It is a few weeks into the new term at adult literacy programs throughout New York City. Undoubtedly, there are students who come to class unprepared. Therefore, teachers should address the issue right away and not let it slide.
A primary reason why adult learners come to class unprepared is they do not have enough time to do homework. Often, they have to work overtime or long hours, or their domestic responsibilities cut into their free time. Sometimes adult learners do not have strong study skills.
Teachers should explain the importance of doing homework and practicing language-learning activities outside the classroom. If students take no responsibility in their learning, it is nearly impossible for them to make progress. Students who come to class unprepared obstruct their learning as well as the learning of classmates who come prepared. Student unpreparedness hinders teaching.
Autonomy and Foreign Language Learning, Henri Holec’s theory of learner responsibility, discusses the responsibility that “the autonomous language learner” should take for his or her learning situation. Nevertheless, teachers could increase student preparedness by:
- Reminding them what the adult literacy program expects of them. Review the points discussed during student orientation. Some programs require students to sign a contract agreeing to do the work necessary for learning and improving their English-language-learning proficiency.
- Not all adult literacy programs are the same. If individuals cannot or refuse to fulfill their responsibilities as students in a program, they should leave. Individuals should find a program that matches their schedule, goals and expectations.
- Explaining homework instructions and clarify what adult learners should do (e.g., read X pages; write X assignments).
- Be realistic about how much homework students can or will do each evening. Time management is important.
- Providing effective study tips because some adult learners have not been in a structured classroom or have not engaged in studying for a while and do not have effective study skills.
Regardless of the kind of unpreparedness—arriving without notebook, textbook and pen or pencil, or not doing homework assignments—teachers should address the issue honestly, immediately. The best teaching and learning happens when teacher and students accept their responsibilities and come to class prepared.