As a continuation of focusing on the specific target areas as a learning coach to adult students, we move from Academic Expectations and Communication Expectations and into the realm of grammar skills. This is a skillset where you will see the majority of your adult learners cringe. It typically doesn’t matter where the reality of their skills lay, there is a perception that they need to do better.
In fact, often the perception is that it’s simply too overwhelming to handle. Communication methods have changed due to technology, so nomenclatures like “text talk” and “Facebook speak” become Enemy #1 for most instructors regardless of their industry. As punctuation has mysteriously become optional, resulting in confusing posts, the priority for the facilitator becomes a matter of translation rather than evaluating content.
As a facilitating coach, my default position is to phone them, and then ask them to read out loud what they wrote. Usually, this results in a certain mumbling “oh”, and while I save that tactic for when I just totally can’t figure it out, this is a good reality check for the student. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of time for a facilitator to truly help with grammar other than being consistent and clear with feedback on written submissions.
However, a learning coach has more time and power to assist adult learners in a long term strategy. Firstly, adult learners are embarrassed and feel stupid when such baseline deficiencies are consistency brought to their attention, so overwhelming them with a vast list of gaps is likely to shut them down. Here are some strategies to consider.
- Identify specific gaps through diagnostics such as https://elt.oup.com/student/practicegrammar/test?cc=us&selLanguage=en
- Work on a single area of focus at a time through submissions the students have to write. (Can we say “limit our WIP anyone?” :))
- Help the students not worry about all the goals at once; keep them focused on the single area until they feel and can measure improved proficiency.
- Have students always perform the “basic check” on their work: punctuation, capitalization, spelling.
- Get technology to help … free plug-ins like https://www.grammarly.com/ will recommend corrections on ALL writing when on the computer, which is a much more tacit, invasive, and consistent reminder of their grammar.
In reference to the technological plug-ins like Grammarly (and yes, my plug-in informed me of three errors in the post that I fixed!), we need to remember that coaches can never fulfill that role. We must 1) encourage the mindset to improve, 2) help them develop strategies they can reasonably achieve, and 3) give them tools that can assist them to their goals.