ERIC Number: ED513783
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2010-Aug
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 0
Adults Teaching Adults: The Role of Equality between Teacher and Students in the ESL Classroom as a Factor in Successful Learning
Neuda, Maria C.
Teacher and students are inherently unequal in the classroom, even when both are adults, because one has what the other wants: subject matter expertise. While this hierarchy is generally viewed as appropriate, it can be detrimental to learning, particularly where English is being taught to adult immigrants. This article explores why. Adult ESL students face unique challenges: limited opportunities to use existing professional or occupational skills, lack of ability or knowledge to access basic resources, sometimes unfriendliness, scorn, abuse. Alongside these students in the classroom sit insecurity, anxiety, and resistance, facing the teacher, who can either aggravate these emotions or allay them. Yet, the very inequality in the classroom reinforces the former of these, acting as it does to enhance the teacher's feelings of authority and power, most especially in the case of ESL teachers, where expertise has been acquired not by dint of effort but by virtue of their having been born in the country where they teach, and where they can be challenged only by an advanced student. The resultant behaviors that arise increase apprehension and inhibit learning. The article discusses these behaviors and alternatives to them at length, providing numerous examples drawn from higher- and lower-level classrooms: behaviors, such as parading knowledge, limiting student air time, becoming impatient, discouraging risk-taking. Alternatives boil down to the teacher's shifting the center of attention, specifically, yielding the floor to the students, giving them ample opportunities for individual and group presentations and discussions, self-correcting, self-testing, and, most importantly, having them work in small groups to the greatest extent possible. In short: If the teacher shapes an environment where (s)he is no longer the focus of student attention, the latter can shape the learning for themselves. Ultimately, they lea better and with more satisfaction.
Publication Type: Opinion Papers; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Adult Education
Authoring Institution: N/A