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For Instructors

Cultural Understanding

There are many resources available to help adult ESL instructors and other understand about appropriate and effective ways to work with diverse learners in their classes and programs. Some resources below offer ideas, approaches, and techniques for working with multicultural and multilingual groups or specific groups such as refugees or victims of trauma. Other resources offer specific information about particular immigrant groups, (e.g., Somali Bantu).

Note: This page is still being developed. If you have questions or suggestions, please contact

Digests & Q&As

Cross-Cultural Issues in Adult ESL Literacy

Mental Health and the Adult Refugee: The Role of the ESL Teacher

Refugees as English Language Learners: Issues and Concerns

Trauma and the Adult English Language Learner

Valuing Diversity in the Multicultural Classroom


Other CAELA Resources

How do adult English language learners differ from adult basic education (ABE) learners? (FAQs)

Online Resources for Promoting Cultural Understanding in the Adult ESL Classroom (CAELA resource compilation)
Some of the resources identified in this compilation contain older links, but they may offer instructors insight to the breadth and depth of information available on the Internet.

Other Resources

Cultural Orientation Resource Center
This extensive website which was established to link overseas cultural orientation with domestic resettlement programs, offers a great deal of both background and up-to-date information about refugees and their concerns. The website includes Fact Sheets which give pertinent country and cultural background about such groups as the Sudanese, Iraqi Kurds, Somalis, Haitians, and Cubans as well as questions frequently asked by refugees. This site is maintained by the Center for Applied Linguistics.

ESL Starter Kit (produced by the Virginia Adult Learning Resource Center
See Section A, Part 1, "Cultural Considerations" (pp. A2-A7)
While the entire ESL Starter Kit is useful for new adult ESL teachers and adminstrators, this section offers specific advice on effective and culturally sensitive ways to work with learners.

A Guide for Providers: Engaging Immigrant Seniors in Community Service and Employment Programs
Written by adult ESL specialists at the Center for Applied Linguistics for Senior Service America, this downloadable guide gives information about foreign-born elders in the United States, reflects on cultural differences in the United States, and offers tips for effective cross-cultural communication in workplace contexts.