The role of a teacher in teaching languages to adults is not clear. By roles, I mean, for example: facilitator, manager, assessor, resources, participant and counselor.

Suppose learners concentrate on English (or another wide spread language) as second language where lots of learning materials are available and accessible, so the teacher is not the only available source of knowledge.

Also let's assume that we are talking about adult learners.

Are there studies that show what kinds of roles a teacher has in language acquisition?

I'd like to remind that I am interested in adult learners that already have life achievements, that are professional/qualified workers, graduated, able to process materials as part of their job duties (but not necessary related to linguistics) without nanny/nurse/tutor (like that is needed for children)...

I am looking for provable data based on research of groups, not for a personal or expert opinion.

  • The role of coursebooks, MOOC, self-study guides are to teach. Attending class means right school, methodology, professional tutor. If you are an adult you have duties and spending time/money on teacher should be justified. There are a lot of things to consider. For example how does teacher help with listening? Shouldn't you listen to radio/TV/youtube alone? There are plenty guides about passing exams. What is the benefit of teacher when you can check answer with keys?
    – gavenkoa
    Commented Jan 9, 2019 at 15:56
  • Those questions are easily answered without reference to published studies.
    – Tsundoku
    Commented Jan 9, 2019 at 15:57
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    I think it is reasonable to ask how effective is teaching with a teacher present versus self-studying in terms of the time spent. I would assume that the second has huge variance and the first might also have, or maybe not, so it is not obvious one can say anything definitive. But maybe this has been studied.
    – Tommi
    Commented Jan 9, 2019 at 18:58
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    A related question might be: how much does teacher's ability affect learning outcomes? There is research on this on mathematics, where the amount of mathematics studies was used as a proxy for mathematical ability.
    – Tommi
    Commented Jan 9, 2019 at 18:59
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    I did a somewhat bold edit to focus this to only a single question about what kinds of roles a teacher has in adult education and when teaching languages. There were two other questions here, one about how big an effect the teacher has, and one if you should learn on a course or independently. The former is a good separate question, while the latter is usually a poor fit for SE site. Roll the edit back or re-edit if it is unreasonable.
    – Tommi
    Commented Jan 10, 2019 at 10:54

1 Answer 1


I’d be surprised if there was enough research in this area to answer such a broad question. It would be very difficult to control for all the variables such as motivation, time spent, and the most effective learning styles for a particular learner. Some people can self study very effectively, some cannot. In the end motivation and time spent are probably the largest factor in language learning success. It is also likely that people in a class would self study as well and also have varying amounts of time and access to native speakers to practice with.

An additional difficulty in studying your question is how to decide how effective the classroom learning or self study is. There are so many aspects to language learning such as listening, speaking, and writing so to answer your question would involve picking a metric or language acquisition leveling system. The choice of metric could result in rather different answers.

Last your question doesn’t show any evidence of research. What efforts have you made to find out if this type of research is out there?

  • Please bear in mind that this site is not a discussion forum, so comments on the question should not be posted as answers. The question specifically asks for studies, so if you have no references to studies (or a reference, e.g. to a textbook) that claims that no such studies exist, you are not answering the question.
    – Tsundoku
    Commented Jan 18, 2019 at 12:30
  • @ChristopheStrobbe I’m aware but the guidelines also assume the poster has done some research which the op doesn’t show they have done.
    – T. M.
    Commented Jan 18, 2019 at 16:18

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