During the Course
Creating an Adult-Friendly Environment
The first class can set the tone for the rest of the programme. It is important to create an atmosphere of respect where learners feel comfortable and are assured their contributions are valuable. Learning students' names is also vital and involving everyone at the first session is a good way to do this and establish contact between the facilitator and between the students themselves. Spending some time over introductions also helps alleviate tension and puts students at ease. You should aim to get as much information about the group, their interests, backgrounds and motivations as possible. This will be useful when planning content and materials.
At all times, it is necessary to be conscious of the context in which you are working. The ethos and culture of organisations may impact on how you approach your work. Many organisations will be restrained by resources or the physical environment in which they operate. It may be necessary to work in less than ideal conditions, so in these instances it is important to work with what you have rather than draw attention to the limitations of the set-up.
Tutor as professional
Introductions & Expectations
|Spend some time on introductions. Find out who the members of your group are. Icebreakers can be used to help the group relax and create a friendly atmosphere. Examples:
| Treasure Hunt: Give the students a list of tasks, e.g. find a classmate who has: a birthday in July, visited Russia , blue eyes, read Ulysses, etc. Then ask the students to mingle and find a person who fits each description. This gets everyone up and moving and talking to each other.
| Interviews/Pair work - Ask students to work in pairs. Get them to find out some information (3/4 set tasks) on the other person. Ask each person in return to report on the other person. Some students don't like talking about themselves and this is a way of getting around this.
| First names - Where possible, students and tutors should address each other in the same format, e.g. by first name or by a title. This creates parity. However, this may not always be possible as in some cultures adult students continue to address teachers in a formal way.
There are hundreds of possible icebreakers that can be used. An internet search will throw up lots of examples. Only introduce an exercise that you would feel comfortable doing yourself. The key is to ensure people don't feel uncomfortable and that some unity and harmony is achieved within the group.
Negotiating Expectations - the Learning Contract
It is important at the outset of a course to discuss everyone's expectations.
Through discussion with the group, the tutor can negotiate what can realistically be achieved in the time available. If some topic is outside the remit of the course, this should be stated clearly at the beginning so that students are not disappointed or upset at a later stage in the programme.
Each individual will have set needs and a compromise has to be found between individual needs and agendas and the progress and success of the group as a whole.
Learning contracts can be negotiated between the tutor and a student or between a tutor and a group. It involves discussing:
Learning contracts should be negotiated and agreed on together as this helps students feel involved and valued. Students are more likely to feel committed to the programme of study if they feel involved from the beginning. The negotiations of aims and outcomes can help define clearly for both tutor and students what can possibly be achieved within the existing resources. The contract should not feel one-sided with all the obligations on the student. It should be considered mutually between the tutor and student.