During our preparation for last presentation about social class and time, we have read many papers talking about adult education and senior citizen education, some of which are about senior citizen’s learning motivation. Such articles stroke a chord with me. I could not help recalling the days when I was working in an adult education institute back in China.
Most of the students there are office workers or businessmen. There are some well-off elderly students too and most of them are well educated. Otherwise they would not have the sense of studying at all, let alone torture themselves to study a new language at such an age. Speaking of their motivation, it varies from person to person. Some signed up merely for killing time and protecting themselves against Alzheimer’s, which makes perfect sense according to the findings of psychologist Ellen Bialystok and her colleagues at York University in Toronto – those who were bilingual had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about four years later, on average, than those who spoke just one language. Some signed up out of the zeal for travelling. Since they regard English as a useful tool which makes their travelling experience easier, they decided to come to the school and give it a try.
Different studying goals being set, their personal requirement of their own performance differentiated as well. As long as some students have learned something new and they managed to use it in a conversation, they feel happy and satisfied. Some retired scholars or managers, however, would like to pursue perfection in thoroughly understanding grammatical rules and expanding vocabulary as much as possible. Correspondingly, teachers ought to adjust the evaluation standards according to the student’s learning goal and background. That is a very hard criteria to be met in real classroom settings. As a result, some conflicts arise.
I remember very clearly that one student named Mary, at her sixties, was so mad when she got “Repeat” (which means the foreign teacher thought she was not doing well in this unit overall and suggested her to review the content and take the conversation class again). She evaluated herself had a even better performance than those who continued to next unit. Frankly speaking, the grammatical rules might retain in her mind, but the quality of interaction is not that satisfying even after another foreign teacher had the same class with her. Though the second teacher let her continue to next unit for the sake of keeping her motivated, she was still unhappy, saying that we should not require that much out of her taking her age into account, and she is not after high accuracy at all.
Mary’s case happen to fall into the Kim, T.-Y. and Kim, Y.-K.’s study on motivation and demotivation of elderly learners. The demotivational factor here resembles Factor 1: Negative Perceptions Toward Affordance. Therefore, a question about evaluation arose – should teachers should apply the same rigid standards on all the students and expect the same proficiency to be reflected on different students?
Feel free to share your opinions~
Kim, T.-Y., & Kim, Y.-K. (August 21, 2014). Elderly Korean Learners’ Participation in English Learning Through Lifelong Education: Focusing on Motivation and Demotivation. Educational Gerontology, 41, 2, 120-135.
Moskowitz C .( 2011,February 18). Learning a Second Language Protects Against Alzheimer’s. Retrieved from: http://www.livescience.com/12917-learning-language-bilingual-protects-alzheimers.html