AEIS Newsletter

AEIS News, Volume 3:1 (July 2005)

by User Not Found | 11/01/2011
In This Issue...
  • Leadership Updates
    • Message From the Chair
    • Letter From the Former Editor
    • Greetings From Your New Coeditors
  • Announcements
    • Revision of the U.S. Citizenship Exam
  • Articles
    • The Role of Formal and Informal Language Learning in the Adaptation Processes of Adult Mexican Immigrants
    • “I Want to Just Practice Conversation”
    • ESL Online and Adult Educators
    • Preliminary Survey Results of ESOL Teachers in Adult Basic Education and Literacy Systems
    • Review: Contemporary English Second Edition
  • About This Member Community
    • ESOL in Adult Education Interest Section (AEIS)

Leadership Updates Message From the Chair

By Trudy Lothian, AEIS Chair, 2005-06, e-mail:

Trudy Lothian
I am so pleased to follow in the path that Marilyn Gillespie paved. In her year as AEIS chair, Marilyn focussed on issues that matter most to the membership. She worked with Yilin Sun on the AEIS special project that surveyed the working conditions of adult educators in the United States. Most American adult educators are working part-time with limited security. These results reflect the Canadian reality as well. See the article by Rosie Maum and Yilin Sun in this e-news and keep an eye on the AEIS member section of the TESOL Web site for more information.

Marilyn, along with Chair-Elect Mary Ann Flores, also showed what leadership can and should be about. In San Antonio center stage quickly turned to the abrupt March 29 announcement that the responsibility for the naturalization examination was being moved from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service operations personnel to the Office of Citizenship, and that the contract with the National Academies of Science, which helps ensure fairness and realistic standards, had been terminated. This move could radically change the face of ESOL in the United States, raising the entry-level bar for citizenship and effectively excluding innumerable ESOL families from its benefits.

By the following afternoon, Marilyn and Mary Ann had a roomful of educators from most interest sections looking to advocate on behalf of their students. John Segota of TESOL Central Office was also on hand providing information and support. The group discussed the issues and quickly formed an advocacy subcommittee. Mary Ann is the lead on that committee, and the group will continue to work hard advocating on your behalf. The subcommittee has provided an update on the U.S. citizenship issue in this newsletter, and you can find TESOL's letter to the Office of Citizenship and their position paper on the TESOL Web site.

On behalf of all AEIS members, thank you Marilyn, Mary Ann, and John for your leadership. You brought people together to take action on this issue. For those of you who filled the room, thank you doesn't seem quite the right form of acknowledgment-of course you were there! Yet, seeing this unfold through Canadian eyes (and thankful this is not a current Canadian reality), I was moved by your profound compassion and concern for ESOL adults and families. The room was intense with your desire to do. For me, your response to the call revealed your ongoing and everyday commitment to ESOL. Your students have the best.

Advocacy is central to TESOL. Watch for updates on the TESOL Web site at (click on "Adult Education") and on the AEIS electronic mailing list. Sign up for the new TESOL Action E-List at

Convention Planning

In addition to citizenship, assessment, and standards, the business meeting also looked at other themes of interest to the membership such as international perspectives, family and health literacy, and research and practice. Gail Weinstein is working on a board-sponsored family literacy session, and I am working on a Health Literacy InterSection session. There are also plans with Refugee Concerns for literacy. The academic session next year will be divided into two time slots: one lasting 2 hours 45 minutes and another lasting 45 minutes. At the planning meeting, it was decided to make the 45-minute session a discussion session that relates to the longer one. We hope that in Tampa Bay next year we will have a broad range of proposals that reflect our interest section's issues in light of the theme Daring to Lead.

Changes at TESOL

Part of TESOL's restructuring process involves the creation of an IS Leadership Committee (LC), which will help run and coordinate the ISs and facilitate communication with the board. Nat Bartels is our contact on the Transitional Leadership Committee (TLC), and he is working with three other appointed TLC members to aid in the process toward greater autonomy for the ISs. In the fall, IS leaders will elect a new LC. We also plan to update our AEIS governance rules in the near future. Last, we will launch online voting for the AEIS Steering Committee. This is exciting because it means that the wider membership, the very many without the resources to attend the convention regularly, can have their voices heard. It will also mean that we can spend more time in discussion at the annual business meetings.

I am looking forward to this year as chair and thank you for the support you have already shown. We have a wonderful strength in the steering committee, and I am truly fortunate to be among educators and advocates of such high calibre.

Letter From the Former Editor

By José A. Carmona, e-mail:

Dear AEIS Members,

It is with great displeasure that I announce my resignation as editor of the AEIS newsletter. As promised, I completed my three years of service to you and this superb AEIS. However, I recently received much more work at different levels, preventing me from continuing my services as the IS newsletter editor.

In addition to becoming the president of Florida Sunshine State TESOL in April 2005, I am helping Christine Coombe and three other wonderful people to run the TESOL 2006 Conference in Tampa. As a local cochair, I have already piled up quite a lot of work, and every day the work becomes more complex. I do hope, however, that you can all come and visit with me during our Tampa conference in 2006; it will be an experience you will not forget. Remember that it will also be TESOL's 40th birthday. I hope to see you all there!

You can reach me at my new home e-mail address: Contact me if you would like to be a part of this coming event or just simply to chat.

It has been a good challenge trying to keep the newsletter alive. When I began with you, we had a print version newsletter and then we moved with the times to an electronic version. All I ask is that you send more of your wonderful articles to my successors!

Thank you for these 3 wonderful years of learning!

Best wishes,
José Carmona
Local Cochair, TESOL 2006 in Tampa
President, Sunshine State TESOL 2005-06
Immediate Past President Northeast Florida TESOL

Greetings From Your New Coeditors

By Susan Finn Miller, e-mail:, and Irina Khetsouriani, e-mail:

We are pleased to bring you the first issue of the e-news since we started our new job. We want to sincerely thank José Carmona for his dedication over the past 3 years as editor. In fact, this e-newsletter was very much a collaborative effort between José and us. You will find a farewell letter from José in this issue of the e-news, but we will certainly not be saying goodbye to José. We wish him the best of luck as president of Florida Sunshine State TESOL, and we will look for him in Tampa. Even with his pirate disguise, you won't be able to miss José at next year's conference!

We'd like to introduce ourselves to you. Susan Finn Miller has worked in the field of adult literacy for 15 years. She has taught all levels of adult ESOL to immigrant adults in the United States. Susan works as a professional development specialist in southeastern Pennsylvania. Irina Khetsouriani, a former ESOL student from Republic of Georgia, has been working in adult education programs at the Ottawa-Carleton Catholic School Board since 1997.

This year's TESOL conference in the beautiful city of San Antonio, TX, was a great experience for us. As most of you know, the Adult Education Interest Section is the largest interest section in TESOL, but many members do not have the opportunity to attend the national conference. Through this e-newsletter, members have the wonderful opportunity to network with one another. We'd like to encourage you to share news, teaching ideas, and resources and to raise important questions through this newsletter.

We believe that writing for the e-newsletter can be a good professional development activity for contributors, particularly for those who have not previously published and would like to write for other publications in the future. If you've never written an article before, we will be glad to offer assistance.

We hope many of you will consider contributing to the newsletter. If you would like to submit, please let us know. The deadline for the next e-news is September 15, 2005. If you have questions, please contact Susan Finn Miller at or Irina Khetsouriani

We want to thank each author who contributed to this issue of our e-newsletter. We are sure you will enjoy reading these informative and thought-provoking articles.

We are looking forward to a great collaboration!

Announcements Revision of the U.S. Citizenship Exam

At the TESOL 2005 Conference AEIS Business Meeting, John Segota, TESOL's advocacy and communications manager, announced some important changes in the planning for the redesign of the U.S. citizenship test. There was great surprise throughout AEIS at this announcement. As these changes were a serious concern among many members of our Interest Section, AEIS leadership organized a short follow-up meeting at the conference to provide a venue for membership to discuss the developments. The meeting was attended not only by AEIS membership but also by members of many other Interest Sections and Caucuses. At this meeting, information about the changes was shared, concerns were discussed (particularly regarding the news that the new planning process would involve less input from the field), and possible next steps for AEIS action were brainstormed. It was agreed that a small subcommittee would work with John Segota to keep AEIS membership informed about the redesign of the citizenship test and about ways our membership could participate in any advocacy efforts that emerge.

Announcements and events related to the changes in the test redesign have been slow to emerge. The citizenship subcommittee of AEIS has been in regular contact to monitor information and to coordinate a response. The group worked with John Segota to write a position statement by the TESOL organization. That statement was sent to Alfonso Aguilar, chief of the Office of Citizenship, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), U.S. Department of Homeland Security. A background paper on the citizenship exam and the redesign efforts has also been drafted to keep AEIS membership and the adult ESL field at large informed. These documents and links to other sites where you can go to learn about the citizenship redesign process and the responses of other stakeholder organizations are posted on the AEIS Web site (

At the present time, it appears that the Office of Citizenship is still deliberating over next steps. We urge members of the AEIS to stay informed as this process evolves. Please visit the AEIS Web site ( frequently for updates. Also, share information and concerns with other AEIS members via the AEIS online discussion list (if you are not already a part of the discussion list, visit to subscribe). We will try to add information and links as we locate them. If you have additional ideas or information to share, please post them on the AEIS discussion list so that we as a field can continue to stay informed.

Articles The Role of Formal and Informal Language Learning in the Adaptation Processes of Adult Mexican Immigrants

By Nikki Ashcraft,

Today approximately 7,841,000 first generation Mexican immigrants are living in the United States (U.S. Census Bureau, 2002). These immigrants are no longer confining themselves to the traditional immigrant receiving states of California, Texas, New York, Illinois, and Florida. They are spreading into all areas of the United States in a phenomenon that has been called the New Latino Diaspora (Wortham, Murillo, & Hamann, 2002).

U.S. Census data indicate that from 1990 to 2000 the Hispanic/Latino population in Georgia increased by 299 percent (Atiles & Bohon, 2002; Guzmán, 2001). Although the census covers a 10-year span, in reality, this exponential growth in the Hispanic/Latino population in Georgia occurred over the past 5 or 6 years of the decade (Atiles & Bohon, 2002) and was prompted by both the economic and sociocultural conditions in the state (Atiles & Bohon, 2002; Duchon & Murphy, 2001).

According to the 2000 Census, the number of Hispanics/Latinos in Georgia had risen to 435,227, which was 5.3 percent of this state's population. This percentage may seem small but it made Georgia the state with the 11th largest Hispanic/Latino population. Persons of Mexican origin made up 63 percent of this population (Guzmán, 2001). Since the census, the growth has continued. More recent data indicate that from 2000 to 2002, the Hispanic/Latino population grew another 17 percent, with a net gain of 102 people per day (Bixler, 2003). The Hispanic/Latino population in Georgia has been concentrated in south Georgia, metro Atlanta, Dalton, and northeast Georgia. In these areas, Hispanics/Latinos have found work in agriculture, construction, poultry farms and plants, carpet and textile factories, and service industries, such as domestic work, landscaping, and restaurants (Murphy, Blanchard, & Hill, 2001).

TESOL has called for research into the outcomes of immigrants' participation in adult education. In an action agenda, it recommended research to "determine the impact of participation in adult education programs on adult English language learners' involvement and success in U.S. society" (TESOL, 2001, p. 11). From 2002 to 2004, I conducted a life history research project with five adult Mexican immigrants living in northeast Georgia. The purpose of this study was to understand the role of formal and informal adult language learning in the adaptation processes. The research was guided by the following questions:

  • What formal and informal language-learning activities have the immigrants participated in since coming to the United States?
  • How have their learning experiences contributed to their sociocultural, economic, or political adaptation?

Research Design
This study employed the life history method, a form of qualitative research. Five participants were selected for this study through purposeful sampling (Creswell, 1998). Potential participants had to meet four criteria to be included in this study: (a) The person must be a Mexican-born immigrant living in Georgia; (b) the person should not have earned a university degree; (c) the person should have come to the United States as an adult; and (d) the person must have been living in the United States for at least 5 continuous years. In addition to using the criteria above, I attempted to form a diverse sample which included men and women as well as people of different ages and occupations, with different immigration statuses, and from various regions of Mexico.

The following chart summarizes the characteristics of the research participants at the time of the interviews:




Education Completed

Region of Mexico

Time in U.S.

Current Occupation




9 years

Nuevo Leon

5 years

Private housekeeper




High school


14 years





Middle school + technical course


8 years





High school + technical course


6 years

Factory worker




8 years


25 years


The sample included one citizen, one legal resident, and three undocumented workers.

Data Collection
A life history includes the life stories that a person tells about him- or herself as well as supporting information from observations and artifacts (Bertaux, 1981; Cole & Knowles, 2001). For this study, I collected life stories from the participants during three life-story interviews, each lasting from 60 to 90 minutes. The first interview dealt with the participants' lives in Mexico, including their childhoods, school experiences, early labor experiences, and decision to come to the United States. The second interview focused on the participants' lives in the United States. The participants were asked to describe the communities in which they had lived, the jobs they had held, and their participation in adult education or other adult learning experiences. The third interview gave the participants an opportunity to reflect over the course of their lives and to think of their futures. All of the participants opted to conduct the interviews with me in Spanish. I recorded the interviews on audiotape and later transcribed them.

In addition to the interviews, I was able to observe the adult ESL class of one participant on three occasions and the GED class of another participant on two occasions. During these observations, while the classes were in progress, I took notes on the content of the lessons and the classroom interactions. The other three participants were not involved in formal educational programs at the time of the study.

I also sought to collect copies of artifacts that provided evidence of the participants' adult language learning and their sociocultural, economic, or political integration. Two of the participants allowed me to copy documents such as their certificates of attendance in ESL classes, their naturalization certificate, and letters from employers verifying their employment history. Three of the participants showed me newspaper clippings and family photos. They explained the settings, the events, and the participants in the photos. I kept a log of these items.

Data Analysis
To prepare the interviews for analysis, I transcribed the interviews in their original language (i.e., Spanish). The transcripts were given to the participants for their review, and any corrections or revisions they requested were made. Once the transcription was finalized, formal analysis of the life stories began.

Two methods of life-story data analysis were employed. First, I used the holistic-content method (Lieblich, Tuval-Mashiach, & Zilber, 1998) to construct a life history for each participant that focused on the key family, educational, and workplace experiences in the person's life. After constructing the life history of the participant, I read the interviews yet again to develop the themes of sociocultural, economic, and political adaptation.

To answer the research questions, I analyzed my participants' stories using the categorical-content method (Lieblich et al., 1998). I extracted the data related to the participants' adult learning experiences from the interviews and sorted this data according to the kinds of learning activities the participants had engaged in. Then, I resorted the data to identify the ways the learning experiences contributed to sociocultural, economic, or political adaptation. I used the observational data and the artifacts to support my interpretation of the interview data.

The participants in this study described their efforts to learn English through participation in community-based adult ESL, workplace ESL, and GED programs; through one-on-one tutoring situations; through self-directed study with books, tapes, and videos; and through informal interactions with native speakers, particularly in the workplace. This learning contributed to the immigrants' sociocultural, economic, and political adaptation in four ways: by developing the immigrants' survival skills, by enabling them to participate in the labor force, by increasing their physical mobility, and by fostering conditions of security and stability in the immigrants' lives.

By Developing Survival Skills
Survival skills are those skills needed to function in everyday situations. It was evident from the immigrants' life histories that they often relied on family members and friends from back home to help them find housing and work in the United States. In addition, survival skills were also transmitted from immigrant to immigrant. For example, Arturo related how fellow immigrants gave him helpful hints on speaking English:

I couldn't be understood. And then some friends who had been here a longer time, right, who had experienced the same thing that I was experiencing in that moment, they said to me, "No, you have to speak it, but differently. Look, it's written one way and pronounced another."
(No me entendía. Y ya entonces algunos amigos que habían estado más tiempo aquí ¿verdad? que ya habían experimentado lo mismo que yo estaba experimentando en ese momento, ya me decían, "No, pues, tienes que hablarlo pero diferente. Mira, se escribe de una forma y se pronuncia de otra.")

Many adult ESL programs have the goal of developing survival skills. For example, Guisela described the curriculum in her workplace English class: "It was related with how to order in a restaurant, how to talk in a store, in a hospital, to go to the doctor." (Era relacionado con . . . como a pedir algo en un restaurante, como le digo en una tienda, en un hospital, ir al doctor.)

The immigrants in this study acknowledged their need to develop survival skills. Marta explained why she wanted to learn English: "When I was already here is when I began to be worried because I wasn't understood. I thought about my children, when they become sick. How was I going to tell the doctors what was wrong with my children?" (Ya estaba aquí es cuando ya me empecé a preocupar porque no me entendía. Pensaba en mis hijos, cuando se enfermaban. ¿Cómo iba a decirles a los doctores que es lo que tenían mis hijos?)

When Marta began her tutoring sessions, she was able to tackle this issue. She told her tutor:

What I also want to learn is when I go to the doctor or to make an appointment when my children are sick. When I have to call for them to give me an appointment. I mean, she [the tutor] taught me that, too.
(Lo que quiero aprender también es cuando voy al doctor, o para sacar una cita cuando mis hijos están enfermos. Que tengo que llamar para que me den una cita. O sea, esa me lo enseñó ella también.)

Arturo addressed similar content areas with his tutor:

I asked him a lot, "OK, if some day I get sick and I go to the doctor, how am I going to say, 'My head hurts,' 'That my leg hurts,' 'That my arm hurts here'?" something like that. And he would tell me how it was said. And I would tell him, "OK, now write it for me. I am going to pronounce it and you tell me if it's OK or not."
(Yo le preguntaba mucho, "Bueno, si algún día me enfermo y voy con el doctor ¿cómo le digo 'Me duele la cabeza,' 'Que me duele una pierna,' 'Que aquí me duele un brazo'?" algo así. Y él me decía como se decía. Y yo le decía "Bueno pues, ahora escríbamelo. La voy a pronunciar y tú me dices si está bien o no.")

I observed Marta's ESL class on three occasions. Two of the lessons dealt with survival skills: one with first aid vocabulary (e.g., stitching, CPR, and cut) and the other with occupational vocabulary (e.g., bricklayer, cashier, and dentist). When discussing her ESL class, Marta said the most useful lesson for her had been the lesson on giving directions.

By Enabling Participation in the Labor Force
Adult language learning was crucial to the economic adaptation of the immigrants. It played a role in the immigrant's ability to gain entry to the labor force, maintain employment, move within the company, and have a voice in the workplace.

To gain entry to the labor force. For Tobías, learning English has been the key to gaining employment outside the poultry industry. He discovered that if he completed the job applications in English, he was more likely to be called for an interview. He described his experience applying to the wood processing plant where he currently works:

I put my application. They didn't call me. . . . I put another one a week later because they didn't call me. I waited 2 weeks. They didn't call me. And the next week, I put one in English. I tried to complete it in English. And they called me.
(Puse mi aplicación. No me llamaron. . . . Puse otra a los ocho días porque no me llamaron. Esperé dos semanas. No me llamaron. Y a la siguiente semana, puse una en inglés. Traté de llenarla en inglés. Y me llamaron.)

But completing an application was not enough; Tobías also had to be able to pass an interview in English. As Tobías gained more English skills, he began to act as an interpreter for his friends during their job hunt. Several times, he took his non-English-speaking friends to apply for jobs and he was offered the job instead because he knew more English.

To maintain employment. Once a job was obtained, learning became necessary to maintain employment. The immigrants sometimes needed English to communicate with supervisors and coworkers. Arturo described his experience in one of his jobs:

I was the only Hispanic person. So, I felt obligated to learn more because they asked me something related to the job, and well, I had to know how to tell them, right? And in the beginning it was a little funny that I told them some things half in Spanish and in English. But we didn't understand each other perfectly. Halfway. . . So it was because of this that I wanted to learn more English there. . . In this case, it wasn't to obtain a better position. It was just to feel more sure of myself there at work.
(Era el único hispano. Entonces, yo me vi obligado aprender más porque me preguntaban algo relacionado al trabajo, y pues yo tenía que saber decirles ¿verdad? Y al principio era un poco divertido de que yo les decía algunas cosas a medias en español y en inglés. Pero no nos entendemos perfectamente. A medias. . . Entonces, fue por eso que quise aprender más inglés allí. . . En ese caso no era para obtener un mejor puesto. Sino simplemente para sentirme más seguro de mi mismo allí en el trabajo.)

To perform their jobs, the immigrants needed to acquire job-specific vocabulary. For example, while working in a nursery, Marta learned the names of the different flowers and the containers used to hold them. Guisela described her interaction with her coworkers in her first job in the poultry plant:

There were some people working on the same line where I worked who were Americans. Well, I hardly understood them. Little by little, they told me with signs, and they told me the word slowly. . . It permitted me to learn to say, for example, what I utilized: my knife, scissors, how to say tender, how to say box, bag.
(Había algunas personas trabajando en la misma línea donde yo trabajaba que eran americanos. Pero pues casi no les entendía. Poco a poco, me decían con señas, ya me decían la palabra despacio ya. . . Permitió que aprendiera decir, por ejemplo, lo que yo utilizaba: mi cuchillo, tijeras, como se decía tender, como se decía caja, bolsa.)

To move within the company. Two of the immigrants, Tobías and Fermín, talked about their opportunities to be promoted within their companies. Neither believed their English to be strong enough. Tobías declined the promotion he had been offered: "I have refused. Because there [you have] to talk with the mechanics, to talk with supervisors, to explain where there is a problem." (Yo le he rechazado. Porque allí hablar con los mecánicos, hablar con supervisores, explicar donde haya un problema.) Tobías does not feel he is able to meet the language demands required by this higher position.

Fermín was also content to stay in his current job. He was not interested in being promoted to work with the robots in his factory:

Because sometimes engineers come. So you have to explain to them everything that's happening to the robot, because it doesn't weld well. You don't have enough English. . . . And there's a lot of work too because you have to be with the telephone. The telephone is there. They call you. The foreman calls you. The supervisor calls you.
(Porque a veces llegan ingenieros. Entonces, tiene que usted explicarle todo lo que está pasando al robot, porque no solda bien. Uno le falta el inglés. . . .Y hay alta trabajo también porque tienes que estar con el teléfono. Está el teléfono allí. Te hablan. Te hablan del mayordomo. El supervisor te hablan.)

The immigrants needed to learn more English before they would feel confident to take advantage of the promotion opportunities available to them.

To have a voice in the workplace. Even though the immigrants managed to enter the labor force, maintain their employment, and have promotion opportunities, they sometimes felt they did not have a voice in the workplace. Fermín explained how his lack of English prohibited him from participating in employee meetings: "Sometimes you want to complain about things there, and you can't because you don't know English well. And sometimes if you don't know [English] well, the people laugh and better for you to bear it, to bear it." (A veces uno quiere reclamar cosas allí y no puede uno porque no sabe uno inglés bien. Y a veces si no sabes bien, como que se ríe la gente y ya mejor te aguantes, te aguantes.)

Tobías realized that knowing English gives immigrant workers the power to defend their rights:

Now English is the base of success for an immigrant here. If you don't speak English, you are nothing. They are going to treat you in the worst way. They are going to pay you what they want. They are going to cut hours in your check, and you will never be able to tell them, "Hey, I'm missing hours. Pay me. I worked a certain number of hours." You will not be able to explain to them. And there isn't always a person available to translate what you want to say to the supervisor. That's why it is good to learn English.
(El inglés ahora [es] la base del éxito aquí para un inmigrante. Si no hablas inglés, no eres nada. Te van a tratar de lo peor. Te van a pagar lo que quieran. Te van a quitar horas en tu cheque y nunca vas a poder decirle, "Oye, me faltan horas. Págame. Trabajé cierta cantidad de horas." No vas a poder explicarles. Y no siempre hay una persona disponible para que traduzca lo que uno quiere decirle al supervisor. Por eso es que lo bueno es aprender inglés.)

By Increasing Physical Mobility
Immigrants often live in segregated communities and work in immigrant-dominated industries. Some of the learning experienced by the immigrants has allowed them to see beyond their communities and workplaces and physically move out of them. Marta's story is the prime example. Her experience of learning how to drive has allowed her to leave the Hispanic trailer park where she lives to provide for her family's needs:

Here I learned how to drive because I didn't know how to drive, and I did it out of necessity. Because my husband didn't drive, nor did I drive, and I saw that it was necessary to learn how to drive to be able to move about. Because I had to go to wash, I didn't have a washer. I had to go to dry the clothes. I had to go for the food. There weren't stores there nearby like there are now. We had to go closer to the downtown to bring the food. To go to the doctor to my children's appointments.
(Aquí aprendí a manejar porque no sabía manejar y lo hice por necesidad. Porque mi esposo no manejaba, ni yo manejaba, y vi que era necesario enseñarme manejar para poder moverme. Porque tenía que ir a lavar, no tenía lavadora. Tenía que ir a secar la ropa. Tenía que ir a la comida. No había tiendas allí cerquitas como las que ahora hay. Teníamos que ir más al centro a traer lo de la comida. Para ir al doctor a las citas de mis hijos.)

Marta commented how the most useful lesson for her in the ESL class had been the lesson on giving directions:

When we saw about the directions . . . of how to look for an address, when they give me an address, how we do it to arrive to that place. I didn't know what a block was, one block, two blocks, block to the right. Yeah, I didn't know "right." "Left," that I did know. But what a block is, two blocks, I didn't know that. To get somewhere, how many streets you have to pass. I learned that.
(Cuando vimos lo de las direcciones . . . de como buscar una dirección, cuando me dan una dirección, que como le hacemos para llegar a tal parte. Yo no sabía lo que era un block, one block, two blocks, block a la derecha. Sí, no sabía "derecha." "Izquierda," eso sí lo sabía. Pero lo que es un block, dos blocks, eso no sabía yo. Para llegar a una parte, cuantas calles tiene uno que pasar. Eso lo aprendí.)

Marta is now quite familiar with the many shopping centers in her town. She takes her children to play in area parks. This new mobility means that Marta does not have to be shut in her trailer as she was when she first arrived.

By Fostering Conditions of Security and Stability
Some immigrants study English and citizenship as part of the naturalization process. Becoming a U.S. citizen enables an immigrant to feel more sure of his or her place in society and to sponsor family members for legal residence. For example, Fermín had worked in the United States without documents for several years. He was able to legalize his immigration status during the amnesty in the 1980s under the Special Agricultural Worker program. Fermín became a U.S. citizen in 2002. He explained that his motivation for seeking citizenship was to be able to sponsor his wife and older son for legal residency: "I do it out of necessity. Inside, I am not rejecting Mexico." (Yo lo hago por una necesidad. Yo por adentro no lo estoy rechanzando a México.) Otherwise, Fermín has not expressed any interest in following U.S. politics or participating in the electoral process.

Fermín carries copies of his citizenship certificate in both his cars. This gives him the security of knowing that he cannot be deported. His status as a citizen will also facilitate approval of his family's residency applications. Once those applications are processed, the whole family will be in the United States legally. Thus, for those immigrants who are eligible, the naturalization process leads to increased security and stability in the immigrants' lives. However, three of the participants in this study were in the United States without authorization. For those immigrants, no amount of language learning or citizenship study can help them to legalize their status at this time.

In conclusion, the participation of adult Mexican immigrants in formal and informal language-learning activities contributes to their adaptation to life in the United States. However, that contribution varies among the dimensions of adaptation. Adult language learning plays the greatest role in the immigrants' economic adaptation by enabling them to obtain employment, to keep that employment over the long term, to have access to promotion opportunities, and to have a voice in the workplace. The role of language learning in sociocultural adaptation may be limited to developing the immigrant's survival skills and to increasing his or her mobility. Language learning seems to have a negligible role in the political adaptation of immigrants, yet this may be related to the immigrants' legal status and the immigration laws that are in effect at any given point in history.


Atiles, J. H., & Bohon, S. A. (2002). The needs of Georgia's new Latinos: A policy agenda for the decade ahead (Public Policy Research Series). Athens, GA: Carl Vinson Institute of Government, University of Georgia.
Bertaux, D. (1981). Introduction. In D. Bertaux (Ed.), Biography and society: The life history approach in the social sciences (pp. 5-15). Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.
Bixler, M. (2003). Georgia tops nation in Hispanic growth. Atlanta Journal Constitution. Retrieved September 19, 2003, from
Cole, A. L., & Knowles, J. G. (2001). Lives in context: The art of life history research. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira.
Creswell, J. W. (1998). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five traditions. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Duchon, D. A., & Murphy, A. D. (2001). Introduction: From patrones and caciques to good ole boys. In A. D. Murphy, C. Blanchard, & J. A. Hill (Eds.), Latino workers in the contemporary south (pp. 1-9). Athens: The University of Georgia Press.
Guzmán, B. (2001). The Hispanic population: 2000 (Census 2000 Brief C2KBR/01-3). Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau.
Lieblich, A., Tuval-Mashiach, R., & Zilber, T. (1998). Narrative research: Reading, analysis, and interpretation. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Murphy, A. D., Blanchard, C., & Hill, J. A. (Eds.). (2001). Latino workers in the contemporary south. Athens: The University of Georgia Press.
TESOL. (2001). Adult ESL language and literacy instruction: A vision and action agenda for the 21st century. Alexandria, VA: Author.
U.S. Census Bureau. (2002). Coming from the Americas: A profile of the nation's foreign-born population from Latin America (2000 Update). (Census Brief: Current Population Survey CENBR/01-2). Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau.
Wortham, S., Murillo, E. G., Jr., & Hamann, E. T. (Eds.). (2002). Education in the new Latino diaspora: Policy and the politics of identity. Westport, CT: Ablex Publishing.

Nikki Ashcraft is an assistant professor of Applied Linguistics/TESOL at the United Arab Emirates University, Al-Ain.

“I Want to Just Practice Conversation”

By Gena Bennett, e-mail:

In your experience working with adult ESL students, how many times have they requested to "just practice conversation"? It seems that no matter in what setting I'm teaching, I hear this request often, specifically in immigrant-based community classes. In response to this often-repeated request, I began a free English conversation class on Sunday mornings through my church. I felt the objective of the class was not to teach, but rather to facilitate discussion, providing a guided opportunity for students to practice natural conversation in English as they had requested so many times. Initially, I had a difficult time getting students on a Sunday morning, but eventually I established a small base of students. At the time I started the class, I was teaching part-time at three different places; all the students who came to this conversation class were also students in one of my other classes. We met for an hour and a half each Sunday for 6 weeks.

Approximately half the students in the class loved to talk, had no inhibitions speaking, and just needed a guided avenue to practice; it was fairly easy to provide topics and facilitate discussions for these students. We discussed such topics as smoking, American holidays, and even the validity of the Bible. The book Talk Your Head Off was a useful source of inspiration to help get the conversations going.

The greatest challenge of the class was that several intermediate-level students, despite their wide vocabulary base and fairly accurate pronunciation, found it extremely difficulty to actually produce sentences. Because they could read from prepared materials well, I believe they were shy and had inhibitions about producing their own thoughts in English; these students, especially those with English for Academic Purposes backgrounds, are not rare in adult ESL classes. In fact, I had encountered students like this before, but only in a large class setting in which I could more easily facilitate activities. After working with the students for approximately 2 weeks, I designed four activities that worked well in the class. I present the four activities below with the hope that these ideas will be useful for you as well. Following the descriptions are samples.

  1. Conversation Cards: These index-sized cards list a topic—such as a favorite movie—and at least six or seven pieces of information to share—title, stars, setting, plot, release date, how many times they have watched the movie, why they like it, and so on. To provide the students with a certain comfort level, you can first use this activity as a homework assignment to allow students time to determine what to say. I modeled an example so students would have a very clear idea of what was expected. In the next class, the students shared about their prepared topic. For further practice, it is ideal to give the students at least two new topics to share impromptu. The students in my class liked this activity because the cards served as a guide for them, but they still had to form their own ideas.
  2. Storytelling: For this activity, make up a story of approximately 50 words. The story should be of interest to the learners. To carry out the activity, first ask half of the students to leave the room. Next tell the story several times to the students who are left in the room. It is best if the students are not allowed to see the story; however, your particular students may benefit from the visual reinforcement. Determine four key questions to ask to help the students remember the story. After the students are familiar with the story, they should repeat the story to themselves or a partner until they feel comfortable telling the story. When the other students come back into the classroom, those who heard the story tell the story to a returning classmate. Each storyteller will present the story and the four key questions. You may find it useful, as I did, to have a lower level student tell the story to a higher level student. Although the students sometimes felt a little pressure, they enjoyed this activity because they were actually communicating vital information, including the answers to the four key questions.
  3. Survey Homework: On the basis of the unstructured conversations in the class (often instigated by the text Talk Your Head Off), I assigned homework for the students to interview three or four people outside of class about a certain topic. Each student received a copy of a blank survey form. (See sample below.) I allowed the students to interview nonnative English speakers, although they were encouraged to interview native English speakers, as long as they shared the results of the interview in English. In the next class, students shared the information they gathered through the interviews. The students really dreaded interviewing people, but they enjoyed hearing everyone's results in class and drawing conclusions based on the shared information.
  4. Relaxation: About 10 to 15 minutes before the end of class, I turn off the lights and play soft music that the students could meditate to for about five minutes; after, we discussed what was on our minds during the meditation time. This was one of the last activities I used in the class because I believe it can only be really effective once the students are comfortable with each other and the teacher and feel a sense of community in the classroom. It was challenging for the students, but they felt a sense of accomplishment and improvement as they participated.

These four simple activities have been helpful in meeting the request of my students to "just practice conversation." In addition to the conversation class, I've also incorporated these activities into my regular classes and adapted them to fit small and large classes. I hope these activities are also useful to you to help your students "just practice conversation."

Conversation Cards
Sample Card

Tell the class about your dream vacation.
Be sure to include

  1. Where you would go
  2. Who you would go with
  3. How long you would stay
  4. What you would do
  5. What you would eat
  6. Why you want to go there

Sample Conversation Card Topics

  • Your dream vacation
  • Your favorite restaurant
  • Your favorite movie
  • A call home to your family
  • The best birthday party
  • Your favorite family tradition
  • Plans for the weekend
  • A sporting event attended
  • A typical day
  • Your dream job
  • A shopping trip
  • Your favorite TV show
  • A hobby
  • A place you've traveled


Sample Story

Kim was very excited. He had four tickets to the opening ceremony for the FIFA World Cup last week. His seats were in the first row, and he saw everything clearly. The best part of the ceremony was when he shook hands with all the players. Kim will never forget that day.

Key Questions

  1. Why was Kim excited?
  2. How many tickets did he have?
  3. Where were his seats?
  4. What was the best part of the ceremony?

Survey Homework

Topic: The Homeless

Question #1:
Why do you think people are homeless?

Question #2:
What do you think about the government giving money and assistance to the homeless?

Question #3:
What do you think is the best way to help the homeless?

Question #4:
Create your own question

Name Answer #1 Answer #2 Answer #3 Answer #4

West, B. (1996). Talk Your Head Off. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall Regents.

Gena Bennett recently completed her MA in Applied Linguistics/ESL from Georgia State University. Currently she teaches in the English Language Center at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA, but is preparing to move to Whidbey Island in Washington State this fall.

ESL Online and Adult Educators

By Rosie Maum, e-mail:

"Computers will not replace teachers, but teachers who use computers will—inevitably—replace teachers who do not."
— Hanson-Smith (2000)

If you are not sure whether you agree with this statement, just consider how today's youth are spending their free time, from playing video and computer games to socializing via chat rooms on the Internet and sending text messages by cell phone. If today's educators want to catch up with this new generation of computer-literate students, they need to figure out ways to integrate computers into their pedagogical practices. However, even teachers who are somewhat comfortable navigating the Internet may find the thought of using computers in their classrooms very intimidating. This is particularly true of adult English as a Second Language (ESL) instructors who work mainly on a part-time basis and who receive little professional development that includes computer technology.

This article presents ideas and suggestions that can assist these teachers in meeting the needs of adult English language learners by incorporating technology into their instruction. In particular, much of the information in this article comes from what was discovered during the development of Project CONNECT, a Web-based program for adult English language learners created under a grant from the U.S. Department of Education Fund for Improvement of Post Secondary Education.¹ The content in Project CONNECT focuses on work, education, and civic participation and gives teachers a way to integrate the Internet into English language and literacy education. It also gives adult English language learners a way to practice English while strengthening their computer skills. After piloting the project with students and teachers in more than 30 adult ESL programs around the United States, the programmers and content writers were able to determine what worked and what didn't, and then made the necessary modifications and revisions to improve the content and instructional value of the project's online modules. By highlighting the results of the Project CONNECT pilot, I hope to motivate teachers to use technology in their ESL classrooms and to provide some guidance for helping them get started.

Adult educators need to keep in mind four important factors as they begin to use the Internet to teach ESL:

  1. Use online materials to supplement not replace instruction
  2. Pre-assess students' computer skills.
  3. Be knowledgeable about adult and second language learning principles.
  4. Identify online material that is meaningful and relevant to adult learners.

Adult educators who want to use the Internet to teach ESL must first remember that online materials should not be used as a replacement but rather as a supplement to their instruction. One of the worst things that any teacher can do is to put a student in front of a computer and expect him or her to learn English without guidance. The learner will lose the important personal contact and individualized attention that a language teacher can give. Teachers need to spend some time navigating through the Internet, analyzing its content, and identifying the information that they think will be conducive to teaching and learning ESL. Teachers in Project CONNECT stated that they used the Web-based modules in a range of different contexts (e.g., in the classroom, for extended study, at distance-learning sites), and this helped them accomplish multiple instructional goals, including integrated language skills, critical thinking, and cooperative and interpersonal skills. The teachers found this adaptability very appealing, particularly since they came from a variety of program types, with varied content objectives and instructional settings and differing learner needs and goals.

Second, teachers need to assess their students' technology skills to determine how much time should be spent teaching basic computer and Internet skills. This is a very important step because students should not get bogged down with finding a letter on the keyboard while they are expected to be engaged in a challenging language exercise. Most of the teachers in Project CONNECT used a favorite keyboarding program or software to help their students gain some basic keyboarding skills.² This preparatory work boosted the students' confidence in using computers and gave them the practice they needed to develop the skills necessary to navigate the Internet. When teachers assessed their students' computer skills, they better understood what type of preparation would be needed the next time they introduced a class to computers and the Internet. Furthermore, it helped them transition into a new way of teaching that combined computer use with the more traditional instructional components such as print material, classroom lecturing, and face-to-face meetings.

Third, it is imperative that ESL teachers understand how adults learn and how they acquire a second language. One of the major tenets in both adult learning and second language acquisition theories states that adults learn best when instruction is meaningful to them. Knowles (1984) argued that adults are most interested in learning subjects that have immediate relevance to their jobs or personal lives. Educators who want to integrate technology into the ESL curriculum must teach in such a way that students will have the opportunity to apply what they learn outside the classroom. Project CONNECT teachers discovered that one of the most successful ways to make learning immediately relevant to their students was to use e-mail and online discussions. Using these communication tools to stimulate students' interest proved to be a very effective strategy to involve learners in language production. Students felt comfortable communicating by e-mail because they did not have to worry about constructing grammatically correct sentences. Because learners were more focused on content than structure, their affective filter was lowered. Similarly, when they engaged in online conversation through the discussion board, students stayed involved and even initiated new topics of discussion. These kinds of interactions were all relevant to individuals' lives outside the classroom, and some activities were directly related to participants' jobs.

Fourth, adult educators should know how to locate online resources for teaching and learning ESL that fit the instructional needs of their students. These resources can raise the students' comfort level with computer technology and positively affect their motivation to learn English. Teachers need to look for interactive material that allows the learner to practice all four language skills. Knowles (1984) pointed out that instruction should take into account the wide range of different backgrounds of learners. Project CONNECT teachers discovered that online material that contained authentic language and stories that were relevant to their students' lives played a major role in how they interacted with technology. For example, students were found to spend much more time using the audio and video features in Project CONNECT that contained stories about immigrants in the United States. Some of the audio and video excerpts in Project CONNECT include voices of native speakers of English as well as speakers with nonnative accents. These excerpts became positive models for the students and elevated their interest level in the online material. Ultimately, Web-based instruction that takes into consideration the principles of adult learning and second language acquisition can play a key role in helping adult English language learners improve their language skills while also raising their comfort level with using technology.

A final note: Adult educators who are ready to integrate computers into their instruction must be aware that their role as teachers will take on a new dimension and that the classroom dynamics will also change. As Hanson-Smith (2000) pointed out, "we will find that technology demands new kinds of student-teacher relations: Students must become more autonomous, active learners, and teachers must relinquish some of their power and authority—not to the computer, but to the students themselves." These changes require greater flexibility from teachers and a willingness to do things differently. The changes also call for already underfunded programs to create additional opportunities for professional development. This is not an easy task but one that is necessary if adult educators are expected to help English language learners develop the language and skills they need to integrate into U.S. society and participate effectively and successfully in the communities where they live.

Though Project CONNECT is a program designed for adult learners in the United States, the teachers who piloted the program have raised a number of important issues regarding ways to effectively integrate technology into instruction. Therefore, the recommendations highlighted in this article about using technology are undoubtedly not limited to adult ESL educators in the United States but will surely benefit instructors in other settings as well.


¹ Project CONNECT was developed by a partnership among PBS Adult Learning Service, Alexandria, VA; Jefferson County Public Schools Adult and Continuing Education, Louisville, KY; the National Center for Adult Literacy at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA; and KET: The Kentucky Network, Lexington, KY. For more information about Project CONNECT, go to
² Some of the teachers used a free online keyboarding tutorial called Mouse Skills. To access it, go

ESL Online 1

Students felt comfortable communicating by e-mail or using the discussion board because they were focused on content rather than grammar, which helped lower their affective filter.

ESL Online 2

Students were found to spend a lot of time working on online material that contained stories about immigrants in the United States.


Hanson-Smith, E. (2000). Technology in the classroom: Practice and promise in the 21st century. Retrieved May 6, 2004,
Knowles, M. (1984). The adult learner: A neglected species (3rd ed.). Houston, TX: Gulf Publishing.

Rosie Maum works as an ESL resource teacher at the JCPS Adult and Continuing Education in Louisville, KY.

Preliminary Survey Results of ESOL Teachers in Adult Basic Education and Literacy Systems

By Rosie Maum, e-mail:, and Yilin Sun, e-mail:


At the 2005 TESOL Convention in San Antonio, TX, the authors of this article and Marilyn Gillespie shared the preliminary results of a large-scale survey study on the working conditions of ESOL teachers in adult basic education and literacy systems worldwide. TESOL sponsored the study as part of the AEIS 2003–04 and 2004–05 Special Project. The project's main objective was to respond to AEIS members' growing concerns regarding inequitable workloads, less-than-desirable working conditions, and heavy reliance on part-time teachers. Previous studies in adult education have shown that such precarious employment patterns undermine the professionalism of the field because many educators juggle several jobs, receive low pay, and have little opportunity to improve instructional practices and keep abreast of current research. The purpose of this article is to give a preliminary report of these working conditions and to gain a better understanding of the issues and concerns that seem to be most pervasive in the field of adult ESOL. The study's findings will inform future directions for the AEIS membership and offer to TESOL the data needed to support their advocacy efforts on behalf of the field of adult ESOL.

The Study

Grounded in the TESOL Standards for Adult ESOL programs, the survey provided an empirical basis on which to examine the status, professionalism, and quality of ESOL instruction in the field. The purpose of the survey was threefold:

  • To examine the working conditions of ESOL teachers who work within the adult basic education and literacy system
  • To identify areas where TESOL can take action and make plans for advocacy directed toward achieving equitable working conditions for ESOL teachers in adult education
  • To use the survey's findings to make recommendations aimed at improving employment conditions and achieving equity in the workplace for adult ESOL professionals


Nine hundred and thirty-nine Adult Basic Education/English as a Second or Other Language educators completed the survey. Among them, 841 were from the United States and Canada, 39 were from other countries worldwide, and 59 did not specify where their program was located. The majority of the survey's participants were female (85%) and White/Caucasian (84.1%). The average age of most respondents (61.5%) ranged between 46 and 65.


The survey investigated eight major areas of interest to ESOL professionals in adult education: educational requirements, employment status and benefits, teaching situation, workload issues, working conditions, professional development, ESOL as a career and advocacy issues. Following is a synopsis of the major findings in each of these categories.

1. Educational Requirements
Nearly 60 percent of the respondents indicated that their programs required a bachelor's degree with a TESL or other related teaching certificate to teach ESOL. The survey's data reveal that over 80 percent of the respondents hold a master's (59.8%) or a bachelor's degree (20.6%), and more than half (54.3%) reported having completed 12 or more hours of college-level or graduate-level courses in ESOL.

2. Employment Status and Benefits
Sixty-four percent of the educators in the study revealed that they worked part-time in the adult ESOL program where they teach. Almost half (49.1%) of the programs where the respondents work have between zero and 20 teachers; 41.4 percent employ between 20 and 50 or more teachers. Thirty percent of these programs have between zero and five ESL teachers, and 25 percent have more than 30 ESL teachers. Less than a fourth of the ESOL teachers work full-time. When asked about employment benefits, almost half of the respondents (48%) stated that they received none. Of those who responded positively, 54 percent indicated that they received medical insurance or health benefits, 41 percent received paid vacation, 63 percent received sick pay, and 58 percent were covered under a pension plan.

The working conditions of respondents varied. Ninety percent stated that they had access to office machines (e.g., phone, photocopier, fax); 80 percent had a computer available for their use, and 79 percent had Internet access, but only for the teacher; 81 percent felt that they had adequate materials to use in their classroom; and 80 percent said that they worked in an adequate-size classroom with appropriate furniture. More than half of the survey participants (52%) revealed that they did not have their own desk or office space, and 61 percent did not have Internet access in the classroom.

3. Teaching Situation
The most common types of classes offered at the institutions where the respondents taught included adult ESOL (beginning/literacy, intermediate, advanced, or mixed levels), GED/adult secondary education, adult basic education, and citizenship preparation. A much smaller number of respondents (17%) indicated that their program offered family literacy classes, GED in Spanish, TOEFL preparation, and computer literacy.

Almost 70 percent of the responding teachers stated that state/province funding supported their program; 54 percent received federal/national funding, and 25.7 percent of the respondents' programs depended on local city/county funding. About a third also received funding from student tuition and from private or other sources (e.g., United Way, Wal-Mart, EL Civics grants, literacy grants, Department of Defense)

4. Workload Issues
Thirty-three percent of the survey respondents revealed that their program considered 20 to 30 contact hours a week a full-time workload. For a smaller number of programs (9.8%), these contact hours exceeded 30 hours per week. When asked whether the full-time teaching load for ESOL teachers was the same as for teachers in other disciplines, 28.5 percent stated that it was, but the vast majority of respondents (65.3%) said that the teaching load was more than in other disciplines. Respondents' comments about their teaching loads were interesting. For instance, one teacher declared: "ESOL teachers have the same credential and academic rigor if not higher like teachers from other disciplines. However, we are discriminated. In our college, full-time workload for foreign language instructors is 15 hours. Why should the ESOL instructors be treated differently with 20-plus teaching load?" Another teacher stated: "It's absurd that college administrators conclude that teaching 2 to 3 hours of Spanish or French daily is taxing on a teacher, but teaching 4 to 6 hours a day of ENGLISH as a SECOND language is a piece of cake." More than 43 percent of the respondents claimed that the wages of their full-time colleagues who work in non-ESOL programs were more than theirs.

5. Working Conditions
Most of the survey participants (70.1%) indicated that their program was affiliated with a community college or a local school district; only a small percentage (4.8%) was associated with a four-year college or university. The majority of the respondents taught classes that included adult ESOL literacy at the beginning, intermediate, advanced, or mixed level. Their primary teaching situation varied from teaching 2 to 30 students per class. A small percentage (0.4%) indicated that they taught a class of more than 50 students. Respondents who chose to comment on their working conditions stated that "Class size varies due to many seasonal workers and open enrollment all during the school year," "The enrollment of 30 to 40 drops off about 50 percent because of a variety of institutional and student variables," and "We generally register about 70 students each semester, but between 20 and 30 attend on any given day."

6. Professional Development
The survey participants identified three areas as "very important" for their professional training: ESOL teaching methods and techniques (92%), access to resources and material development (80%), and effective cross-cultural communication (74%). The areas that were considered "somewhat important" for professional development included working with students with learning disabilities (54%) and workplace ESOL (55%). Twenty percent of the respondents felt that training in classroom management and conflict resolution was "not important."

When asked how many hours of staff development release time they received each year, 28.4 percent of the teachers revealed that they had none; 27.7 percent received fewer than 10 hours a year; and 25.8 percent indicated that they had received between 10 and 20 hours of release time. Only 15 percent of the survey participants stated that they had attended between three and five TESOL conferences over the past 5 years, and 34 percent had not attended any conference sponsored by a TESOL affiliate.

7. ESOL as a Career
Thirty-five percent of the respondents declared that working in adult ESOL was "definitely" their long-term career, 29.7 percent said it was "very likely," and only 5.3 percent responded with "not at all." Many respondents added their personal comments. One teacher stated: "I love to remain in Adult ESOL!" Another noted: "My biggest concern is that not everyone considers ESOL teaching as a professional endeavor. Many people think that if you can speak English you can teach English. This line of reasoning is especially strong and pervasive in an overseas context. Nonetheless, if it's used overseas or stateside, I think it is used as a pretext to deny benefits and salary to ESOL teachers. In this regards, many programs demand high standards from their teachers, but pay no benefits."

When asked what would be the main reason for leaving the field of ESOL if they had to, 30 percent of the teachers indicated that it would be because they needed more pay or wanted full-time work. Several teachers added their comments to this question:
"When my grant ends in two more years, I'll go back to the K-8 classroom."
"Need for full-time work, benefits, higher pay, job security and desire for more status/respect."
"Getting close to burnout!"
"Burn out over the never-ending threat of loss of funding-it's more than the job security, it's the constant having to beg for money."
"I'd leave only if it became boring or I thought I wasn't doing a good job."
"I am already retired. If I leave ESL teaching it would be because I am dead or in a nursing home!"

8. Advocacy Issues
The survey participants were asked to specify what kind of advocacy efforts they would most like to see TESOL address on behalf of adult ESOL teachers. Here is what many had to say:
"Opportunities for full-time employment. Recognition of TESOL certificate holders as professionals with pay scale comparable to other certified teachers."
"Promote ESOL and all adult literacy instruction as a priority, not something that will be funded if there is money left over. Our students have such potential; many are professionals in their own country and come here to be meat cutters because they don't know the language. Advocate also for those on the other end of the extreme, who have little education even in their own first language, but are willing to work hard and learn to provide for their families."
"Equitable workload for ESL professionals; that is, the class contact hours need to be the same as that for foreign language programs or other disciplines at community college settings where more than 70 percent of the adult learners are served."
"Teacher certification programs."
"Assessment issues: Better alignment of ESOL assessment and National Reporting System level descriptors."
"1. Increased funding in general; 2. Benefits for part-time teachers."
"Show legislators and policymakers the economic and social benefits of adult education, including ESL, and the need for professionals in the field in addition to volunteers. The field seems to have become deprofessionalized because of inadequate funding."
"Respect for the profession and the importance of immigrants and their children in American life, economically, socially, etc."
"Respect. Actual pay for time worked. Security. Benefits in retirement. Office space for each teacher to meet with students without getting in colleagues' way."
"Promote more awareness of what we do and the benefits of our work to the general public and government, so that we have more success getting money to fund our programs at the federal and state level."


This survey is a major initiative supported by TESOL to investigate ESOL adult education working conditions internationally. The project should provide a vital link for TESOL to carry out its chief mission of improving the teaching of English to speakers of other languages. The empirical data collected from this project will assist TESOL in advocating for teachers and programs serving adult English language learners.

Please watch for the reopening of the survey announcement from TESOL. If you have not already done so, please complete the survey and encourage your colleagues to participate. For more information, contact Yilin Sun, e-mail: or Rosie Maum, e-mail:

Rosie Maum works as an ESL resource teacher at the JCPS Adult and Continuing Education in Louisville, KY.

Dr. Yilin Sun is a tenured faculty member at Seattle Central Community College and currently serves as vice president of WAESOL and chair-elect for the Transitional Leadership Council of TESOL. She has coordinated and conducted several research projects and events for WAESOL and TESOL. Her research interests include L1 and L2 reading processes, classroom-based action research, and program assessment and evaluation.

Review: Contemporary English Second Edition

Reviewed by G. Ann DiGiacomo, e-mail:

Contemporary English Second Edition is a four-level, interactive, topic-based ESL series for adult learners. The series covers broad topics such as home and neighborhood, family relations, and employment and opportunity. The materials in the texts address U.S. federal and state standards set by SCANS (Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills) competencies, CASAS (Comprehensive Adult Student Assessment System) competencies, California Model Standards, and the BEST (Basic English Skills Test) competencies.

Although each level of the series (from high beginning to low advanced) has a different author, every chapter in the series follows the same format: All four books in this series have 10 units, and each unit is divided into two parts. The second part of a unit builds on the first, which is one of the good features of the series as it not only provides extra practice for learners, but also affords the teacher flexibility in lesson planning.

The two parts of each unit begin with a Scene, which is a listening and speaking activity. The Scene provides the context for the vocabulary, grammar, language functions, graphic literacy, problem solving, and community involvement lessons. In Book 1, for example, Scene 1, Unit 1 shows two people talking about how they miss their family. Their lines are made up of short sentences. There are illustrations in color and conversation bubbles to help students understand the situation. In Book 4 (Scene 1, Unit 1) pictures and conversation bubbles are also used, but the dialogue is longer, and the topic of conversation is looking for the right job. The presentation of the dialogues is another good feature of the series. The illustrations depict a variety of people and settings and the activities invite and encourage discussions.

Each book's Vocabulary exercise follows the Scene. In Book 1, the pictures, which accompany the target vocabulary words, help students complete the exercise. In Books 3 and 4, students use context cues or dictionaries to complete the exercise. After the Vocabulary exercise is another Listening activity. What follows is the Spotlight section, which includes pages of grammar lessons related to the context of the unit. The Spotlight section culminates with grammar application activities, such as Your Turn, Talk About It, and In Your Experience. Whenever I use Contemporary English, I look forward to getting to the Your Turn and Talk About It speaking activities because students tend to enjoy them.

One of the strengths of Contemporary English is its graphic literacy activities. In Books 1 and 2, visual/graphic literacy activities such as T-charts, Venn diagrams, and idea maps are presented on the Organizing Your Ideas page. In Books 3 and 4, Understanding Charts (tables, maps, graphs) helps learners to grasp graphic information.

All four books in the series have an Issues and Answers section that includes two short letters, one posing a question or problem and the other giving an answer or solution. This section reads like Dear Abby. The letter-writing activities both entertain and develop critical thinking skills. Although writing is not popular with many of my students, I find that most learners like writing letters, and they are receptive to being asked to respond to the letters in the book.

Community Involvement, a section that looks at the cultural aspects of life in America, follows Issues and Answers. In Book 1, students read and talk about subjects such as tenants' association, auto insurance, and public education. In Book 4, students read and discuss topics such as recycling and conserving, alternative medicine, and bank loans, to name a few.

Wrap-Up and Think About Learning are at the end of each unit. Wrap-Up is my favorite section. In this section, students develop a dialogue or project, based on the details and guidelines stated on the page. Students can work alone, in pairs or in groups, and when they are done, they present their dialogue or project to the class. I usually ask my students to do a peer evaluation of each presentation. In Think About Learning, students find a checklist to evaluate the learning points of the unit. Teachers can use the checklist to address individual students' needs.

Contemporary English Second Edition is a series that meets the needs of an adult ESOL learner. Teachers who are interested in using this series should be pleased with the student books, workbooks, audiocassette/CDs, teacher's annotated editions, and conversation cards that come with the series.Contemporary English is a must in every adult ESOL program's library of materials.

G. Ann DiGiacomo is an ESOL adjunct instructor at Daytona Beach Community College in Florida. She can be reached at 386-255-8131.

About This Member Community ESOL in Adult Education Interest Section (AEIS)

The ESOL in Adult Education Interest Section (AEIS) serves the interest of adult students in ESL programs, their teachers, and administrators. It brings together the knowledge, precepts, and skills of two distinct but compatible areas: adult education and English as a second language.

Your 2005-06 Steering Committee

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