My interviewee is Abdul Lazeez, a 26-year old male from the United Arab Emirates. Abdul’s academic education went as far as high school and due to financial problems he had to help support his family. For that reason, he decided to not pursue higher education and find a job. After working in a sales department for four consecutive years, providing for his family, he decided it was time to complete his studies. He is now a student at Abu Dhabi University in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates and his major is accounting. Hopefully, he would graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree, regardless of the fact that he still needs to work to support himself. The only difference than before, is that he now works part-time, so that he has time to attend classes and study.
Abdul’s major problem was that his first language is Arabic; yet, most of his classes are in English, which makes learning process a challenge to him. Therefore, his main goal was to conquer the English language as soon as possible, which is why he participated in as many learning activities as possible in order to learn English fast. He forced himself to read an online U.S newspaper each morning, just before he would go to classes. He even tried to read aloud what was written in between the lines. Another way to enhance his reading comprehension was to find easy-to-read articles, at first, that were meant for beginner ESL students. Not long after, he moved to the mid-reading level and now, he can easily read newspaper articles and books. He also found a series of educational videos that clearly explained grammatical structures and were followed by exercises to test each learner’s understanding. Since the videos had audio too, meaning that we has provided with the choice to also listen to each presented theory, he managed to sharpen his listening skills. Of course, that helped him in his overall attempt to learn English as fast as possible. He can now understand and participate in more conversations with his fellow students than before. What is more, he has a better understanding and engagement in his professors’ lectures, which consequently helps him do better with his assignments.
However, what he liked the most (and also found useful) during his adult learning process is the so-called “planned exercise with active participation”. He finds it very interesting to participate in problem solving exercises or discussions, where his life’s experience could help him come with an answer and talk about it with the rest of other adults. It is unimaginable how easy it is for him to retain information and actually learn due to that process! The aforementioned learning process is quite different from what he remembered from his early school years. Back then, students could acquire knowledge mainly via repetition, endless writing and reading and by paying close attention to the teacher. In the adult learning environment learning is enhanced by adult participation. As an adult, Abdul is the sole responsible for deciding what is important to learn and what is not, which is something he could not do when he was still at junior high. Moreover, he expects learning to have immediate results, rather than waiting for results on the long run, like young students do.
Concluding the interview I found out that learning is not a road with roses for Abdul, as there are numerous obstacles and difficulties that put barriers to his new attempt to get back to school and get his degree. Time is one of the problems he has. It seems that regardless of the fact that he want to learn and is consciously ready and willing to learn, he has limited time to devote to his learning process due to his professional obligations. Also, concentration is another issue he needs to face. He is very hard-working in his daily job, which occupies not only his time, but also his mind. At the end of his working day, he finds it hard to concentrate on his assignments. However, he tries to find techniques to relax his mind and bring balance back.
Judging from Abdul’s interview, he is more of a visual learner, since he found internet newspapers and online video series more appealing to his learning process. Whenever there was something written, like in the educational grammar series, Abdul could find his way to learning easier (National Highway Institute, n.d). However, he demonstrated minor auditory learning style, since when the information was passed on to him verbally, he found it less difficult to store in his mind’s “hard disc”, as he calls it.
If working with an adult learner like Abdul, I would opt for equality between learner and teacher and facilitate reflective learning opportunities, provide real-case studies and most importantly promote active participation (National Highway Institute, n.d). Participating in adult learning activities, especially if they can blend visual and kinesthetic learning styles, is very important to me. Personally, I believe that the more adult students actively engage with the learning activity, the more successful are as learners. To me, hands-on teaching techniques can be successfully applied to all learners, visual, auditory and kinesthetic (National Highway Institute, n.d), which is why I would very much prefer them.
National Highway Institute (n.d), Principles of Adult Learning & Instructional Systems Design: Adult Learning. Retrieved Sep. 26, 2013 from: https://www.nhi.fhwa.dot.gov/downloads/freebies/172/PR%20Pre-course%20Reading%20Assignment.pdf