Case Study

Mark is an instructor in the continuing education 

department of a local community college, teaching multiple French courses of varying difficulties. He grew up speaking French with his mother, then went on to make a career in teaching French. He spent fifteen years teaching French at the high-school level, and only switched to this position at the community college last year.  

Unlike the high school students in his previous position, Mark’s college students are varied in their ages and educational background. Some younger students are fast tracking their high school diplomas while other students have a complete university degree behind them. Many students are retired individuals seeking an educational pastime to occupy their minds, and there may even be the occasional entrepreneur seeking to expand his/her skills. Along with the range in age and education, Mark’s classrooms are also very diverse in culture, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and learning and physical abilities.

Mark’s first year teaching at the college was incredibly difficult. He had no previous experience in teaching adults, and the techniques that used to work for him in his high-school classroom simply did not work in this adult learning environment. Troubled at this realization, Mark vowed to make the next year different for his students and himself. He conducted some research into adult education and learning and familiarized himself with the different philosophies and techniques he found.  

This year, Mark has several new students beginning his basic French course. Rafeek, an immigrant lawyer from Morocco, is taking the course as one of the requirements to start practicing law in Ontario. Steve, a 24-year old entrepreneur, is taking the course with the hope of expanding his growing carpentry business into the French communities in Quebec. Daisy, a single mother of two boys, has enrolled to improve her skills as the new personal assistant (PA) at a small law firm. Hilary is a retired high school biology teacher and wants to polish up her multilingual skills before heading off on a six-month trip across Europe. 

Over the first few weeks, Mark notices that each student is struggling with a barrier to learning. Rafeek is studying French as someone who’s first language is not English, so it is doubly challenging for him. He uses his mother tongue to understand French material, and even though he is proficient in English, he feels like he is not progressing much in learning French and is losing motivation to continue. Steve is a transgender man in transition and is currently experiencing the physical and emotional struggles that come with said process. His partner is also away from home on a work trip and his family is not accepting of his sexuality, so he feels abandoned and depressed. Daisy struggles to make ends meet while taking care of her kids and fulfilling the non-stop demands of her PA position. She comes to class regularly but struggles to understand the material because she is almost always sleep deprived. Daisy has voiced her need for more time to study but struggles to find time during the day among all her other obligations. Hilary suffers from epilepsy and is slightly hard of hearing. She carries medication with her at all times in case of a seizure, but the medicine must be administered by a qualified individual. She also uses reading glasses and needs to sit at the front of the class to see and hear properly.