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Recognising and dealing effectively
with student goals and aspirations
by Katie Evans & Seth Atkin
- 3

In order, then, to ensure that the learning plan is working as practicably as possible in order to realise and meet learning aspirations, tutorial sessions should take place at regular intervals, ideally every four weeks or so. As previously discussed, the tutor will gain a better idea of their learners' needs over a period of time, and a tutorial session is a perfect opportunity to gain this knowledge. Tutorials should be conducted on a one-to-one basis, therefore allowing the learner the privacy and reassurance of confidentiality for them to discuss any issues they have that are affecting their route to achievement. It is important to stress to the learner that this is a support session, designed for them not only to receive an update on their progress from their tutor, but also for them to make the tutor aware of any problems they may be having with their learning, whether they are unhappy with the class, whether they feel the course is enabling them to work towards their goals. As time goes on learners will get to know their tutor better, and ideally will then feel more able to confide in them, unlike they felt able to do in that very first meeting at initial assessment or interview stage. By looking at the learner's progress to date during a tutorial, the tutor and learner can together identify what is working for the learner, areas for improvement as well as looking at wider issues that may be affecting their performance. By a second or third tutorial session a learner may report that they do not feel they are on the right course, or that the work they have been receiving, the make-up of the lessons and the course as a whole are not enabling them to achieve their goals. This is crucial information that a tutor has to be aware of if they are to ensure that their learners are working towards their learning goals which in turn will allow them to achieve their goals in a wider, more global setting, and that this is able to happen through the work the tutor is planning.

Another way to ensure learners' needs are being met, and to give them every opportunity to realise their goals is to offer a wide range of courses, with the option to access different genres and arenas of learning as part of their entire learning experience. While a learner can gain invaluable skills through one particular course, it may be that that course alone cannot meet their ultimate, long-term aspirations. However, by then moving onto other, more diverse courses where their skills, including language skills, can be transferred, will allow the learner to widen their learning experience and achieve their ultimate goals which may be set beyond their immediate learning aspirations. While the initial course that a learner applied for may have allowed them to achieve immediate learning aspirations, they then need to be given the opportunity to access other learning opportunities. This widening of learning will bring the learner into contact with resources in a global context, not just resources limited to text-book or classroom handout as their initial course may have provided them. Ideally, through the learning plans and tutorial sessions previously discussed, a tutor may begin to form an idea of their learners' wider aspirations, and be able to advise them of which courses or learning routes they should or could move onto.

Facilitation of the learning process then, and meeting learners' needs, begins before the learner walks into the learning establishment. It is crucial that the teacher is aware of the wide range of demands that lead to student need, such as the need now to be able to speak English to work in a café in Slovakia, in order to assist in the construction of a meaningful and appropriate programme of learning. Without this awareness, the teacher is liable to the changing nature of society and of not understanding the diversity of demands that the learner attempts to respond to by accessing education. This lack of understanding can, and perhaps in some cases does, lead to outdated learning programmes, which in the end serve neither the learner nor the learning establishment.

In order to provide and help establish a suitable programme of learning it is crucial that the person or persons with responsibility for the learning programme are aware of external demands that learners are under and devise appropriate means for them to meet these demands. Of course, the single learning programme is not functioning in isolation. It may be that one programme of learning needs to be followed in order for another to be pursued effectively afterwards. Take for example a non-British native who wishes to pursue an academic route but has not got the language or the initial qualifications in order to do so. There are a number of things that the learner has to accomplish prior to realizing this end goal. While it may not always be palatable for the learner to have a longer learning route mapped out that originally envisaged, a clearly mapped process would enable the learning route to the end goal to run smoothly and effectively. Learners being set up to fail because needs are not realised and therefore a suitable learning route is not mapped out is counter-productive in all its parts. By focusing on what can be taken up on route to the longer-term goals, the teacher is able to truly facilitate the learning process in response to learner need. The focus on long-term goals can assist the tutor in follow-up and subsequent guidance for the learner. This enables supported progression directly following entry onto an initial course. With multiple, global demands pressing in on learners and the resulting complexity of their needs, the challenge for effective initial guidance and information for subsequent support cannot be underestimated. Tracking of achievement, passing notes to similarly concerned professionals, or others involved in a learner's learning programme, as well as a clear mapping of progression routes are the basic key elements in this pursuit, and one that can be undertaken and communicated the world over.

Biodata

Katie Evans is currently involved in a project working with asylum seekers, and is setting up and running ESOL classes in local community settings. She also works to place asylum seekers in volunteering opportunities and trains volunteer ESOL tutors. She has previously taught ESOL in the further education sector, both at main sites and in community settings.

Seth Atkin is an Equality and Diversity Manager and runs a variety of projects working with various student groups. He is also a teacher trainer, and was previously Team Leader of a large and successful ESOL provision in the Further Education sector. He has also taught English in Malaysia for many years.

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