Getting to know your students’ needs
Different studies on adult learning come to a single conclusion that adults need to be treated with respect, viewed as equals, and they are motivated, which is an important asset for teachers. Besides these, the teacher plays an important role in their learning and in their motivation towards the required objective (Dorney 2001; Brophy, J 1987; Stippek, D,1988; Lieb, S, 1991; Wlodkowski, R 1993).
Adult learners are not just students, but they are learners that come to the course with precisely defined expectations. They want to learn English because they need it for their job, school, or even for qualification. But when it comes to that they face difficulties. They do not get involved in the lesson, do not do their homework, they are not enthusiastic.
In my classes you can notice diversity in ages, professions, backgrounds and even different nationalities. Their level of English is different, even though they are tested before entering a class. They have different skills. Some have strong grammatical skills (something typical for Albanian students, since they love grammar), some have good listening skills and some love reading and translating. When it comes to speaking all are aware that is one of the most important skills in learning a foreign language, but it is difficult and they do not know how to achieve it.
What might be considered a challenge is the big difference in age. In one class you can find students from 20 years old to 50 or more. Generally most of the students are females. They are hardworking, always do their homework, and score high in tests. Men seem more practical. They do not always do their homework, but they seem to be interested on the practical use of English. They are interested on the topics and parts that theycan make use of it in the everyday life.
Knowing my students helps me to reflect on their needs. They all have different needs and my duty as a teacher is to help them. I try to focus on the way that they learn best. I have noticed that students work and learn better in a cooperative and supportive atmosphere (Ames & Ames; Ehrman & Dorney 1988). I try to treat them with respect and value their experiences and their knowledge in different fields. They are welcomed to share, even though it is not related with the topic, but as long as they are using English, it is related with being in an English class. You have to be patient and understand them. Sometimes you have to repeat something many times, but it normal since they might come to class after a tiring, boring or stressful day. If you try to make your English class an escape from their routine, then you have got your students do what you want them to do, you have their motivation, their readiness to participate in the learning process.