There are many different ways to categorise our learners and this will, of course, affect what and how we teach them.
Age is of course a significant factor to consider but motivation, aptitude, ability levels and learner styles all play a part in the decisions we make when we teach. With regard to the last option, learner styles, Keith Willing, working with adult students in Australia, produced the following 4 descriptions of language learners:
1 Convergers: these are students who are by nature solitary, prefer to avoid groups, and who are independent and confident in their own abilities. Most importantly they are analytic and can impose their own structures on learning. They tend to be cool and pragmatic.
2 Conformists: these are students who prefer to emphasise learning ‘about language’ over learning to use it. They tend to be dependent on those in authority and are perfectly happy to work in non-communicative classrooms, doing what they are told. A classroom of conformists is one which prefers to see well-organised teachers.
3 Concrete learners: though they are like conformists, they also enjoy the social aspects of learning and like to learn from direct experience. They are interested in language use and language as communication rather than language as a system. They enjoy games and groundwork in class.
4 Communicative learners: these are language use orientated. They are comfortable out of class and show a degree of confidence and a willingness to take risks which their colleagues may lack. They are much more interested in social interaction with other speakers of the language than they are with analysis of how the language works. They are perfectly happy to operate without the guidance of a teacher.
1 What do you think of the 4 categorisations? Are they accurate? Is anything missing?
2 Do you see yourself in any of the descriptions?
3 Or do you think of particular students of yours?
4 Do you think categorising students into different groups is helpful?
Write your answer to one or more of the above questions in the forum.