The focus of this project was to develop a curriculum framework and an online professional development opportunity for teachers who work with adult immigrants to European countries and the United States who are learning a second (or additional) language and have limited education and literacy in the language of their country of origin. Research has shown that adult immigrants with limited education and literacy are often socially excluded and struggle to advance in education and work in their new countries of residence. Research also shows that teachers who work with this population need specific knowledge, skills, and attitudes in order to facilitate the success of these learners. Although there are many resources for teaching a second language to adults and organizations that provide resources and professional development (e.g., the international Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, TESOL), there are limited resources and professional development opportunities for teachers of this population.
A six-week online distance learning module, focused on Vocabulary Learning, was developed and piloted, based on the results of two international surveys and consultations with teachers, program managers, second language experts, and other stakeholders who work with or conduct research on this population of learners. Over 50 participating teachers came from Belgium, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States, and the module was offered in the five languages represented. Participating teachers developed awareness of new languages and cultures, ways to teach the different learner groups that they work with successfully, and the research base for the approaches offered. They also made professional connections across the countries involved.
The study circle was well received, and evaluations were positive. One unexpected outcome was the desire of some participants to offer the online course to colleagues in their area, and permission was granted to do this. One participant said in her evaluation,
“I had taken courses online before, but never on this scale. I could interact with people from other European countries and even other continents, which I find absolutely rewarding. This is what really characterizes distance learning: people who are many kilometres apart and are interested in a common theme and share their knowledge.”
CAL participated in the project as a United States partner, along with American Institutes for Research (AIR) and Virginia Commonwealth University. Project partners brought expertise in second language acquisition, language pedagogy, education of adult learners, professional development for teachers, and community-based approaches to working with this learner population. CAL brought extensive experience with the resettlement of large populations of low-educated immigrants, starting with Hmong refugees from Southeast Asia from the 1970s onwards. European partners included the Universities of Jyvӓskylӓ, Finland; Cologne, Germany; Amsterdam, the Netherlands; Granada, Spain; and Newcastle, United Kingdom.
The next step for this project (EU-Speak 3) will involve the design, delivery, and testing of six online learning modules and the compilation of a book on project activities and outcomes. CAL will serve on the Advisory Board for this project.
University of Amsterdam, Netherlands
University of Cologne, Germany
University of Granada, Spain
University of Jyvӓskylӓ, Finland
Newcastle University, England
American Institutes for Research, Washington DC
Center for Applied Linguistics, Washington DC
Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond VA
Funder: European Commission, United Kingdom, Project number: 539478-LLP-1-UK-GRUNDTVIG-GMP