better jobs orsimply because they are eager to learn. Taking this into account, many institutionsare implementing ESP (English for specific purposes) courses to teaching English,so as to strike a balance between the students’ needs and the reasons why theywant to learn.According to Hutchinson and Waters (1987), ESP is not a matter of teachingspecial varieties of English but the teaching of English applied to those specificfields. It involves not only the performance of the students, but also theircompetence in the use of language. It is seen as an approach to the teaching ofEnglish which takes into consideration all their needs as well as the content that itis taught. Within the fields of ESP, there are special courses such as English forMedical Studies, English for Specific Purposes (EAP), English for OccupationalPurposes (EOP), among other types which had all been designed taking intoaccount the needs of the students in particular. These branches of ESP emerged3
  4. 4. for three reasons: “the demands of a brave new world, a revolution in linguisticsand a new focus on the learner” (Hutchinson and Waters, 1987; cited in Brunton,2009:1) aiming to distinguish the different registers according to the subject ofstudy. What is more it also implements a need analysis in order to identify theneeds of learners.To sum up, all this improvements in the field of adult education seem to bevery useful but only when they are implemented taking the socio-culturalbackground of the learners into account, as well as their motives and needs. To doso the implementation of an ESP course might be a plausible solution and willfacilitate things for the teacher, helping him/her decide on what to teach and how toteach it, as well as it will help him/her understand adult learners in a better way.4