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DESCRIBING LEARNERS

June 2009
Age
The age of our students is a major factor
in our decision about how and what to
teach.
Different needs, competences, cognitive
skills.
Acquisition is guaranteed for children up
to the age of six, is steadily compromised
from then until shortly after puberty, and
is rare thereafter (Stephen Pinker, 1994)
Age- some beliefs
Adolescents are unmotivated and
uncooperative and therefore make
poor language learners;
Adults have so many barriers to
learning because of the slowing
effects of ageing and because of
their past experiences so that they
only rarely have any success.
Age
Difference
Young
Children
Adolescents Adults
Young children- up to the age of ten
They respond to meaning even if they do
not understand individual words;
They often learn indirectly rather than
directly- they take in information from all
sides, learing from everything around them
rather then only focusing on the precise
topic they are being taught;
Their understanding comes not just from
explanation, but also from what they see
and hear and, crucially, have a chance to
touch and interact with;
Young children- up to the age of ten
They generally display an enthusiasm for
learning and a curiosity about the world
around them;
They have a need for individual attention and
approval from the teacher;
They are keen to talk about themselves, and
respond well to learning that uses themselves
and their own lives as main topics in the
classroom;
They have a limitted attention span; unless
the activities are extremely engaging they
can easily get bored, losing interest after ten
minutes or so.
Young learners- implications for ELT
A rich diet of learning experiences
which encourages students to get
information from a variety of
sources;
Range of different activities;
Flexibilty;
Classroom- bright and colorful.
Adolescents
Why are they so much less motivated and
why do they present outright discipline
problems?
The search for individual identity- this
search provides the key challenge for this
age group;
Identity has to be forged among
classmates and friends, peer approval
may be considerably more important for
the student than the attention of the
teacher.
Adolescents
..the teachers failure to build
bridges between what they want
and have to teach and their
students worlds of thought and
experience (Puchta and Schratz)
Linking language teaching far more
closely to the students everyday
interests through, in particular, the
use of humanistic teaching.
Adult learners
They can engage with abstract
thought.
Those who succeed at language
learning in later life often depend
on the conscious exercise of their
considerable intellects, unlike
children to whom language
acquistion naturally happens
(Pinker)
Adult learners
They have a whole range of life
experiences to draw on;
They have expectations about the
learning process and may already
have their set patterns of learning;
They tend to be more disciplined,
and they are often prepared to
struggle on despite boredom;
Adult learners
They often have a clear understanding of
why they are learning and what they want
to get out of it;
They can be critical of teaching methods;
their previous learning experiences may
have predisposed them to one particular
methodology style and conversely, they
may be hostile to certain teaching and
learning activities which replicate the
teaching they received earlier in their
educational careers;
Adult learners
They may have experienced failure or
criticism at school which makes them
anxious and under-confident about
learning a language;
Many adults worry that their intellectual
powers may be diminishing with age-
they are concerned to keep their creative
powers alive, to maintain a sense of
generativity!
Learner Differences
1. Aptitude (skills) test: to measure general
intellectual ability
2. Good Learner Characteristics:
Tolerance of ambiguity
Ego involvement
High aspirations
Goal orientation
Creativity
Perseverance (persistence), etc
Learner Style
convergers
conformists
concrete learners
communicative learners
Convergers
These are students who are by
nature solitary, prefer to avoid
groups, independent and confident
in their own abilities;
They are analytic and can impose
their own structures on learning.
They tend to be cool and pragmatic.
Conformists
These are the students who prefer
to emphasise learning about
language over learning to use it.
They tend to be dependent on those
in authority and are perfectly happy
to work in non-communicative
classrooms, doing what they are
told.
Concrete learners
They enjoy the social aspects of
learning and like to learn from
direct learning experience.
They are interested in language use
and language as communication
rather than language as a system.
They enjoy games and groupwork in
class.
Communicative learners
They are language use oriented;
They are comfortable out of class and
show a degree of confidence and
willingness to take risks.
They are much more interested in social
interaction with other speakers of the
language than they are with analysis of
how the language works;
They are perfectly happy to operate
without the guidance of a teacher.
Language Levels
a
d
v
a
n
c
e
d
upper
interm
ediate
mid-
intermediate lower
intermediate/
pre-intermediate
elementary
real beginner/ false beginner
Individual Variations
Multiple intelligence
Neuro-linguistic programming
Children are all unique learners
Gardners framework for multiple intelligences
Howard Gardner (Frames of Mind: Theory of Multiple
Intelligences) suggested that intelligence has no unitary
character and is manifested in different ways in different
children.
MI Inventory- individual assignment
Part IV/ Key:
Section 1 This reflects your Naturalist strength
Section 2 This suggests your Musical strength
Section 3 This indicates your Logical strength
Section 4 This illustrates your Existential strength
Section 5 This shows your Interpersonal strength
Section 6 This tells your Kinesthetic strength
Section 7 This indicates your Verbal strength
Section 8 This reflects your Intrapersonal strength
Section 9 This suggests your Visual strength
MI Inventory Results
Remember:
Everyone has all the intelligences!
You can strengthen each
intelligence!
This inventory is meant as a
snapshot in time - it can change!
MI is meant to empower, not label
learners!
What are the implications of multiple
intelligences for language teaching?
Create a list of the implications in your
group and identify a reporter to share
with the class.
Motivation
1. Defining Motivation: extrinsic and
intrinsic
2. Sources of Motivation
3. Initiating and sustaining motivation
Sources of Motivation
The society we live in
Significant others
The teacher
The method
Initiating and Sustaining Motivation
Goals and goal setting
Learning environment
Interesting classes