Essay: Providing feedback to adults in education

Teaching adults can be a harsh job to do because it’s important to know your audience and have a general understanding of how adults learn. Many studies have been made on this topic, and the topic is still debated even nowadays. To best reach adults, there are five key factors that a teachers should focus on in the development of their teaching process: the material presented should be useful and relevant to adults’ lives; the atmosphere in class should be welcoming so that all learners feel safe to participate; the teaching process should be interactive, so that the students don’t have time to get bored; the teaching process should be made in a respectful manner, where learners have an opportunity to share and talk about their own experiences. Following these key principles will help any teacher determine what to include in his/her teaching process and the strategies he/she should use to be more effective in class. In order to engage all students, teachers should use examples or anecdotes showing how the material is relevant.
Adult students need feedback to let them know if they are on the right track and to guide them toward improvement for future assignments, especially written assignments. Effective feedback exists all along the learning process. Simply providing students with more feedback is not necessarily effective. It is essential to find a balance between the right amount of feedback and the appropriate dimensions, such as type, focus, depth, clarity, and delivery. There are different types of feedback: formal or informal, summative or formative, instructor or student, encouraging or discouraging, and self-assessment or peer-assessment. The focus of feedback can be on tasks or processes, on grades or related to goals, or on the content or mechanics (grammar, structure). There can be simple praise, comments such as good work or well done, but also detailed comments, such as provide information that explains gaps or offering ways to improve future work. There can be too little feedback, offering little or no value to the student, or too much feedback that overwhelms the student. Feedback can be clear or misunderstood and it can be simple or complex. Feedback can be one-way, either from teacher to student, or conversely, from student to teacher. It can be delivered in person, electronically or manually noted on paper. Feedback can be part of a dynamic communication loop among students and the teacher. It can be synchronous, such as comments in class, or asynchronous, with some amount of time passing between submissions of work and receiving of feedback. Feedback can be given in a timely manner or too late to be used for the subsequent assignment. Even with effective feedback, students must take action to transform their thinking and behavior to gain the most benefit. After the teacher creates and delivers it, the student must be able to read and understand the feedback before it can be further used. For feedback to be effective, consideration must be given to the individuality of each student as well as to the dimensions and characteristics of the feedback. In the case of adult learners, teachers should monitor the way the students think, by giving them feedback and motivating them to learn. These stages in the process of teaching are not only very important tasks of a teacher, but they are also intimately related.

Feedback is all about providing learners with information on their performance, be it oral or written. In a negative way, feedback has been associated largely with error correction, but that it is only one of the reasons for its use. Another reason for using it is the opportunity it gives the teacher to praise learners for their effective language use, and discuss how well they achieved their communicative goals and brought their own contribution on a personal level. In some cases it will lead into a new cycle of language input arising out of the activity. This input can be some of the most useful and memorable language you teach, and many learners view feedback as one of the most crucial parts of their learning experience. It’s like building bridges for effective learning.

Teachers should consider some strategies when dealing with adult learners. The first one is making sure that you have an opportunity to speak to each student individually on a regular basis to provide personal feedback. Then, teachers should try to involve the student in self-assessment so that the learners set their own goals and can tell you how they think they are measuring up. They can then ask for advice and take some responsibility themselves. Teachers need to give the class some positive feedback on what learners achieved. Sometimes, teachers are required to give learners a minute to think about their work, for example they should ask students if they were pleased about in the speaking activity that they have just done. Teachers could also extract the maximum benefit from their class activities by: demonstrating how the activity can be expanded. Some teachers use their own notebook to write down the incorrect language their students are using. Then, they use the white board and write up a mixture of correct and incorrect language that their students have produced and then ask them to individually, in pairs or in groups, do the correction, pair check. Adults find it funny when teachers come up with interactive and other funny activities, when learning a new language. In this case, teachers might use the white board for the language feedback and make it even funnier – competitions, finding the odd one out. A familiar atmosphere is one of the main factors when trying to acquire a second language. If they find themselves at ease with the classroom and classmates, adults can provide a better reaction to what the teachers ask them. As we all know, adults are not as responsive to the teachers’ tasks as younger learners are. They lack imagination, creativity and the will to learn something new. That’s why, teachers have an important role to play in this case. They should be those who encourage adult learners to take risks, to try to solve any given tasks, even if they may come up with wrong answers. As good teachers would always say: there are not bad ideas, only ideas that are not clearly expressed. Probably the most common type of feedback used by teachers is when they reformulate the learners’ utterances. This reformulation is most of the times accompanied by various features such as emphasis, reduction, and negation, as well as expansion or unaltered repetition. It is obviously important to know what kind of errors should be corrected, when and in what way. If we make mistakes when correcting errors, this can lead to fossilization, affecting adversely the development of a correct interlanguage.

The timing of corrective feedback is also a key element in the process of learning a second language and it depends on the type of mistake the learner makes. The decision of whether to correct a mistake or not will be made after considering a number of aspects. So, teachers must clearly see if the error is new or it is one that has been encountered before, if the mistake is to be dealt with immediately or if it should be postponed. There are advantages and disadvantages to any timing. Immediately treating errors interrupts learners’ flow and may not be positively effective. Postponing the error treatment to a future lesson will be less effective, as there could be lots of time between the moment of error production and the treatment of the error. Therefore, it’s up to the teacher to choose which error to correct, when to correct and how to correct it.

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