One of the biggest challenges when transiting from secondary to a tertiary learning environment is the realisation that just because a young person achieved Level 2 English and is willing to pay the fees charged by a tertiary provider, this does not automatically mean they will “bring something” to the learning table.
I’ve read a bit his year on the learning needs of Gen Y and other adult learners and my analysis is they are pretty much the same as all learners – i.e well-prepared engaging lessons from a person who knows their stuff, regular feedback on progress, a supportive and inclusive learning environment and the opportunity to learn via a range of tasks. (And yes of course the digital bells and whistles but even oldies expect that so that’s not unique to Gen Y).
So all things being equal, if that is provided, you take it for granted (doh, I know, first rule of teaching – never assume anything!) that those aged 18+ will automatically come to class with a certain level of inherent engagement. This seems especially pertinent for those who are not “second chance learners” and whose courses are preparing them for specific industries. And even more true when those learners are regularly exposed to that industry via guest speakers, visits and supervised work placements.
Many of those coming straight from secondary schools do not seem ready to manage their own learning. I read an article on The Conversation this week by Rohan Price which beautifully summed up my conundrum for 2012 – if the teacher/tutor/lecturer is providing the type of interactive learning opportunities expected (even demanded) by C21 learners, students must bring something to the table too. That means reading the notes, logging on to the LMS, reading feedback, asking questions, contributing to discussions and basically, doing the work. Old fashioned – I know.
Don’t get me wrong. I feel for Gen Y – it’s a tough environment they are walking into. Tougher than many of them understand sadly. But if well-meaning educationalists who are focussed on student success deliver their end of the bargain, it seems only fair that students do the same. Students who tend to succeed at this level are those aged over-20, who have travelled/worked in low paid jobs for a few years and who have a specific career plan in mind. Yes, they are self-motivated because they get it – it being Life Outside School.
So parents/caregivers – be brave, let them take a gap year or two – not in some fancy finishing school but working and paying their own way (even if they still live at home, in fact especially if they still live at home!).
Teachers/tutors – don’t beat yourself up when students aren’t succeeding as well as you feel they should be given the blood you’ve sweated in preparing and delivering classes. Learning is a life-long process and not everyone is ready for the tertiary environment at 18. Perhaps what they are actually learning is far less tangible – skills such as self-management, getting enough sleep and eating well, clocking in and out.
Oh and take heed from feedback Price received from some of his students – “Why don’t you just LECTURE us?”.