Friday, December 28, 2012

The Differences Between Adults & Younger Learners

Adult classrooms and young learner classrooms have many similarities and differences and knowing these before teachers start planning is critical. 


  •  Adult learners are independent, self- directed and goal oriented. They come to the classroom knowing what they want to achieve whereas young learners are dependent on the teacher. Some may choose to go to school but parents and government require them to go to school.
  • Adult learners enjoy being involved in the planning and learning process and are often critical of the teaching methods. For young learners, learning is more social and natural and they ultimately trust the teacher and want to learn.
  • Adult learners have a lot more background knowledge and life experiences to build on whereas young learners are blank slates.
  • Adults have definite expectations and patterns of learning.   Young learners are in the process of developing their learning patterns and gauge their expectations from the teacher.
  • Adults are practical and disciplined. Young learners want to have fun while learning and are disciplined by the teacher through well-established classroom rules and guidelines.
  • Adult learners are more nervous of learning than young learners. They have life experiences, successes and failures that they bring in to the classroom.
  • Adult learners have different needs and requirements than young learners and need to be motivated to come to class and participate.
  • Adult learners need to be treated as equals in experience and knowledge and young learners need more hierarchy and boundaries.
  • Adults are focused on form and correctness.


  • The biggest similarity is that both learners can be grouped together by similar learning styles such as VARK; visual, auditory, read/write and kinesthetic. It is important in both groups that the teacher helps them identify their learning styles and then design curriculum appropriately.
  • Both groups are motivated by content that is provided in a real-life context and is relevant to them.
  • Both groups need a safe classroom environment where diversity is respected.
  • Both groups respond and learn through experiential and constructivist strategies:

o   Reflecting

o   Applying learning to real life context

o   Active vs. passive

o   Group or individual activities

o   Addresses all learning styles

Monday, November 26, 2012

Using Metacognitive Strategies in Instructional Design

Metacognition refers to higher order thinking and involves actively controlling ones learning through planning, monitoring and evaluating the learning progress. Basically it is when we are aware of our thinking processes and are activities we engage in every day. Educational professionals are familiar with using metacognition and know the importance of incorporating strategies in the classroom but what about the online learning environment? 

How is learning different online? Our current instructional style for teaching in the classroom is teacher to student, where the teacher disseminates the new content to students who then passively absorb this new information. Usually this occurs synchronously, where everyone is together at the same time and where students have an opportunity to ask questions and teachers get a sense if the students are “getting it”. Online it is usually asynchronous where students are accessing the class materials at different times, 24/7. Teachers may not be aware of student’s comprehension right away because they lack visual clues so it is critical for students to be more independent and to have developed metacognitive awareness and strategies.

Why are metacognitive strategies critical to online instructional design? Metacognition is important to consider in online design because those skills assist students in connecting new information with prior knowledge and helps them to draw references. This can increase a students learning effectiveness. Metacognition controls the interaction between the student and the learning environment and helps them to be aware of their own learning and encourages them to reflect on their own cognitive processes. Without including these strategies, the student might get lost when navigating on the internet and may not have the ability to read and comprehend online resources. Students may also not be in-tune with their inner voice which helps them solve problems, strategize, and self-evaluate their performance. Educators have the responsibility to ensure student comprehension. 

What are some of the strategies used? Instructional designers could use any of the following specific strategies:

  • Become a role model by using think-alouds- A think aloud is a strategy where students voice their thoughts during the performance of a task which allows the teacher to ensure comprehension of information. By voicing out loud, a teacher can act as a role model to students, demonstrating the process. By sharing individual processes and experiences, including what works and doesn’t work, is a huge assistance in the construction of new knowledge and understanding. Some examples of think alouds would be blogs, journals, discussion forums, ePortfolio’s or demonstration through a video.
  • Concept mapping- Concept mapping can help students brainstorm and generate new ideas and can allow them to more clearly communicate ideas, thoughts and information. It also increases understanding and clarification of knowledge by visualizing the problem-solving process. By organizing and reorganizing, a student’ learning becomes more meaningful and new concepts are connected to existing ones. Examples of a concept map are using as a pre-reading strategy by inviting students to share what they already know about a particular concept, using it to summarize what was read and share it, and using it for collaborative work between students working in small groups to guide their learning. Putting these online allows everyone to access in their own time and space.
  •  Advanced organizers- Advanced organizers can help students comprehend new information more quickly based on prior experience and are used before direct instruction or before a new topic is introduced. Some of the different types of advanced organizers are expository, narrative, skimming and graphical. Venn Diagrams are a commonly used tool in the classroom setting. Software you could use to create your own advanced organizer:  Word & PowerPoint, Prezi, Cacoo

Shen, Chun-Yi & Liu, Hsiu-Chuan. (2011). Metacognitive skills development: A web-based approach in higher education. Retrieved from:
O’Hanlon, N. & Diaz, K. (2010). Techniques for enhancing reflection and learning in an online course.  Retreived from:
Kymes, A. (2005). Teaching online comprehension strategies using think-alouds. Retrieved from:
Rees, D. (2010). Tools for metacognition. Retrieved from:

Saturday, May 12, 2012

What are the Benefits of Active Learning?

I believe in being more of a facilitator or guide-on-the-side than a lecturer, allowing students to listen, speak and learn from one another. This active learning approach is critical in multicultural settings because students come to the classroom with varied learning styles, perspectives and background knowledge and through active learning and dialogue, enables the teacher to create a classroom with culturally contextualized students. I believe in the student centered classroom where active learning creates more cooperative environments that lead to more questioning and learning.
Active learning can be described as “any instructional method that engages students in the learning process”. It requires students to “do meaningful activities and to think about what they are doing”. 

Some benefits to utilizing this strategy in the classroom are:
  • Leads to better student attitudes and self esteem
  • Improves critical thinking skills
  • Connects material in a real-life context
  • Creates a sense of community through student-student interaction
  • Allows for reflection and time to process information
  • Supports a multi-sensory approach with data to better meet the needs of the diverse group
  • Teacher and student are more “partners” in the learning and can build on each others knowledge
  • Feedback is more consistent so curriculum can be adjusted and the class improved
  • Encourages innovation by allowing students to tailor projects and activities using their individual  strengths
Active learning is also a powerful tool in teaching and learning a second language.  For instance, active learning supports meta-cognition in the following ways:
  1.  Involves students in thinking about what they are doing
  2.  Exposes students to a variety of methods of learning
  3.  Utilizes more than one strategy for learning thus improving the learning process

Beloff-Farrell, Jill. (2010). Active learning: Theories and research. Retrieved December 31, 2011 from
Benefits of Active and Cooperative Learning. Retrieved December 30, 2011 from
Bonwell, Charles & Eison, James.  Active learning: Creating excitement in the classroom. Retrieved December 31, 2011 from
Prince, Michael (2004). Does active learning work: A review of the research. Retrieved December 30, 2011 from

Friday, January 13, 2012

Various Approaches in EFL/ESL

One of the goals of language learning is to become good at using language for communication and the CLT approach addresses “creative construction, trial and error, authentic and meaningful communication and fluency” that assist students in achieving this objective. There are many variables to consider before deciding on which approach to use in a classroom but personally, I lean towards the Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) approach. This approach is more students centered, where students learn by doing, and complements my teaching style. Using CLT can assist students in building confidence so that they become more comfortable communicating in the L2 and achieve communicative competence. 

I think that the Eclectic approach would work best for the entire class. Students learn differently and come to the class with various levels of competency.  For instance, by designing for the learner and using a variety of approaches, the approach would meet the needs of the students. 

The Grammar Translation approach would be the most efficient use of time if time was a factor because it is more teacher centered, where the teacher is a lecturer and has most of the control. This top down approach would allow the teacher to guide the class through the learning vs. a more student centered class that allowed for more individual participation, resulting in less control.  

My daughter’s 8th grade Spanish class offers some real-life examples of different approaches. The teacher uses the Grammar Translation approach where they spend a lot of time learning vocabulary, conjugating verbs and writing and translating sentences. They also spend some time translating paragraphs they wrote about themselves and presenting before the class. The teacher also incorporates the Audio-Lingualism approach where she speaks in Spanish and the students respond individually when they are called upon. One approach they have not done is to speak conversationally.  I believe that it is important to expose students to conversations that are not planned but happen naturally. I hired a tutor from Peru to come to our house once a week. She works with my daughter on her homework and then we make dinner together. We alternate making dishes from her native country and share some of our favorites. We only speak Spanish and I feel that this experience has given my daughter more confidence and has forced her to speak more quickly. This focus on fluency vs. proper grammatical sentence structure has made her more relaxed. 

Belchamber, R. (2007). The Advantages of Communicative Language Teaching. Retrieved on January 1, 2012 from
Rodgers, T. (2001). Language Teaching Methodology. Retrieved on January 2, 2012 from