The Difference Between Teaching English to High School Students and University Students
Teaching English to high-school students and teaching English to university students are uniquely different and require different skills and teaching methods. High school students are in a period of development known as adolescence. One of the leading developmental psychologists, Erik Erikson, defines adolescence as a period of struggle between identity versus role confusion (Hutchison, 2013). During adolescence, high schoolers are going through many physical, cognitive, emotional, and social changes (Hutchison, 2013). They are struggling to define who they are in this world not about their parents. They want to make their own choices in life based on their reasoning. A high schooler may choose on their own to learn English as a foreign language, but in most situations, the decision to learn English as a foreign language is not their own choice.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Taha Laouily. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Level of Motivation
When an adolescent does not freely choose to learn English as a foreign language, they may be less motivated inside and outside of the classroom to learn the language. If in an English-speaking country or their native country they may not feel the need to learn the language because of modern translating technology or simply because they do not want to learn. Additionally, if the English language class is outside of their regular school, they may feel overwhelmed or disconnected from learning English.
To teach a high schooler English as a foreign language, teachers should find ways to make the lessons interesting and relatable to the students. Watching film clips in English, reading English magazines, listening to English music or sports podcasts are all ways a teacher can tailor the lesson to the interest of a high schooler. Teachers should be high energy, positive, supportive, encouraging, quick to give praise often and give individual attention with high schoolers (Hamman and Hendricks, 2005). Teachers should provide a safe place for their high schoolers to grow academically and personally (Hamman and Hendricks, 2005).
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University students, in contrast, are more emotionally, cognitively, and socially developed. They are, typically, young adults. Young adulthood begins with a newer stage of development called emerging adulthood. Emerging adulthood is Arnett’s theory explaining cognitive development between age 18-25 is distinct enough to be its stage in development (Hutchison, 2013). Emerging adults refine critical thinking skills and the prefrontal cerebral cortex becomes fully developed enabling better decision making and long-term planning (Arnett, 2000).
Differences Between Students According to Their Age
Emerging adulthood turns into young adulthood when roles in their life are solidified (Hutchison, 2013). Young adulthood can be anywhere from 18-22 years old. Typically, students start university at age 18 graduate at age 22. Erikson identifies the conflict of young adulthood as intimacy versus isolation (Hutchison, 2013). Young adults must develop an intimate relationship with either a spouse, friend, or coworker also in young adulthood. This intimacy relationship eliminates any feelings of long-term isolation. Having an intimate partner relationship will help with self-confidence learning English, especially if the partner already knows English or is in the same English language class.
University students will generally be more motivated to learn English as a foreign language. They can handle more complex topics and authentic reading materials in English. They will probably be more reliable with homework and studying outside of the classroom hours. Teachers should approach the student-teacher relationship considering the university student and teacher closer on the same level than with a high school student. University-level English second language acquisition teachers should expect more questions from students about the reasons behind language rules.
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English as a foreign language teachers for both high school and university students are an important part of the English learning process. Teachers should teach prepared, level-appropriate lessons to their students and be open to flexibility in course content and teaching methodology.
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