Adapting to the Needs of Adult Language Learners: A Totally Different Ball Game

Adapting to the Needs of Adult Language Learners: A Totally Different Ball Game

Stephanie M. Calo (University of Florida, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8543-5.ch016

Abstract

Many language teacher training programs prepare teacher candidates to teach in a K-12 setting. However, some of these teacher candidates may one day find themselves in adult education whether as part-time or full-time employment. This chapter will focus on teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), but the majority of what is discussed in this chapter can easily be applied to teaching programs targeted towards other second languages. The main purpose of this chapter is to note some of the flaws in many ESOL adult textbooks and how many teaching programs can easily modify their curriculum to prepare their candidates to overcome these flawed materials by providing more age appropriate and relevant lessons to adult learners. By incorporating minor changes to a current program, teacher candidates will become well-rounded educators who are well-equipped to serve learners of all ages.
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Introduction

Many language teacher training programs prepare teacher candidates to teach in a K-12 setting. Although many of these candidates may later find themselves teaching minors, this may not be their only form of employment. A new analysis of federal data showed that 1 in 5 public school teachers have a second job to help supplement their income (Will, 2018). Granted that not all of these second jobs are related to education; however, it is still possible that these teacher candidates may one day find themselves in adult education whether as part-time or full-time employment. In order for teacher training programs to truly prepare teacher candidates for all types of students, candidates must learn how to adapt lesson plans, textbooks and materials to more mature learners.

The idea that adult learners differ from children learners is not a new concept. In fact, andragogy, or the term related to adult learning, was coined by Alexander Kapp in 1833 (Loeng, 2017). Despite being coined in the early 1800s, andragogy was not well known until the 1960’s when Malcolm Knowles disambiguated the term by offering assumptions associated with adult education opposed to children (Finn, 2011). For instance, whereas children tend to be dependent learners, adults tend to be self-directed (Finn, 2011). Despite the understanding that adult learners have different needs than children learners, the textbooks and materials created for adult English Language Learners (ELLs) do not always differ from the materials created for children ELLs. This chapter will note areas where many English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) adult textbooks are lacking and share how teaching programs can easily modify their curriculum to prepare their candidates to overcome these flawed materials to be more age appropriate and relevant to adult learners. These minor changes in teaching programs can lead to well-rounded educators who are well-equipped to serve learners of all ages. This chapter will focus on teaching ESOL, but the majority of what is discussed can easily be applied to teaching programs targeted towards other second languages (L2s).

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