Putting Learner-Centred Teaching and Tutoring to Work cont'd
The early days of nurturing will soon pass. As discussed in Section Three, Knowles identified that every adult brings “a deep psychological need to be seen by others as being self-directing.” The “stream-of-interest,” meaning the vocational, or liberal, or social justice stream, etc., that each learner chooses (or maybe more than one stream) will appear in the early nurturing period; then will very likely change as they move through the program. For instance, learners may first want to pursue the vocational route toward getting a job. But, it can turn out that a learner is far more interested in the social justice learning stream. Both streams of interest can be pursued. Indeed, single-stream interests are rather rare. Interests will typically emerge within a few weeks. But it can take some time…be patient.
As you encourage self-direction, as is highly recommended, each learner will want to have some input to their own program. The degree will vary, but each will want to indicate to you: “Here’s what I want and need to learn and here’s why,” and, over time: “Here’s when and how I learn best.” Some learners will have jobs, some will have children or grandparents to care for. Our learners have lives beyond our program and those lives are often not the easiest. Self-direction and learning contracts can accommodate a lot of these learner issues and needs.
To be more specific, some will want a job (the vocational stream). Some will want to help their children with their school work or be very interested in “learning for its own sake” (liberal stream). For those in the liberal steam, you will find history, stories, literature or information about cultures to be useful materials. Others will reveal they feel they (or their friends or family) have been treated unjustly (social justice stream). But, some will want the teacher/tutor to lead for weeks or months—this is the nurturing stream which is ongoing. Irrespective of the stream(s) the learner chooses and the materials you use with each learner, do try learning contracts. They can be really helpful in learner growth into self-directedness, as discussed in Section Five.
The goals you will discuss in the Intake Inventory or that reveal themselves along the way will help guide your decisions as to the types of learning content and materials you will want to include. Vocational goals will need different content than liberal. A learner that shows interest in social justice will prefer a different approach and content than one that is highly dependent on an ongoing nurturing approach.
As learners start seeing success and actually enjoy the learning journey (the S and E in the VVSE formula), they should be taking more and more responsibility for what is, after all, their own program. Ask yourself: “Are my learners able to use what they are learning in their own ‘real world’ outside of your program?” And, “Are they building reading and numeracy on their own beyond my work with them in the program?” Basically, “Are they gaining confidence and using self-directed learning outside of the program?” Encouraging transference of skills and knowledge from the classroom/tutoring to their own lives, to their own workplaces and to their own homelife is a vital part of every learner’s success in building lifelong learning. Keep in mind that along the way, disorienting dilemmas will naturally arise. Or, they may arise if you initiate them with readings and discussions, as we saw in the Section Five. These can be life-changing moments for learners.
The bottom line is, relevance matters in literacy. A learner-centred approach needs the teacher/tutor to be empathetically attuned to each learner’s needs and interests and be responsively creative.