The First Few Critical Days

The First Few Critical Days

We all understand the importance of “first impressions.” My own research and that of others tells me teachers and tutors need to begin the program for each literacy learner with a supportive, “non-school-like” nurturing approach. They will likely have some levels of volition and value when they enter, but they may also bring a sense of skepticism. Or at least, they will be somewhat circumspect about the program. Most, as Knowles has said, are hoping our program will “solve problems, not create new ones” (cited in Quigley, 2006, p. 123). As researched and discussed elsewhere (Quigley & Uhland, 2000), the first few days are critical.

In Section Five: Innovation & Creativity in Learner-Centred Literacy, I present five perspectives and approaches to teaching adult literacy. The first approach—Self-Directed Learning: The Nurturing Approach—is the one I suggest should be applied at the outset of tutoring and teaching (Quigley, 2006). In the first few critical days, programs in our field should begin with a nurturing approach that is highly supportive. However, this phase will soon move to other phase(s) that will very likely necessitate a different perspective, even a different approach, based on the evolving goals of the learner and/or a clarification of their own wants and needs.

But let’s begin by gathering our “tools.” Here are three basic teaching methods. I discuss how and why they make sense, try to provide an idea of how they differ, and the strengths and limits of each. If we begin with the nurturing phase, as Knowles discusses, these three tools become increasingly important as the learner progresses. These are the basic teaching tools we have at our disposal.

Read More

Knowles, M.S. (1980). The modern practice of adult education: From pedagogy to andragogy. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Pratt, D. (1998). Five perspectives on teaching in adult and higher education. Malabar, FL: Krieger Publishing.

Quigley, A. (2006). Building professional pride in literacy: A dialogical guide to professional development. Malabar, FL: Krieger Publishing.

Quigley, A., & Uhland, R. (2000). Retaining adult learners in the first three critical weeks: A quasi-experimental model for use in ABE programs. Adult Basic Education, 10(2), 55-68.

Wlodkowski, R. (1999). Enhancing adult motivation to learn: A comprehensive guide for teaching all adults (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.