In the unlikely event that you haven't been following Ken's diary of a Learner, you can do so here.
Now I'm certainly not going to comment on the thoughts and motivations of a bunch of people I've never met, but the feeling is familiar to me as a teacher, especially if my adult students are new to communicative lessons.
Why are they so passive? Don't they want to bring something to the lesson?
Now it could be dullness or passivity or loss of youth. But I feel that it's more a question of etiquette. They don't know what behaviour is acceptable and what isn't. The classroom is a foreign land for them.
And I know what I'd do if I found myself in Laos or Zanzibar tomorrow - I'd do what everybody else was doing, and submit to any authority figure there. Wouldn't you?
I think our passive adults have found themselves in a foreign country. How should they behave? The closest reference they may have is their own memories of high-school. In high school, there are two ways to behave - either defer to authority or be a rebel without a cause. And now as adults, Dennis the Menace has dissolved, leaving only Walter the Softee. I think that's the default acceptable role for an adult student.
|Walter and Dennis discuss TPR|
When giving instructions for a pair speaking activity, I make a point of including phrases like this:
"If you finish discussing all the points, keep going. Improvise a little. It's great practice."
We make no bones about establishing class etiquette with children and adolescents. But that's largely a question of "Don't do this, don't do that." Is it feasible to establish the etiquette of "Please do more of this and that."?
Do you teach adults unfamiliar to adult education? Do you explicitly set up classroom etiquette in some way? Do you find that your students are able to settle into a bigger role as time passes? Or is it an exercise in futility? I'd love to hear.