One of the most important things I’ve realized through experience (both as a teacher and adult learner) is that when approaching Adult learning, two main points need to be taken into consideration: Motivation and lack of time.
Actually, most of times, one influence the other: If you only have a few hours a week to study Spanish, and you are forced to spend them filling gaps in grammar textbooks, you will probably find yourself too tired to do it, finding excuses not to sit in front of the book, and finally abandoning your prospects and dreams of making yourself understood in a foreign language.
Being aware of this and constantly looking for solutions to motivate my students, I became more and more familiar with the flipped classroom method, which, if carefully prepared and developed, can definitely tackle the lack of enthusiasm in language learners (and still challenge the most enthusiastic ones).
Flipped classroom is based on the idea of active learning, where the student needs to be responsible of their own advance and the figure of the teacher is there to accompany, orientate and challenge them. The key, therefore, to a successfully organized flipped classroom lesson are:
- Attractive and engaging material. Not too complicated nor too easy, with which the students can work on their own and that arises as many doubts and questions as it does answers and curiosity. Hence, there’s a need to focus on the design of learning material that can be used both outside the classroom (by the student, on their own) and inside the classroom, where it must incite discussions and arise questions. It must be a kind of material that catches your eye and leads to meaningful research of vocabulary, expressions, and practice. There is also an extensive variety of engaging activities that should be used to keep the student´s interactivity and motivation out and inside the classroom (creating infographics, projects, online discussions, etc.). It is, nonetheless, important to always consider the free time our students have, if they are adults these activities could require too much commitment.
- Tutoring. Even if most of the work must be done by our students, they must know and feel that their tutors are there to guide them. This method relies, among other things, in the arousal of doubts when working on your own, and this doubts, any teacher will agree, are the most valuable medium for learning. Tutors should always follow each student’s progress, answer their questions and make sure their motivation doesn’t fade.
- Collaboration. Online learning and its new companion, flipped classroom, can become a bit too independent. Learners might feel isolated and that’s the last thing we want to happen in our classroom (whether it is virtual or physical), specially while teaching languages. For this reason, connection and collaboration between fellow students should always be encouraged, and social media has proved to be an extremely useful tool to complement online and presential learning.
For this reasons we have developed a whole method that has proved to be very effective for both our online as well as our presential students, by combining flipped classroom with natural language exchange in our virtual AND physical classroom. The goal is to create a social environment where students and teachers can share and learn from each other, following our tutors’ guidance. Help us create a big community!