One of my favourite parts of this job is looking at a new learner's intake file and thinking about where their stated interests and goals match materials and resources I know to be nearby. This year, I started 16 new learners - 16 chances to imagine and anticipate. "I shall give them this book," I think to myself. "And then see if they want to start their math here."

Of course, making plans before meeting the learner is simple folly. It's all too easy to impose my likes and dislikes on the brief biographies contained in the intake forms. What matters is their quality world pictures; their wants, hopes, interests, ideals. Better that I should wait patiently to meet them and talk with them.

Working through the files, I was reminded of a passage from Anabel P. Newman's Adult Basic Education: Reading (1980).

Rex is a twenty-nine year old truck driver... [who] always traveled in a convoy because he could not read road maps accurately. For the past two years he has driven a local route and performs all his duties well. Rex is... careful to avoid situations he cannot cope with successfully. For example, he recently turned down the opportunity to be a terminal manger because of the fear of failure.

Rex is... an avid sports fan and tries desperately to read magazines on hunting and fishing. ... One of his goals is to be able to write articles about the sporting adventures that he tells of in an exciting, vivid manner.
Ms. Newman suggests that, because of Rex's profession, we might suppose a suitable goal to be "able to read maps" or "able to read job-related material" or something similarly functional. But, she writes, this "is not the goal he stated as of significance to him: the desire to write articles about his adventures with sports."

At first glance it might seem that the goal, "Rex will write about his sporting adventures," concerns writing, not reading. Nevertheless, since it is what Rex wishes to do, it should be accepted, for it can also be supportive of broad reading goals.
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The important point here is that you have taken a goal of significance to Rex and incorporated it into the instruction in a way that supports his interests and needs.

Ms. Newman is a bit too taken with Bloom's taxonomy and the language of the university to make for comfortable reading. I, at least, find many passages in this useful book very heavy going.

But she offers me tools of language and the chance to reflect, at the level of theory, on what otherwise might become unreflective (and potentially unprofitable) classroom practices.

None of this prevents me from scheming in advance of meeting learners. But it does prevent me from taking too seriously the plans I make for others.

1 comment:

balletgirl said...

I get NO advance information - so I have to make it up as I go..............

But I too take pride in thinking of things which I imagine that the learner will enjoy!