Teaching English to Older Learners


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How to adapt language courses and methodology to the needs of older learners.

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Teaching English to Older Learners

  1. 1. Opening a University Language Service to Older Learners Kieran Donaghy
  2. 2. Montse 55 Retired bank worker
  3. 3. Dolors 57 Interior designer
  4. 4. Angels 67 Retired school teacher
  5. 5. Teresa 57 Civil Servant
  6. 6. Pere 48 Nurse
  7. 7. Lourdes 60 Cake shop owner
  8. 8. Objectives <ul><li>How to maximise the language learning of seniors. </li></ul><ul><li>How to adapt courses and methodology to the needs of older learners. </li></ul>
  9. 9. Summary of the session <ul><li>Benefits of studying for seniors. </li></ul><ul><li>Some myths about older learners. </li></ul><ul><li>Affective factors. </li></ul><ul><li>Health factors. </li></ul><ul><li>Cognitive factors. </li></ul><ul><li>Compensations to learning environment and methodology. </li></ul><ul><li>How a university language service has adapted to the needs of older learners. </li></ul>
  10. 10. Benefits of studying for older learners <ul><li>80% reported a positive impact </li></ul><ul><li>58% improved their enjoyment of life </li></ul><ul><li>56% improved their self-confidence </li></ul><ul><li>36% could cope better with everyday life </li></ul><ul><li>Dench & Regan ( 2000 ) </li></ul>
  11. 11. <ul><li>“ There is substantial evidence that seniors can and do learn new skills and develop proficiency with previously learned skill sets .” </li></ul><ul><li>Moseley & Dessinger ( 2007 ) </li></ul>
  12. 12. <ul><li>“ It is possible ‘ to teach an old dog new tricks ’.” </li></ul>Moseley & Dessinger ( 2007 )
  13. 13. <ul><li>Older learners have more highly developed cognitive systems, are able to make higher order associations and generalizations, and can integrate new language input with their already substantial learning experience. </li></ul><ul><li>Schleppegrell ( 1978 ) </li></ul>
  14. 14. <ul><li>“ There is no reason to believe that older learners are not able to learn a new language .” </li></ul><ul><li>Weinstein-shr ( 1993 ) </li></ul>
  15. 15. <ul><li>Motivation has been identified as the single most important factor in determining successful language acquisition in adults. </li></ul><ul><li>Pulvermuller & Schumann ( 1994 ) </li></ul>
  16. 16. Seniors are generally intrinsically motivated
  17. 17. Csikszentmihalyi ( 2002 )
  18. 18. IPEC <ul><li>I nterest </li></ul><ul><li>P ersonalization </li></ul><ul><li>E ntertainment </li></ul><ul><li>C hallenge </li></ul>Handcock ( 2009 )
  19. 19. Self-confidence is a key factor in second language acquisition.
  20. 20. <ul><li>“ Many older learners fear failure more than younger learners .” </li></ul>( Schleppegell , 1987 )
  21. 21. <ul><li>1.The teacher has to reduce anxiety and build self-confidence in the senior learner. </li></ul>
  22. 22. 2. Use humanistic techniques to build empathy.
  23. 23. <ul><li>3. Provide opportunities for students to work together, focusing on understanding rather than producing language in the early stages. </li></ul>
  24. 24. <ul><li>4. Reduce the focus on error correction to build learners’ self-confidence and to promote language production. </li></ul>
  25. 25. <ul><li>“ If an older person cannot read because of failing eyesight, cannot hear what is said in class because of hearing loss, or cannot copy notes because he or she is arthritic, learning is going to be a frustrating, difficult experience .” </li></ul><ul><li>Hayslip and Kennelly ( 1985 ) </li></ul>
  26. 26. Hearing ability
  27. 27. Hearing Action Plan <ul><li>1. Speak clearly ensuring that the students can see their face and lips. </li></ul><ul><li>2. Adjust the volume for listenings and videos. </li></ul><ul><li>3. Repeat listening texts. </li></ul><ul><li>4. Minimise background noise. </li></ul>
  28. 28. Visual ability
  29. 29. Visual Action Plan <ul><li>Verdana </li></ul><ul><li>bold type </li></ul><ul><li>A minimum of 12-point print type for printed text </li></ul><ul><li>24-36-point print type for projected visuals </li></ul><ul><li>Do not use italics or ALL CAPS </li></ul><ul><li>50 to 75 characters per line for 12-point type </li></ul><ul><li>5 to 7 words per line for projected visuals </li></ul><ul><li>Use Red and orange </li></ul>
  30. 30. Mobility
  31. 31. Mobility Action Plan <ul><li>1.Comfortable chairs and tables. </li></ul><ul><li>2.Allow more time for older students to do whole class communicative activities </li></ul><ul><li>3.Activities like running dictation and Total Physical Response activities may not be appropriate. </li></ul>
  32. 32. Cognitive factors
  33. 33. <ul><li>“ Older brains are slower to process information, less able to block distractions and irrelevant information during recall tasks, and less agile when it comes to switching from task to task .” </li></ul><ul><li>Hayslip and Kennelly ( 1985 ) </li></ul>
  34. 34. “ Old brains can be trained to act like young ones .” Begley ( 2006 )
  35. 35. <ul><li>“ Older learners can benefit from memory and other types of cognitive training .” </li></ul><ul><li>Loweinstein ( 2005 ) </li></ul>
  36. 36. 1. Help seniors to exercise their minds by integrating memory exercises, and mnemonic devices. Richard Of York Gave Battle in Vain
  37. 38. 2.Adjust timing to compensate for cognitive loss <ul><li>More time to respond </li></ul><ul><li>Avoid timed tests </li></ul><ul><li>Avoid fast-paced presentations </li></ul><ul><li>Adjust timing when motor skills are involved </li></ul><ul><li>Make it clear when one task begins and another ends </li></ul>
  38. 39. 3. Supplement listening and text with image and graphics.
  39. 40. 4. Use rehearsal strategies, drills, repetition and recycling. Repetition is key.
  40. 41. 5. Start and finish a class with a positive activity and in between “sandwich” less popular but necessary activities. Sandwich technique
  41. 42. 6. Help students reduce external noise Comfortable tables and chairs, adjust lighting and sound, little background noise
  42. 43. 7. Encourage seniors to think analytically, reflectively and creatively.
  43. 44. 8. Get students to use cognitive strategies.
  44. 45. Seniors at UAB Idiomes
  45. 49. Senior Learning Conference UAB Idiomes Barcelona 30th January 2010
  46. 51. <ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul>
  47. 52. Sources <ul><li>Aging: What to expect as you get older, (2004). Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). Retrieved on 19th July, 2009 from: </li></ul><ul><li>http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/aging/HA00040 </li></ul><ul><li>“ Briefing Sheet”, (2005). Older people and learning – Some key statistics. Retrieved on July 5th 2009 from: </li></ul><ul><li>http://www.niace.org.uk/sites/default/files/69-Older-people-learning.pdf </li></ul><ul><li>Dench, S, and Regan J, (2000). Learning in Later Life: Motivation and Impact, Research Report RR183, Department for Education and Employment, February 2000 . Retrieved on 6th July 2009: </li></ul><ul><li>http://www.employment-studies.co.uk/pubs/summary.php?id=rr183 </li></ul><ul><li>Eggen, P. and Kauchak, D (2001). Educational psychology: Windows on classrooms (5thed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Merrill Prentice Hall. </li></ul><ul><li>Hale, N. (1990). The older Worker . San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. </li></ul><ul><li>Hayslip, B. J. and Kennelly, K. J. (1985).. Cognitive and non-cognitive factors affecting learning among older adults. In D. B. Lumsden (ED), The older adult as learner: Aspects of educational gerontology: New York: Hemisphere. </li></ul><ul><li>Krashen, S. D., M. A. Long, and R. C. Scarcella. (1979). Age, Rate and Eventual Attainment in Second Language Acquisition. TESOL QUARTERLY 13. </li></ul><ul><li>Lenneberg, E. H. (1967). Biological foundations of language . New York: John Wiley and Sons. </li></ul><ul><li>McLaughlin, B. (1992). Myths and misconceptions about second language learning. Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Languages and Linguistics Washington DC ERIC Identifier: ED350885. </li></ul><ul><li>Moseley, J.L. and Dessinger , J.C. (2007). Training Older Workers and Learners: Maximizing the Workplace Performance of an Aging Workforce New York: Pfeiffer. </li></ul><ul><li>Oxford, R. (1985). A new taxonomy of second language learning strategies . Washington, DC: ERIC Clearinghouse on Languages and Linguistics. </li></ul><ul><li>Pulvermuller, F. and Schumann, J. (1994).Neurobiological mechanisms of language acquisition. Language Learning 44. </li></ul><ul><li>Roth, C. L. (2005). How to protect the aging workforce. Occupational hazards, 67(2). 2005, VOL 67; NUMB 1. </li></ul><ul><li>Schleppegrell, M. (1987). The Older Language Learner. ERIC Clearinghouse on Languages and Linguistics Washington DC. ERIC Identifier: ED287313. Weinstein-Shr, G. (1993). Growing old in America: Learning English Literacy in the later Years. ERIC Clearinghouse for ESL Literacy Education Washington DC., National Clearinghouse for ESL Literacy Education Washington DC. ERIC Identifier: ED367197. </li></ul>