It is a generally accepted assumption today that learning needs to follow individuals throughout their lives, not only to empower those individuals that may have missed out on educational opportunities earlier in life, but also because present-day societies and economies evolve very fast, with exponentially-changing technology and rapidly mutating jobs. The ability to learn has become a core skill, with organisations increasingly placing more emphasis on this «learning mindset», in both formal and informal contexts. And in the globalised world we live in, a knowledge of foreign languages, especially English, as the lingua franca of business, industry and science, is of particular importance, thus making more and more individuals become English learners even when they are long past their regular schooling years.
Still, when it comes to both teacher training courses and materials, we observe that in general the issues of teaching and learning English are addressed regarding children, teenagers and young adults: not only the topics of pedagogy and didactics, but also the profile and development process of learners tend to be considered for these age groups. When teachers/trainers come face to face with adult learners what they often do is use with them the strategies, approaches and methods they were taught and/or used successfully with youngsters.
Nevertheless, mature students are substantially different from children or teenagers in cognitive, attitudinal and behavioural aspects, which then impact on their learning processes. Since the 1920s and especially the 1960s when the term andragogy became synonyms with adult learning, various scholars have researched how to facilitate adults’ learning process while pinpointing what makes an adult learner different from younger learners: among other characteristics, mature learners tend to be more autonomous and critical, have a more hands-on approach, possess a broader pool of knowledge and inner resources (from experience as well as previous learning, sketchy as it may have been) and their need for new knowledge tends to be more immediate than with young learners.
Controversial as the approach may be, various studies have been conducted with a view to analysing how learners engage in the process of acquiring new knowledge and/or skills, i.e. what constitutes their learning style, namely identifying and examining the factors that foster or hinder learning, both external (classroom context, teaching approach, curriculum, among others) and internal (including motivation, cognition and retention processes, recall).
Adult learning is, indeed, a complex process and there is a myriad of elements that influence the approaches to teaching and learning as well as the programmes to implement this process. It follows that teaching English to adults generates challenges which require that trainers have specialised training, namely on strategies and methods that result in more relevant materials, a more efficient teaching/learning process, and more satisfactory overall results. Thus, understanding the needs, motivations and attitudes of learners as well as ascertaining which approaches, methods and materials prove more effective is of paramount importance.
This conference aims to be a wide-ranging, diversified forum to enable researchers and practitioners on language teaching to adults, particularly but not confined to English, whether from a theoretical or practical perspective, to share and discuss their findings and experience. The aim is to foster a debate that will enhance current and future practice as well as stimulate further experimentation and reflection on the complex issues of the field.
We invite teachers, trainers, researchers and other professionals involved in teaching foreign languages to adults, especially English, to submit abstracts for oral communications.