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Program Development

Links to Program Development Resources for Adult ESL


Read CAELA's links selection criteria.


Adult Literacy Education Wiki

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 600 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

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.


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 ( 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 ( 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). While the site includes sections for learners, teachers and tutors, and administrators, the adminstrators section may be most useful for program development purposes. 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, and “The Characteristics and Concerns of Adult Basic Education Teachers” at 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)

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.


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. Furthermore, because of its explanation of such topics as teacher and program assessment and learner needs assessment, the curriculum offers useful information


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.

Verizon Literacy Network/Thinkfinity

Now part of Thinkfinity, The National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL) and ProLiteracy Worldwide--supported by Verizon Communications--developed this online training center for literacy providers. The free online courses are particularly designated for potential volunteers, existing volunteers, and program directors and staff. Expected course completion time seems to be approximately one hour. While many of the courses appear geared to literacy volunteers and Adult Basic Education (ABE), several deal with adult ESL topics (e.g., culture and English language learners, working with adult English language learners, citizenship: teaching U.S. civics for the exam). Such courses include links or pop-up reference citations, evaluations, opportunity to give course feedback, and --with a "passing" score on the evaluation--the opportunity to print a certificate that names the course completed.

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 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, which outlines a step-by-step process for implementing professional development based on teacher inquiry, and the Health Literacy Toolkit (, which offers a model for addressing health literacy with adult learners. In March 2006 VALRC added Teaching Reading to Adult English Language Learners: A Reading Instruction Staff Development Program This training document was was funded with a federal English Literacy and Civics grant from the Office of Adult Education and Literacy, Virginia Department of Education. This document was prepared by the Center for Applied Linguistics for the Adult ESOL Program, Office of Adult and Community Education, Fairfax (VA) County Public Schools.


(Some of the annotations are adapted from Online Adult Professional Development Resources)

Note: CAELA is developing and piloting The CAELA Guide for Adult ESL Trainers.Read more about the guide.

This CAELA web page is still being developed. If you have questions, comments, or suggestions about professional development links for adult ESL teachers and trainers, please email