"Our students are unique", Joke states enthusiastically. She has been working for over 15 years as teacher and counsellor to adult education students at the ROC (Regional Education Centre) in Harderwijk, the Netherlands. "For every new student, the challenge is to face a new round in learning."
A rucksack filled with baggage.
"With every new course participant, we take a new look at what is or may be worthwhile for him or her to learn", Joke continued. "You usually get people in the class who still want to take the plunge and learn later in life. People with years of experience and lots of baggage. Baggage that often includes negative learning experiences. Often this is already noticeable during student intakes. Many of them had to get past a large stumbling block or two before they even signed up for the course. So it´s wonderful to see that for many students, a weight is lifted from their shoulders during the intake. "Yes, I´ve accepted the challenge and am taking the course, I´ve taken the step!"
Each participant is unique.
"To make sure that these individuals keep on attending the courses, the educational programme must be meaningful to them", Joke explains pragmatically. "Their background is actually their greatest source of inspiration for the content of the courses. What was his or her school career? Is this person married? What is his or her position in society? But most importantly: why is this individual taking the course? Due to shame in front of the children, or because of language barriers that have an effect at work? The reasons why someone signs up are the starting point and at the same time a source of inspiration for the NT1 course programme (Dutch as native language). The people who attend the course are all unique in their own special way. That inspires the desire to work together with them. So that together, we can explore the possibilities and limits of their own learning process and translate it into meaningful course content."
Reflection and adjusting to learning style as driving force for the content.
"One of the most important skills that an NT-1 teacher must have is the capacity to reflect and grow", according to Joke. "Together with the student, you create your course content, but you also constantly reflect on the result that he or she has reached and how this was achieved. This means that the lesson content is different for each student. By speaking with the people themselves, I can see what each course participant needs. If the programme is too easy or too difficult, I make immediate adjustments in order to prevent additional negative learning experiences. One reacts to people´s various learning styles.
Something that I learned in my training as remedial education teacher. In particular, you see which people are more aurally or visually oriented and then create methods of working that appeal to one of these two senses (the one the course participant prefers to use when learning.). Secondly, you must take a look at how you want to present the course material as a whole and how to divide it. For example, does a course participant want to see the entire sentence and then analyse it in one go, or does it have to be presented in sections, so that he or she understands the sentence construction? A made-to-measure programme also offers you, as student, the opportunity to grow and develop little by little. One of the nicest experiences was the beaming expression on the face of a (low-schooled) woman who sent me an email for the very first time: "I am writing to you now, regards Marian". I wrote back: "Wonderful, I received your message." Her reply was "Great, I´ll be back again next week". Such moments are ‘golden´ for me.
In addition to teacher, also a stakeholder.
"In order to be able to give course participants these wonderful experiences, the basic conditions must be clearly defined". Joke notes that these tasks are also part of her curriculum as NT 1 teacher. "Nowadays, you have to work in a more project-oriented and business-like manner with social partners in the community. Institutions and associations such as re-integration agencies regularly ask if we can provide schooling for low-schooled individuals who are ‘struggling to eke out an existence´. We reply by submitting an offer, in which we indicate the prices and provide a proposal for the content of the made-to-measure training."
"We also provide tailored solutions for communities and municipalities. On a project basis, we take a look at who is living in the community and the questions that students have. Then I (sometimes with other social partners, such as welfare organisations) make an offer that is in keeping with these questions. So one doesn´t just settle things in class, but sometimes outside the classroom as well in order to make sure that the course participant can get NT1".
Adult education: the challenge.
"Adult education is a really wonderful challenge. A field that is marvellous as a whole, but it´s not completely devoid of difficulties. Besides the lessons, recruiting is also a difficult challenge. Via referrals from family doctors or companies, participants can then be contacted. However it often remains difficult to get through to potential course participants and convince them to take part in the course. This is probably because that for many of them, this incurs a certain amount of shame. Consequently, there is also the challenge of helping them forget the shame and then together with the student, organise a meaningful educational activity that will help him or her get ahead. It remains a challenge to provide a selection of made-to-measure courses for people who are coming to learn later in life that ties in with their real-life experience. The force of the challenge is then found by working with the greatest source of inspiration, namely our course participants".
(InfoNet - Maurice de Greef)