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TESOL 2006

The 40th Annual TESOL Convention was held in Tampa, FL, March 14-18, 2006. CAELA staff participated in a number of presentations, which are summarized here.

Research on adult immigrants in Australia and New Zealand
Language, culture, and families in Ontario, Canada
Immigration, naturalization, and citizenship in the United States ( Linda Taylor, Lynne Weintraub)
Research on adult English language learners
Using Program Quality Standards to Evaluate Adult ESL Programs
From Individual Workshops to Systematic Professional Development
Using Study Circles for Professional Development
Using Volunteers in the Adult ESL Class
Interactive Student-Generated Questioning Techniques

ESOL in Adult Education: Perspectives on the Adult Immigrant Experience Today Presentations in this session focused on the adult immigrant experience and implications for adult ESL instruction.

Research on adult immigrants in Australia and New Zealand. Former TESOL president, Dr. Denise Murray, a professor at Macquarie University, in Ryde, Australia, noted that recent immigrants in Australia and New Zealand face similar issues to those of immigrants in the United States. One of the most difficult challenges is balancing family and work responsibilities while learning English. Teachers of this population face challenges of teaching classes of students with diverse prior learning and life experiences, addressing learning differences between older and younger students, and responding to unrealistic expectations of some students. An additional issue raised was that many adult ESL teachers attempt to be very friendly and supportive. Ironically, this leads some students to question the seriousness of learning in adult ESL classes. Of great interest to the participants in this session was the fact that Australian immigrants and refugees are allowed to take up to 500 hours of instruction before being required to go to work. For more information about instruction for adult immigrants in Australia and New Zealand, contact Dr. Murray at


Language, culture, and families in Ontario, Canada. Constantine Ioannou of the Ottawa –Carleton District School Board ( Canada) spoke about working with family literacy programs in Canada and gave the suggestions for those working in these programs.

  • Encourage the use of native language (L1) at home and at school.

  • Meet with parents at their convenience and invite them to contribute to the education process in ways that are comfortable for them.

  • Recognize the cultural and linguistic backgrounds of students by providing multilingual and multiracial literature.

  • Be advocates for minority languages and for a curriculum that is responsive to the needs of minorities.

For more information about family literacy issues for adult English language learners in Ottawa, Canada, contact Mr. Iaonnou at


Immigration, naturalization, and citizenship in the United States. Linda Taylor of CASAS and Lynne Weintraub, a consultant in Amherst, Massachusetts, spoke about issues related to immigration. Ms. Taylor gave figures about recent immigrants.

  • 12% of the U.S. population are non-naturalized immigrants (35.7 million people)

  • 71% of these non-naturalized immigrants have documents or are here “legally;” 29% are “unauthorized”

  • In comparison with U.S. citizens, the education level of legal non-naturalized immigrants is as follows:

  • 18% have some higher education vs. 29% for all native-born U.S. citizens

  • 15% have less than 9 years of education vs. 2% for all U.S. citizens

  • 8 million of the 35.7 million non-naturalized immigrants (less than 25%) are eligible for naturalization (Passel, J.S. 2005. Unauthorized migrants: Numbers and characteristics. Washington, DC: Pew Hispanic Center.

Ms. Weintraub described issues related to the naturalization process. More than half of the immigrants polled in a recent survey cited the following reasons for wanting to become citizens (Farkas, Duffett, & Johnson, with Moye & Vine, summer 2003, “Now That I'm Here: What America's Immigrants Have to Say about Life in the U.S. Today,” American Educator,

  • To get the right to vote

  • To have better legal rights and protections

  • To show commitment and pride in being an American

  • To avoid worry about immigration status

  • To make it easier to get certain jobs

  • To make it easier to travel in and out of the United States

The survey also found that barriers to naturalization include the cost of applying; lack of information on the process; inability to miss work; need for legal representation; lack of access to instruction; and logistical barriers such as transportation, childcare, and scheduling. For more information on citizenship issues contact Ms. Taylor at and Ms. Weintraub at


Research on adult English language learners. Miriam Burt of the Center for Adult English Language Acquisition reminded participants of the importance of research in an era in which teachers must demonstrate that they use evidence-based practices in their instruction and must show that students are making gains in language proficiency. She noted that “evidence-based instruction” is generally linked to empirical evidence from experimental studies in which subjects are randomly assigned to experimental and control groups (No Child Left Behind Act). However, there are significant challengesin conducting this type of research with adult English language learners. Some of these challenges include:

  • Adult learners are not a captive audience – they move in and out of programs.

  • Adult learners often receive few hours of instruction.

  • Adult learners have family, work, and other demands on their time and attention.

  • There is little funding for experimental research with this population

Nevertheless, both large- and small-scale research is being done, and three studies are particularly important.1) The What Works Study of literacy students conducted by American Institutes for Research (Condelli, Wrigley, Yoon, Cronen, & Seburn, in press) found that students learn more when

  • Connections are made between the classroom and life outside the classroom,

  • The native language is used at appropriate times,

  • Instruction takes students’ interests into consideration, and

  • There is a lot of interaction in classes but still some routine. (Or: Courses incorporate both interactive and routine instruction.)

2) The Adult ESL Explicit Literacy Impact Study, being conducted by American Institutes for Research, is going to test the impact of explicit literacy intervention (explicitly teaching bottom-up processing skills) on the success of low-literacy adult English language learners. More information is available on this at 3) Research underway at the Portland State University Lab School in coordination with the National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy (NCSALL) has two threads —a study of interactions among students and the effects of instruction and teacher presence on such interaction and longitudinal studies of the second language development of beginning level adult English language learners. More information on this research is available at The number of small-scale research studies—often of a more qualitative or ethnographic nature—is increasing, particular if one looks at unpublished masters theses and doctoral dissertations. Though challenges remain, the overall picture seems to be one of an increasingly vibrant research field. For more information on research challenges or on the findings of recent research with this population, contact Miriam Burt at


Using Program Quality Standards to Evaluate Adult ESL Programs Joy Peyton, CAELA, and Gretchen Bitterlin, San Diego Community Colleges, presented a session on program quality standards that describe the important components of a program that will lead to learner achievement as outlined in content, performance, and proficiency standards. TESOL's Standards for Adult Education ESL Programs provide a framework and tools for reviewing the quality of a program and developing an action plan for program improvement. TESOL's standards are available from ($ 31.95 for non TESOL members and $25.45 for members). The self-review instrument, completed as part of the program review, is available online. CAELA has published a brief describing the standards and suggesting ways to use them for program improvement. The brief includes links to documents that can be completed electronically — the Program Self-Review Instrument and the Summary Scores and Action Plan Chart. The brief is available at In 2007, CAELA will publish a workshop module for conducting trainings on use of the standards. Check the CAELA Web site at for announcements about its availability. For more information about using TESOL’s program standards, contact Joy Peyton,


From Individual Workshops to Systematic Professional Development Miriam Burt and Kirsten Schaetzel (CAELA) led a discussion group focused on how systematic professional development differs from “one-shot” trainings and described the research showing that systematic professional development is more beneficial The tools that CAELA uses to design professional development that meets practitioners’ needs were showcased, and participants were given a demonstration of the process that CAELA states use to design and review their professional development plans. For more information about systematic professional development, contact Kirsten Schaetzel,


Using Study Circles for Professional Development Kirsten Schaetzel led a discussion group on study circles and how to implement them. She reviewed the section of The CAELA Guide for Adult ESL Trainers (to be published in 2007) on “How to Conduct a Study Circle,” which gives information about how to form a study circle, such as determining the roles of the facilitator, program administrator, and participants; and developing a study circle agenda . Participants were then introduced to one of CAELA’s study circles, “Preparing adult English language learners for the workforce,” with its facilitator guide and participant handouts. Much of the discussion centered on the importance of having a good facilitator and strong administrative support. For more information about CAELA’s professional development tools or about study circles, contact Kirsten Schaetzel at


Using Volunteers in the Adult ESL Class In this discussion group, Sarah Young (CAELA), gave participants an opportunity to share experiences and ideas on the variety of ways in which volunteer tutors, teachers, and teaching assistants are used in adult ESL programs. Participants discussed methods for recruiting volunteers, the types of training and orientation that volunteers should receive, and positive and negative experiences that they have had with volunteers working in their adult ESL programs. Volunteers can be found among community members, retirees, university students seeking service hours, people seeking to enter the adult ESL field, and even immigrants and non-native English speakers themselves. Although most participants agreed that volunteers are a valuable resource for the field, they also noted challenges to working with them that can negate the benefits that the program could receive (e.g., lack of dependability; lack of professionalism in the classroom; or limited knowledge of other cultures, second language acquisition, and TESOL in general). The participants considered ideas on recruiting, training, and using volunteers in ways that will be advantageous for everyone involved.


Interactive Student-Generated Questioning Techniques Sarah Young also gave a demonstration session of a popular and effective speaking activity, known by its ESL class name as “The Hot Seat.” . She presented a model for students to participate and find a voice in and out of the classroom by asking and answering authentic questions, practicing appropriate communication techniques and classroom protocol, and integrating grammar and vocabulary into the mix. The research-based rationale on second language acquisition and interaction for this oral communication activity was presented, and it was demonstrated how this type of activity fits well with the characteristics of adult learners. Also presented was an analysis of the questions collected from Ms. Young’s students over a three-year period. Participants received guidelines for conducting this activity and variations on the activity for use in their own adult ESL classes, regardless of proficiency level, as well as samples of student work and ideas for assessing and evaluating students’ abilities in asking and answering authentic, meaningful, and empowering questions. For more information about using volunteers in the classroom or about interactive student-generated questioning techniques, contact Sarah Young at