Stretch and Challenge has been on many peoples’ lips over the last year or so.  We are delighted to welcome our first guest blog, on this topic, from Kanyini, a provider for Staffordshire Adult Community Learning.

Stretch and challenge your adult learners

Working with adult learners from a variety of backgrounds can prove challenging. Tutors may find they have more than one level of student ability in their sessions. There may be complex issues to contend with, whether from prior learning experiences, current emotional stresses, physical illnesses or disabilities, family challenges or a lack of self-confidence. Issues may have originated in childhood/adolescence or be due to recent challenges many families and individuals are facing with lack of jobs, tighter finances etc. Regardless of the challenge, tutors are failing their students if they neglect to stretch and challenge them in order to achieve their potential. The question is, where to start?

We start in our first session, with a sheet entitled ‘About me…’. We ask our students to complete it as part of their initial registration. We get to do a sneaky English assessment and are given an idea of their prior experiences, ambitions and concerns. This sheet, we advise them, is their opportunity to tell us anything that will help us to help them. It can be anything, and frequently is, from a description of their family to revealing for the first time difficulties with reading. Using this information, we ensure we incorporate, as much as possible, sessions that will address what our students need. Now, I appreciate that this cannot always be achieved, however, we believe that the more we know about our students, the better placed we are to help them.

Our sessions are structured so our students achieve at each stage and have something they can take home with them. We celebrate achievement by putting images of what our students have made onto our Facebook page and by holding show and tell sessions at the beginning of each subsequent lesson where our students can share what they have made, what they have done, what project they are working on. By incorporating this celebration of learning, we are encouraging our students and plenty of praise ensures we boost their confidence. We use the sandwich approach: we praise, point out how things could have been done better/differently/alternate techniques to try, and then praise again.

Making the courses fun and ensuring they are conducted in a supportive and undemanding manner, we focus on being student led. We use a lot of peer support and encouragement, and endeavour to create a community within the classroom. At every stage we encourage the students to explore their creativity, to try new techniques and begin personal projects, and to believe in themselves. Mistakes are there to help us learn and if we don’t try, we won’t learn. We promote errors as opportunities.

By creating this community we encourage the feeling of ‘safety’, of feeling confident to share ideas, to try new things and in this way our students actually stretch and challenge themselves. We merely give them the tools within which to work. Trust your students, give them the tools.


Fiona Doney

Kanyini Education CIC

Facebook – Kanyini Education


Please get in touch if you are interested in writing a guest blog, to share your good practice with other ACL tutors and providers!



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