ADULTS’ LEARNING IN A MULTILEVEL GROUP: DIFFICULTIES AND PROSPECTS
One of the necessary conditions of modernization of Russian higher education and education in general is the creation of the lifelong learning system, i.e. the system which involves the continuous improvement of human’s knowledge throughout his or her life. Within this paradigm people can make a choice of educational trajectories corresponding to their individual needs and peculiarities, as well as the needs of the labour market and prospects of development of production and society.
In particular, the inclusion of the teaching community of Russian Universities in the implementation of the educational system requires them to increase their level of academic mobility. The main factor preventing Russian teachers’ movement for a time to foreign educational institutions to improve their educational level and training is the language barrier .
Methodology of studying any foreign language is based on different aspects of the language. To be able to meet all required standards and refresh their teaching skills and acquire foreign culture, teachers can choose courses abroad. Teachers have a variety of countries to choose from: the USA, Great Britain, Australia, Canada and many European countries like Malta, Spain, Greece and many others. It is considered an English-speaking country to be the best choice for those who deal with the English language. But it is impossible for those who did not study English at school and whose level of the language is the beginner. Also economic situation nowadays in budget organizations leaves much to be desired and the best variant for teachers is the attendance of free classes at their universities. Therefore, to solve this problem it was organized two-year courses of English for teachers of non-linguistic specialties in State University of Humanities and Social Studies (Kolomna) in 2014, aimed at increasing proficiency in a foreign language.
Many experts Bonk N.A. , Gal’skova N.D. , Kitaygorodskaya G.A. , Passov E.I., Mil'rud R.P. , Solovova E.N.  claim that the success of the English language courses depends largely on how clearly and differentially a group was selected. This was one of the main problems we faced in the classroom, as the group consisted of 11 people of different levels from beginner to pre-intermediate levels.
Under the level of foreign language communicative competence it should be understood one of the specially selected levels of communicative proficiency, which is characterized by specific characteristics of language, speech and social-cultural human behaviour that can uniquely distinguish the level from other levels of language proficiency as the means of communication within certain methodical classification grades.
During the work of «Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment» it is distinguished six European levels of language proficiency, which gives a qualitative characteristic of the communicative abilities of the individual, communicative competence. They are:
A –Basic User:
A1 –Survival Level – (Beginner and Elementary)
A2 –Waystage – (Pre-Intermediate)
B – Independent User:
B1 –Threshold – (Intermediate)
B2 –Vantage – (Upper-Intermediate)
C –Proficient User:
C1 –Effective Operational Proficiency – (Advanced)
C2 –Mastery – (Proficiency).
During the first year they mostly achieved the level A2, by the end of the second year almost all students approached the level B1. Despite the fact the teaching and learning in multi-level class is very difficult and non-productive, we can distinguish the following advantages of multi-level classrooms:
• students are able to learn at their own pace;
• students learn to work well in a group;
• students become independent learners;
• students develop strong relationships with their peers;
• students become partners in learning.
All classes are mixed ability to one extent or another. In such cases it’s very important to remember that all students will get something out of the class, but not necessarily the same things, and not necessarily what you aim to teach them. For example, the beginners may start to get a grasp of your classroom language while the stronger students may begin to be able to put a new tense into use.
Adapting materials for mixed ability classes can take different forms. One way is to rewrite reading texts and classify the language tasks accordingly for different levels. But it is practically unreal because of the lack of time; a teacher does not have the necessary time to prepare for their classes. This sort of adaptation is extremely time consuming and very dangerous. When you give out different texts to different students, they will instantly realize that they have been labeled as a weak or strong student and, in the case of the weaker students, this will no doubt effect their motivation .
When faced with the challenge of a multi-level classroom many teachers do not know where to start. They fear that the preparation will take much longer, and that the students will be more demanding. However, when you compare all the advantages and disadvantages of the multi-level classroom, you can find the strength to overcome challenges and achieve success.
The main focus was primarily on the need to improve or practice skills in a foreign language. The classes were mainly practical, i.e., the participants talked with each other, spoke on the proposed topics, made presentations and lectures in a foreign language. In the selection of textbooks, we focused on training materials included in the teaching materials, because the participants did not only improve language competency, but also more broadly acquainted with the methodological techniques of work with audiovisual AIDS, included in educational-methodical complexes.
It should be given the special attention to teaching English in groups of beginners, because before the teacher and students are, in our opinion, a more difficult task than in the groups of continuing education. It is necessary to study the large amount of linguistic material and overcome psychological barriers in the limited number of hours.
One of the paramount importances of positive points when learning English "from scratch" is strong motivation. So, teachers need to maintain constantly the interest of students to a new language. This was chosen interesting and feasible tasks, students were not overloaded with homework, we controlled the process of the material’s assimilation and, if necessary, we repeated poor assimilation of the information. Many methodists also recommend "the dosage of the material with immediate consolidation" [1, P. 12]. The dosage of the material and the tempo of its passing were determined by the teacher depending on learning conditions, the number of hours and learning level. With the purpose of increasing the mastering of material’s level, it was carried out individual work with bad achievers because those students had worse cognitive ability. You must give them the opportunity to work in pairs with successful students .
"The English language belongs to the group of Germanic languages. It contains a large number of words borrowed from the French language. This knowledge can simplify the process of learning the English language for starters? So for those who know German or French, they will need much less time for learning English" [3, P. 69]. For this purpose we make the parallels in the study of phonetic, lexical and grammatical material, especially we cited the analogy in the study of such topics as, the use of definite and indefinite articles, pronouns, verb-cords, the three main forms of the verb, the infinitive without the particle to after modal verbs, impersonal sentences, etc. Here there is some useful advice for teachers: teach grammar in context; don’t try too hard to explain things; incorporate grammar into other activities; teaching grammar can be a tricky business; get out of your comfort zone; don’t bore your students to death.
Much attention in the classroom was given to the phonetics and elimination of beginners’ common errors, especially in the process of reading and translation of words. The similarity in spelling often leads to errors. Finding the familiar word from the German language the students read it with a German accent, for example: also [alzo] instead of [olsou], so [zo] instead of [sou], Name [na:me] instead of name [neim], was [vas] instead of [wo:z]. Similar pronunciation of words leads to misinterpretation of the true meanings of English words. For example: nine (in English it is the number nine) – nein (in German it means “no”), come (in English it means the infinitive) – kam (in German it means the past form of the verb “to come”).
From the first lessons the students faced difficulties in reading and pronunciation. It is advisable to read words and small sentences in chorus with the teacher. The principle of oral advance was well established at the initial stage of learning a foreign language. It turns out that the auditory image, used repeatedly over a short period of communicative units, is so strong that reading the text for the first time, students almost don't make mistakes. There is involuntary binding of the auditory image of the word with its graphic image and it is established the sound-letter connection [8, P. 37].
To improve reading abilities you should use visualization, mostly short stories, games and the Internet resources. Use regular lifestyle reading (or any kind of reading materials at home) and teach vocabulary that can be found in the text – this can be done before or during reading, depending on the task.
The intensive work was carried out at the board. There were active students in the group who always wanted to go to the board, but the teacher also sought to cause the constant rotation of students to the role of activists and all students should act in turn. There are some peculiarities to remember improving speaking skills: keep sentences short and grammatically simple, use exaggerated intonation to hold the student's attention, emphasize key words, limiting the topics talked about to what is familiar to the student, frequently repeat and paraphrase .
At the initial stage of learning it is also important to constantly monitor the students ' knowledge. Therefore, the teacher’s forms of control helped to monitor the degree of students’ knowledge of any skill and also revealed the possible gap of individual students.
To sum up, after two years courses we can highlight ten golden rules which have helped both teachers and students to achieve excellent results in teaching English:
- Include English into every corner of your students’ lives.
- Create in-class strategies that will effectively be used in outside practice.
- Make your students play an active role in conversation in the class and play a more active role in learning the language outside of your classroom.
- Show the connection between achievements and desires. They must clearly understand the necessaty of learning this or that topic.
- Relate their lives to the content of the learning information to make it more personalised.
- Enjoy your job and interest levels will go up with the students.
- Try to be positive and smile as much as possible. Be energetic, no matter how tired you are. Show emotions.
- Laugh and get them laughing to create friendly atmosphere that will help to raise student interest.
- Let students make mistakes and correct them with patience, friendliness and compassion. Always compliment the students.
- Formulate your explanations and tasks clearly.
It should be noted that the successful teachers training will be carried out only if the teachers’ active work at the courses will be combined with the systematic independent work of each person for self-education that should be continuously stimulated, directed and controlled.
Bonk N. A. Anglijskij. Shag za shagom [English. Step by step] / N. A. Bonk, I. I. Levina and others. – M.: ROSMJeN, 2000. [in Russian]
Gal’skova N. D. Sovremennaja metodika obuchenija inostrannym jazykam. Posobie dlja uchitelja [The modern methods of teaching foreign languages. A manual for teachers] / N. D. Gal’skova. –2nd edition. –M.: ARKTI, 2003. –192 p. [in Russian]
Kitajgorodskaja G. A. Intensivnoe obuchenie inostrannym jazykam. Teorija i praktika [Intensive training in foreign languages. Theory and practice] / G. A. Kitajgorodskaja. – M., 1992. [in Russian]
Loginova A. V., Otbanov N. A. Sposoby povyshenija motivacii studentov k izucheniju inostrannogo jazyka [The ways of increasing students ’ motivation to learn a foreign language] / A. V. Loginova, N. A. Otbanov. // Molodoj uchenyj [Young Scientist]. – 2015. – №11. –P. 1395-1397. [in Russian]
Mil’rud R. P. Metodologija i razvitie metodiki obuchenija inostrannym jazykam [Methodology and development of methods of teaching foreign languages] / R. P. Mil’rud. // IJaSh [Foreign languages at school]. – 1995. – № 5. [in Russian]
Mil’rud R. P. Metodika prepodavanija anglijskogo jazyka [English Teaching Methodology] / R. P. Mil’rud. – Drofa, 2007. – 256 p. [in Russian]
Passov E. I. Kommunikativnyj metod obuchenija inojazychnomu govoreniju. [Communicative method of teaching foreign language speaking] / E. I. Passov. –2nd edition –M.: Prosveshhenie, 1991. –223 p. [in Russian]
Solovova E. N. Metodika obuchenija inostrannym jazykam: Bazovyj kurs lekcij. Posobie dlja studentov ped. vuzov i uchitelej [Methods of teaching foreign languages: The basic course of lectures. A manual for students of teaching universities and colledges] / E. N. Solovova. –M.: Prosveshhenie, 2002. –239 p. [in Russian]
Standarty i monitoring v obrazovanii, vyp. 3 [Standards and monitoring in education, vol. 3] –M.: NIC INFRA-M, 2016. –64 p. [in Russian]
Utehina A. N. Professional’no-orientirovannye tehnologii v jazykovom obrazovanii [Jelektronnyj resurs]: koll. monogr. [Professionally-oriented technologies in language education] [Electronic resource] / A. N. Utehina, N. E. Brim, O. N. Golubkova and others. – 2nd edition. – M.: FLINTA, 2012. – 222 p. [in Russian]