English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) - case studies of provision, learners' needs and resources
The aim of the research project was to identify and describe a range of current
ESOL practices and establish some of the distinctive features of ESOL learners
in numeracy, literacy and dedicated ESOL classes. Five case study sites were selected
to cover different types of provision, different groups of learners and different
levels of English language competence. The research was carried out between January
and September 2003 by teams at Kings College London,
The detailed accounts of classroom practices and learners' needs and resources show that ESOL learners differ in many ways from other adult basic skills learners. Many are professionals with successful careers and many are changed by past trauma and fearful of the future. These differences impact on their ability to learn, their ambitions and their sense of themselves. Despite of, or because of these differences, the picture that emerges is of creative learners who make the classroom a place where they can make meanings relevant to their lives and their futures.
- An emphasis on individualised teaching and learning may not support the needs of adult ESOL learners. Talk is work in the ESOL classroom and the most significant mode of learning for ESOL learners is through group interaction and opportunities to practice speaking and listening.
- Effective teachers of ESOL employ a series of measures to support the needs of ESOL learners in the classroom. Mainstream teachers need to learn from these approaches to better support the needs of ESOL students in their classrooms.
- There is a need for more pro-active cross-agency support for refugees and asylum seekers. ESOL teachers in most classes were juggling a number of roles and lack the institutional support and specialist knowledge to do so.
- The use of everyday, culturally-specific situations to contextualise maths problems may act as a barrier to attainment by ESOL learners in numeracy classes.
- Learners use their other languages in concrete and strategic ways to help them to learn English.
- Teachers can facilitate this in many ways with strategies to encourage the use of learners' other languages within teaching and learning English.
- The involvement of learners in the planning and reviewing of their learning through individual learning plans is only meaningful if they have both the language and the linguistic awareness to do this. For the process to be meaningful, ESOL learners' other languages and/or interpreters need to be used.
What did each case study look at?
Case study one - Asylum
This case study focuses on exploring the impact of social issues on the learning
of ESOL students at Entry level 1 studying at a
Case study two - Heterogeneity
Learners in ESOL classes have very different, diverse past educational experiences, needs, (language) skills, and perspectives on learning. While this heterogeneity is commonly viewed as something "brought along" to the ESOL classroom by learners, this case study focuses on how heterogeneity is produced within classroom practices by learners and teachers.
Case study three - ESOL and numeracy
This study investigates the pedagogies and practices in culturally and linguistically diverse ESOL and numeracy classrooms in a large multi-site college. It asks if there are differences in the ways that cultural and linguistic diversity is experienced and managed by both teachers and students in the ESOL and numeracy classrooms and if there are lessons to be learnt from one environment which can profitably inform the others.
Case study four -
This study focuses on the teaching of reading in two college ESOL classes in
Case study five - Bridge to work
This case study looks at an ESOL course for advanced learners with professional
skills and experience which brings together in one package an introduction to
the world of work in the
Case study methodology involves looking at one set of activities in a very detailed and concrete way so that new insights and ways of looking at the problem are revealed. The aim is to stimulate creative thinking and disturb general assumptions. Case studies also reveal the complexities of the practices observed and so help to explain why so often general maxims about what is effective do not work out in real life. Just as the microscope reveals teeming life in a speck of material, so the case study method provides a new lens for looking at one case. Each case study represents a 'telling case' (Mitchell 1984) out of which theory, concepts and hypotheses can be drawn, leading to further research.
References and further reading
Auerbach, E. 1992 Making meaning, making change: Participatory curriculum development for adult
Barton, D. and Pitt, K. 2002 Review of Adult ESOL Pedagogy. NRDC Condelli, L. 2002 Effective Instruction for Adult ESL Literacy Students: Findings from the 'What
works' study. American Institute for Research,
Kramsch, C. (ed) 2002 Language Acquisition and Language Socialisation: Ecological Perspectives. Continuum
Lemke, J. 1989 Using language in the classroom.
Mitchell, C. 1984 Case Studies in R. Ellen (ed) Ethnography: A Guide to General Conduct.
Street, B. 1995 Social Literacies Longman:
Contacts for further information
Department of Education & Professional Studies
Franklin Wilkins Avenue
London SE1 9NN
Leeds LS2 9JT
The full report is available here.
Paper copies are available from:
20 Bedford Way,
Telephone: 020 7612 6476