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Practitioner Toolkit: Working With Adult English Language Learners book cover
Practitioner Toolkit: Working With Adult English Language Learners

This toolkit provides a variety of materials to help language and literacy instructors who are new to serving adults and families learning English. These materials include a first-day orientation guide, lesson plans, and research-to-practice papers on English language and literacy learning.

Promoting education and achievement of adults learning English


Online Adult Professional Development Resources for Adult ESL Educators

Regina Van Horne
Center for Adult English Language Acquisition
September 2005

There are several quality resources available for use in designing and implementing professional development in adult English as a second language (ESL). These resources include training modules, curricula, research findings, and opportunities for networking. The following list is a selection of some of the most comprehensive and useful online resources available to practitioners. As the number of English language learners increases throughout the country, these resources can serve as invaluable tools in helping states and programs build capacity for professional development. If you know of other online resources that you think should be included in this list, please contact CAELA staff at caela@cal.org.


Adult Literacy Education Wiki http://wiki.literacytent.org/index.php/Main_Page

This relatively new Web site is a collection of information about various topics related to adult literacy education, including professional development and ESL. Other topics include public policy, participatory and emancipatory education, and learner persistence. The site is a volunteer effort, and catalogues information posted by its more than 400 registered users. Some areas of the site are more developed than others, but new resources and information are added regularly.


California Adult Literacy Professional Development Project http://www.calpro-online.org/default.asp

Although some parts of this Web site are specifically designed for California adult educators, much of the information available is of broad interest. The focus of the site is adult education and literacy, but some resources are geared towards ESL instructors, such as the ESL New Teacher Guide. In addition, many seminal professional development guides that are posted on the site are available for downloading, including the following:

Adult Educators' Guide to Designing Instructor Mentoring
Authors: Renee Sherman, Janet Voight, John Tibbetts, Dionne Dobbins, Arthur Evans, and Danielle Weidler American Institutes for Research: April 2000

This guide outlines the steps that adult education programs need to take in order to plan, develop, and implement an instructor mentoring program. Topics covered include reasons for implementing mentoring, how programs can support mentoring, and steps for development and implementation of mentoring.

Evaluating Professional Development: A Framework for Adult Education
Authors: Mark Kutner, Renee Sherman, John Tibbetts, and Larry Condelli
American Institutes for Research: May 1997

This guide offers advice on how to evaluate the impact of professional development, including strategies for assessing instructors and students, and for evaluating program change. Though the guide is directed at adult basic education (ABE) programs, many of the strategies can be implemented in adult ESL programs as well.

Evaluating Professional Development Resources: Selection and Development Criteria
Authors: Renee Sherman, Mike Dlott, Heather Bamford, Jennifer McGivern, and Marisa Cohn
American Institutes for Research: August 2003

This guide presents a systematic approach to selecting professional development resources for adult educators. It ncludes a framework that programs can use to assess the feasibility and appropriateness of resources, as well as a guide for developing new professional development resources and a summary of key elements of quality professional development.

Also available in sections is the Professional Development Resource Guide for Adult Educators
Authors: Renee Sherman, Mark Kutner

This guide aims to promote professional development activities in adult education instruction. It presents different approaches to professional development, information about evaluating the impact of professional development, and a collection of resources, including sample needs assessments and professional development plans.

In addition, documents from the ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career, and Vocational Education, such as ERIC Digests, Trends and Issues Alerts, Practice Application Briefs, and Major Clearinghouse Publications and Compilations, are archived at http://www.calpro-online.org/eric/index.asp on the CALPRO Web site. These documents can also be found at http://www.eric.ed.gov/.


Center for Adult English Language Acquisition (CAELA)

The CAELA Web site provides many resources for adult ESL practitioners. These include over 85 briefs, Digests, and Q & As on topics germane to adult ESL, frequently asked questions (FAQs) about adult ESL, and resource collections on “Assessment and Evaluation in Adult ESL,” “What Beginning Teachers and Tutors of Adult English Language Learners Need to Know,” “Civics Education for Adult English Language Learners,” “Learning Disabilities and Adult ESL,” and “Second Language Acquisition.” An extensive and popular new resource is the Practitioner Toolkit: Working with Adult English Language Learners, available at http://www.cal.org/caela/tools/instructional/prac_toolkit.html. In addition, CAELA staff have developed a searchable adult ESL resource database that will make searching for evidence-based documents easier and more efficient. Other pertinent resources on the CAELA Web site include teacher resources, statistics on adult English language learners, reference materials, and links to other sites useful to those working with adult English language learners.


Equipped for the Future (EFF) Portal

This Web site, hosted by the EFF Center for Training and Technical Assistance at the Center for Literacy Studies, University of Tennessee, details the fundamentals of Equipped for the Future—an educational improvement initiative for adult basic education—and presents an ongoing eight-step process for learning and teaching. The site also contains a “Teaching/Learning Toolkit” for adult education practitioners, with sample lesson plans and teaching tools to support the lessons. Several lessons are directly related to adult ESL contexts.

Also hosted by the University of Tennessee, the Program Leadership and Improvement Special Collection (http://pli.cls.utk.edu/) is one of several Literacy Information and Communication System (LINCS) sites of the National Institute for Literacy (NIFL). This collection includes links to models for program improvement, such as the Equipped for the Future (EFF) Handbook for Program Improvement (http://pli.cls.utk.edu/pdf/EFF_Program_Improvement5.pdf) as well as links to research in the field of adult ESL, guides to using research, discussion lists, and other professional development resources.


ESL Special Collection

This Web site is part of the National Institute for Literacy’s Literacy Information and Communication System (LINCS). The collection includes sections for learners, teachers and tutors, and administrators. Adult English language learners who access this site can find links to language-practice Web sites and information about citizenship and civics, the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and General Education Development (GED) High School Equivalency Diploma Test, and how to contact other adult ESL learners. The teacher section provides links to research, techniques, and approaches to teaching adult ESL learners. The administrator section links to state standards or benchmarks, as well as to a variety of organizational tools for reporting to the National Reporting System (NRS), writing grant proposals, and searching for grant opportunities.


National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy (NCSALL)

This Web site displays many professional development resources based on the research that NCSALL has conducted as well as a link to Focus on Basics: Connecting Research and Practice. Pertinent research briefs include “How Teachers Change” at http://www.ncsall.net/fileadmin/resources/research/brief25.pdf, and “The Characteristics and Concerns of Adult Basic Education Teachers” at http://www.ncsall.net/fileadmin/resources/research/brief26.pdf. Teaching and training resources available online include several NCSALL Study Circle Guides, which explain step by step how to organize, conduct, and evaluate study circles for adult education practitioners. A Mentor Teacher Group Guide (on adult multiple intelligences) is also available. While these guides are directed more generally at adult basic education, the careful explanations and processes can serve as models for specific adult ESL contexts.


Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ovae/pi/AdultEd/aeprofdev.html

This section of the Office of Vocational and Adult Education’s Web site focuses on professional development. Although the primary focus is on adult basic education, many of the listed resources and Web sites are useful for adult ESL practitioners as well. The site features links to state-level Web sites from Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Texas that have resources of broad interest to ESL practitioners. It also includes links to NRS Online, the training site for the National Reporting System, and to Professional Development for Adult Education Instructors: State Policy Update, which provides useful background information on professional development in adult education.


Outreach and Technical Assistance Network (OTAN)
OTAN provides a gateway to electronic resources and information on all aspects of adult education, including adult ESL. While the site has been designed to support practitioners and others in California, the resources are of wide interest. Full-text documents, opportunities for online networking and training, and links to other Web-based resources are available. Users can register to be notified regularly of new materials related to their area(s) of interest. Adult ESL practitioners will be especially interested in OTAN’s site for teachers, AdultEdTeachers.org (http://www.adultedteachers.org/index.cfm). This site provides sample lesson plans and classroom activities and includes links to relevant articles and Web sites. It also features a publication from the Los Angeles Unified School District, “Tools for ESL Lesson Planning” (http://adultinstruction.org/teachers/instructional/esl_lpt2000.pdf). Both sites are free, but users are required to register.


PBS ESL/Civics Link

ESL/Civics Link is a fee-based online professional development system for adult education ESL teachers. The Web site offers facilitated and non-facilitated models, with units focusing on topics such as teaching citizenship, teaching approaches in ESL, integrating civics and English literacy, and meeting learner needs and goals. In addition, the site offers teachers opportunities to network with other teachers and a portfolio space to accumulate and store resources and save their own work.

REEP ESL Curriculum for Adults

This is the latest edition of the curriculum from the Arlington Education and Employment Program (REEP) in Arlington, Virginia. This curriculum includes information any ESL teacher—whether just beginning to teach, or a veteran classroom teacher—would find helpful about providing instruction to adult English language learners. The curriculum is composed of the following units: learner needs assessment, learner evaluation, instructional units from levels 100 (pre-literate, no English ability) through 550 (high advanced English), and includes specific sections on ESL techniques, technology integration, and family literacy. The Web site includes links for learners and teachers as well as "Best of the Web" links for the lifeskills topics used in the curriculum.


Tennessee Adult ESOL Curriculum Resource Book
This online document defines the language, English Literacy (EL)/Civics, and workplace competencies for six adult English for speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) levels recognized by the state of Tennessee. It provides descriptions of student learning plans, as well as appendices on materials and resources, samples of student portfolio sheets, and general information and guidelines for new teachers. (Other locally produced materials for adult ESOL are available on the same site at http://cls.coe.utk.edu/lpm/lpm.html#esol.)


Virginia Adult Learning Resource Center

Although this Web site is designed for adult education practitioners in Virginia, many of its resources are of broad interest. The site includes many useful resources for teachers and professional development facilitators under the Publications and Resources links. The online version of the ESOL Starter Kit (www.aelweb.vcu.edu/publications/ESLKit/ESLKit_2002.pdf) provides an overview of the information most often needed for those beginning to teach adult ESL. Sections provide information on such topics as intake, adult ESL resources, adult learning principles, second language teaching, the four language modes, and curriculum development. Links to online resources and sample lesson plans for reading, writing, listening, and speaking are included. Other useful resources are the facilitator’s guide for Practitioner Research as Staff Development (www.aelweb.vcu.edu/publications/research/), which outlines a step-by-step process for implementing professional development based on teacher inquiry, and the Health Literacy Toolkit (www.aelweb.vcu.edu/publications/healthlit/), which offers a model for addressing health literacy with adult learners. Also available is Teaching Reading to Adult English Language Learners: A Reading Instruction Staff Development Program (www.valrc.org/publications/pdf/teachingreading.pdf)

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