5 biggest misconceptions about advanced learners

5-BIGGEST-MISCONCEPTIONS-ABOUT-ADVANCED-LEARNERSThis post is for you if you are still not sure how to proceed with your advanced students. Here are 5 biggest misconceptions about working with such learners and ideas how to overcome them

They don’t want to play games

Our students’ level of advancement has little to do with their willingness to play language games. I’ve come to realise that more advanced students are often even more into various forms of language fun simply because they are a tad overwhelmed with the course. Advanced students, like any other, need to see the purpose of the game they are playing and understand how it will help them progress and strengthen their skills.

Wondering what games might be attractive for your advanced students? Take a look here and here.

They know the grammar already

Let’s face it, students are bound to have problems with accuracy regardless of their level. Still, they might not welcome yet another lecture on when to use a/an/the with the same fill in the gaps kind of exercise. What, in my experience, might work is actually letting the students rediscover the rules (and exceptions!) while working with an authentic written or spoken text. Let them see how the language works out there, in the real world, and show them when it’s OK to break the rules (and have some examples to support your claim).

They only want to discuss serious topics

First off, what does a serious topic even mean? Does the fact that a student has reached a certain level of advancement mean they will only want to talk about current affairs, arms race, and politics? Surely, such topic areas like food, pets, and hobbies have been beaten to death in their previous courses. However, there is still a lot of potential left there, especially with students who for whatever reason show little to no interest in what might be considered “serious” (see above). What I think works great is approaching these seemingly simplistic topics from a different angle. Yet again, see what press articles or blog posts offer. When it comes to choosing the right topic, it is never about the degree of seriousness but about the relevance to our learners’ interests.

They enjoy learning sophisticated vocabulary

Some of them surely do as it gives them the feeling of knowing more, which is obviously rewarding. Yet, how useful are these low-frequency words, really? How useful are they going to be for our students’ jobs, holidays, everyday lives? Aren’t they more likely to pick up these rare vocabulary items as they stumble upon the while reading a novel, watching a movie, or talking to another person, i.e. in context? I often teach students who are so motivated to recycle so-called interesting vocabulary, they cram these words in every sentence they say or write what makes them sound anything but natural or sophisticated. I believe that truly valuable and relevant new language emerges through discussion or letting our students choose texts/listening materials they are interested in. Other than that, we are likely to produce lengthy word lists they will never feel the need to use.

They don’t need to learn how to learn

I used to assume that a student who has reached a considerably high level of English (fluent, accurate, broad vocabulary) doesn’t need my advice on how to learn anymore. They have done it already, haven’t they? I think it might have been my biggest misconception to date. Students who progress quickly and demonstrate a good command of English are often those who are most likely to appreciate tips and advice they are now able to implement independently and follow as much as they see works for them. I love sharing my favourite online tools with more advanced students as they find the possibilities these tools offer exciting and not overwhelming, and are confident enough already to jump in, experiment with the language, and learn independently.

Have you revised your opinions about teaching any type of classes recently?


  1. Next time: the 5 biggest misconceptions about beginner learners? (Or I’ll write a guest post for you 😉 ). One of the misconceptions of beginner (adult) learners (all too often reflected in beginner coursebooks) is that they want to spend all their time discussing their favourite music or their last holiday. *yawn*!

    A great read, Gosia! Fully agree with every point.

    • Hi Anna, thank you for taking the time to comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts about teaching adult beginners and I’m sure I wouldn’t be the only one 🙂

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