How do Adults Learn ABET/AET?

AET – Adult Education and Training and ABET – Adult Basic Education and Training are one and the same. ABET/AET involves learning a second language and acquiring numerical and problem-solving skills. Only once these foundations (ABET/AET) are laid many vital skills and subjects can be added to the adult’s knowledge, understanding and skills-base. The home language/mother tongue of the adult is normally heard from birth. By the age of 5 or 6 years, individuals should know the basic syntax and semantics of the language, have adequate vocabulary and should be ready to extend basic knowledge into more complicated skills like vocabulary enrichment, structural perfection and development of creative and critical use of the language for the essential skills of problem-solving, reasoning and so on. So how do adults learn ABET/AET. And is facilitating ABET/AET merely helping adults to acquire another language?
The reality after 24 years of ABET/AET experience shows Triple E Training, that it is a completely misleading notion that adults learn ABET/AET and specifically another language, by just being exposed to it. In many cases, the South African adult enrolled in an ABET/AET class, does not have a strong enough foundation in his/her mother tongue. Therefore the ABET/AET training session requires a different strategy and methodology for adults to truly learn ABET/AET.

How should the facilitation of ABET/AET roll out?

ABET/AET facilitation specifically Communication, is facilitating learning IN the language, and not ABOUT the language. Special attention should be given in these ABET/AET sessions, to everyday language use and speech. This is accomplished by focusing on engaging all four basic skills; listening, speaking, reading and writing, at every possible opportunity.
If the goal of the second language (as is relevant in most ABET/AET Programmes) teaching is for the ABET/AET learner to master the language and use it in any situation, facilitators should encourage ABET/AET learners to think in the new language and to speak it all possible times. After all, adults learn differently so engaging in it often helps ABET/AET learners to arrive at the same outcome through peer-learning.
Adults in an ABET/AET group are Active
Adults’ days are filled with activity. Often employed, time is spent at work and doing normal household chores. ABET/AET learners are often parents and active member of their communities. ABET/AET training is important but its only part of their day. Fortunately this means that there is much experience to use as facilitators in the ABET/AET learning process.
Adults in an ABET/AET group Reflect
Because adults are active members of society in one way or the other, they are continuously collecting data and adding this to their experiences. This collection and analysis of data means they are thinking learners, who can be drawn in and actively involved in the learning process. Adult learners are not blank slates learning for the first time. They have lived. ABET/AET learners should be encouraged to share and for this reason alone, facilitators of ABET/AET have immense resources for learning through their learners’ experiences and wisdom.
How we can help adults learn ABET/AET using Kolb’s Learning Cycle
The principles of Kolb’s Learning cycle are most valuable when planning a session of ABET/AET.
Starting with the concrete experience of any adult in an ABET/AET class, allows the learner to focus on something that he/she already knows or can relate to. This encourages the adult learner and the common understanding of the group of ABET/AET learners. When all ABET/AET learners are clear in this understanding, the new skill or concept can be introduced, reflected upon and discussed. New words are recorded, new theories learnt and so on. Then the most important process in the entire ABET/AET learning cycle is when the new skill/concept is applied. Only once the ABET/AET learners DOES, actually uses the skill, will he/she record it in memory to be used again.

Start with the Concrete

A Triple E Training facilitator (right) introduces “Measuring Time” to her group of Level 2 Numeracy ABET/AET learners by starting with what the learners KNOW, a clock…

Perhaps the most important fact to remember when deciding how adults learn ABET/AET and planning an ABET/AET training session, is that no adult is the same. Every person will progress at his/her own rate and in his/her own way. The ABET/AET Programme should embrace this and be unquestionably learner-centered. Lecture-style ABET/AET facilitation is as detrimental as facilitation that excludes real facilitators.
“A person’s freedom of learning is part of his freedom of thought even more basic than his freedom of speech. If we take from someone his right to decide what he will be curious about, we destroy his freedom of thought.” ~ John Holt