Discussion:  Who Are Adult ESOL Students?

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Participants who responded to this PD activity include:

  • Ellen Guettler, Bozeman

  • Jackie Goldhahn

  • Bobbie Kandarian & Shirley Burns (together), Flathead Valley Community College, Kalispell


Write a brief summary or overview of the reading:

-         This chapter is a general overview addressing the complexity of the multilevel classroom and the varied and unique backgrounds of students. It introduces the myriad of factors that come into play in a multi level classroom. The chapter also shares the reasons  these types of classroom groupings exit, as well as the downsides and benefits of such groupings.  Challenges like group conflict, assessment and evaluation,  preparation, teacher attitude are presented. It also addresses the advantages of flexibility, diversity, and interaction that can occur in such a grouping.

-         In order to teach in a multilevel classroom, a combination of information and strategies are needed to help students learn. Previous student educational experiences, knowledge of a studentís country and culture of origin, and individual and situational factors are important considerations in facilitating a typical multilevel classroom. Educators use the multilevel classroom for ease of administration, learner convenience, and student companionship or support. The challenges of a multilevel classroom vary and include; the presenting of methodologies and curriculum, controlling group conflict in the classroom , finding useful assessments and/ or evaluations,  managing teacher preparation, and being aware of teacher attitudes in developing a student centered classroom. There are advantages for teacher and student alike; as the teacher has flexibility in controlling the curriculum, and the student can build community from diversity and interaction with other students.

-         This chapter reminds us that a multilevel class refers not only to the varied languages abilities but the differences in cultural backgrounds, educational experiences, age and motivation of our students.

What was the most interesting part of the reading for you?

-         I enjoyed reading about the complexity of multilevel instruction because I have experienced it first hand and didn't necessarily stop to ponder all of the complex factors at work that impacted the instruction.

-         As an educator, I was able to sort out the majority of the factors listed in the chapter which affect current students and their learning attitudes. In the past, I have been frustrated with the students who have had little previous classroom experience and seemed to make little progress. As I reflected upon the attitudes and behavior of non-native students and teachers, I am confused as to how they view the differences in education in the United States. I need to become more aware of the differences of cultures which would affect my communication of content or facilitation of classroom management.

-         Sometimes we tend to concentrate on how difficult a multi level  class is for the instructor.  Bell reminds us about the advantages of a multilevel class.  The class can develop into a relaxed and friendly place.  I think we have seen this in our classes.  Also, the students share a need to converse in English.  The motivation of the individual students varies considerably.  One thing that becomes clear is we need to define our studentsí goals more clearly so that our lessons meet their goals.  We   have to keep in mind that flexibility is a key ingredient in this type of situation.

How might what you read influence your instructional practice?

-         Katya and I will use this book  as part of our monthly PD with MT. ESOL educators, so having this overview is helpful to me in seeing the big picture as I strive to support "Best Practices " within the state.  The recommendations in this book, together with the CAELA training and assessment materials will help me implement  methodologically sound practices.

-         Currently, 4 ESL students have asked me to provide them with pronunciation practice and 2 of the students also want to improve their skills for college writing. I have been relying on speech strategies to guide me in these lessons. Two of the students are advanced in speaking and writing. One student is an intermediate writer and an advanced speaker. The last student is a beginning speaker and writer. I plan to revive and modify an assessment practice I used in the past; asking students what they learned in the daily lesson in order to guide the future lessons. Some students have explained some of the teaching practices in their country and I am beginning to understand they are frustrated with some of the instruction they have received in the United States.

-         We   accept Bellís thesis that the students have to be responsible for their own learning. We tend to think that it is our failure if they donít learn, but they control their   destiny.  We also want to remember that we help our students grow more than just in English.  Sometimes we lose sight of this benefit.

What benefits may result from this influence?

-         I know the content of this book will keep me informed of "Best ESOL  Practices" and strategies I can be implementing and encouraging others to use in their instruction as well.

-         I hope to meet the needs of the students and improve my teaching strategies.

-         We think we are already benefiting from this influence because we have recently   implemented an independent work time for our students where they work individually at their own pace and level.  It has been well received.   Our classes are a combination of multi level students working as a group and multi level students working on self-access   lessons as recommended in chapter 8. We think this will help the students take charge of their learning and self-assess more.

What challenges might arise?

-         As I learn more, I realize how much I have yet to learn. I think that this will be a several year process, but I am excited to grow professionally from my mistakes.  I think the constraints of time and equitably paid staff frustrate me in my goal to run a professional, well run ESL program.

-         I may not have enough support from the speech programs or mentors and become frustrated with teaching the speech strategies.

-         Time for preparation for multi level themed activities and development of self-access materials is the greatest challenge for part time instructors.  We agree that advanced students can benefit by helping   lower level students, but our experience has shown that we must constantly monitor how the students interact.  We have observed that some students come from cultures where   interaction among students of different levels is not acceptable, and we have observed   that some cultures appear to feel superior to other cultures.  We canít set up self access centers per se as described in Chapter 8 due to the constraints of our classroom being utilized by ABE and ESL instructors, but we have started on a more self-access approach to learning.  We   carefully monitor   what materials our students use and how they use the materials. We donít   want our students frustrated because they chose to high a level or did not understand the instructions contained within the material.

What would you like to study further?

-         I am going to work though the CAELA Resource Binder  next as I plan for the tutor and staff trainings for the  fall of 2010.

-         I need access to research and training that supports speech therapy strategies for ESL students. I plan to collaborate with a tutor who is a retired speech pathologist and receive more training in pronunciation practice through an accent reduction company.

-         We want to better understand our studentsí educational experiences in their native countries.  This applies not only to how they learn, but their expectation of the teacherís role as well as interaction with other students.