Seedbed training – effective speaking and listening skills

I ran this session a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been wondering since about a comment one of the tutors made. The topic was about why and how to develop learner autonomy. How do tutors encourage learners to work as a team and work things out for themselves? Why would you do this when it could be simpler and more effective to give learners the knowledge they need.

It depends what level learners are at, said another tutor. Lower level learners will need greater tutor input throughout the session. That’s true, I think but a ‘beginner reader is not a beginner thinker’ , I’m reminded and so much of how we learn through collaborative groupwork and good, effective communication, building self-confidence.

Walking into work this morning, I remembered how at any level, working with a group or one-to-one, how good it feels to work something out, to achieve something. Given a choice, I would probably work more on my own rather in a group. That’s just my default position. But there have been countless times when I’ve been part of a really good group of people, sharing and pooling, enabling us to do more than I could have on my own.  A group can achieve more, it seems, greater than the sum of its parts.

Even working one to one, it’s important that the tutor encourages the student to think for themselves, getting it wrong, if necessary , learning from their mistakes.

What we overlooked was that the tutor plays a key role in planning the session beforehand. This is fundamental to making a successful learning experience for adults. If they see you have set the scene beforehand and prepared well, most adults will appreciate this and respond positively and with enthusiasm. One tutor did comment that sometimes her best sessions had come without any preparation at all. While this does happen on occasion, it’s almost accidental. In my experience, it doesn’t happen very often and the opposite ezperience is likely to arise if this is the norm. Adults vote with their feet.

One of the best sessions I observed was of an ESOL tutor makIng mistakes in front of the classs, dropping papers on to the floor. I wondered what was going on? Was she feeling well? Till I realised she had deliberately planned it to elicit key words from the learners in a realistic context. There, next to, behind the …I was taken completely in. How good was that?

Tell me what you think.