Putting Learner-Centred Teaching and Tutoring to Work

Remember the earlier section on self-directed learning? It is recommended we always start programs with a highly supportive nurturing approach because even the most “motivated-and-in-a-hurry-learner” will have left school early and come to us with vulnerability. The “bravado” of some will often hide inner feelings of vulnerability and skepticism; the quiet, placid, polite learner will often be observing and evaluating our program and ourselves as tutors/teachers.

With nurturing emphasized at the outset, we can build on the Value and Volition that each learner brings. We need an adult-oriented, non-school-like setting to do this. A space where learners can feel safe, feel comfortable, and from the first day, feel that this program promises to be right program, at the right time, with a teacher/tutor that truly will be helpful. We can start with a “walk-about,” as shown in the flow-chart. If you meet online, you can focus on making the learner comfortable with the technolgy and maybe talk about the surroundings you and the learner are each in at either ends of the Zoom meeting or FaceTime call or phone conversation, etc.

Give the Intake Inventory in the first or second session. It will help you gain far better awareness of the learner’s past experiences in school and you will gain insight into what the learner anticipates for the future in your program. Remember, this is not a “fresh start” for learners. As discussed in Section Three, each learner comes with a past, including a past schooling experience. This step is shown in the flow-chart using logical sequencing (or Advance Organizers method), as discussed in Section Four. Now you have an inventory benchmark to reference to see progress with your learner. Are they themselves feeling they are having success as compared with their past experiences and their stated expectations?

In addition, a placement test is typically necessary in our progams. Most learners will expect it—but it is usually not a good idea to give it in the very first, second or, with some learners, even in the third meeting. Test-anxiety is common with our learners. Nevertheless, the placement test should be built into the opening nurturing phase. I have heard of programs that don’t give learners the results of the placement test for weeks, or ever, assuming it will discourage them and maybe make them drop out. I am not sure this is a good idea. My view is to “treat adults as adults.” If they feel they are in the right program with the right teacher/tutor at the right time of their lives, whatever the placement shows will be okay. “Over-nurturing,” as if we are working with “large children,” can be as harmful to a relationship of trust as no nurturing at all. My advice is to use the flow-though process and use your best judgement as to the “when” of using these early assessment tools. But do use them.