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Using the Reflect approach in ESOL

Kate Newman examines the links between Reflect and the ESOL core curriculum and invites teachers to get involved.

Literacy and language skills are important but, on their own, they will not change people's lives. Refugees and asylum-seekers arriving in the UK face many barriers and prejudices in accessing services and meeting their daily needs in an unfamiliar environment.

They need to know how to obtain and use information, not just how to read it. They need to develop more than just linguistic confidence if they are to deal with the complex power dynamics inherent in their situation. They should feel as entitled as anyone else to speak out when their rights are abused, as entitled as anyone else to address problems for themselves and to propose their own solutions.

The ESOL core curriculum

The introduction of the national core curriculum for ESOL creates new opportunities to address these needs. The curriculum aims to address learners' short-term goals, their education and employment aspirations, their trauma and their personal learning difficulties. It emphasises a learner-centred approach to ESOL. Teachers and providers are expected to be aware of the range of needs, skills and aspirations that each learner has and the implications of these for the learning process.

Reflect offers a practical and proven way of achieving these aims and expectations. It can play a key role in linking the learning of ESOL to wider processes of social integration and community cohesion. A Reflect ESOL approach will enable learners to gain English language skills alongside other skills. By linking language learning to the analysis of broader issues in learners' lives, Reflect can help break down the walls of the classroom, helping learners to develop and strengthen their language skills through practical use.

Learners as participants

The Reflect approach challenges teacher- or text-driven work, placing learners as participants at the centre of the process.

Discussion and language learning are based on rich visual materials developed by the learner/participants themselves and related to their own immediate experiences. Thus the systematic learning of communication skills is linked to an individual and group process of empowerment and action. By addressing the existing power dynamics between teacher and learner/participants, Reflect can enable learner/participants to use their knowledge, skills and creativity to their full extent.

The adaptation of Reflect to ESOL in the UK is at an early stage but we are in the process of developing a pack of resource materials, which can be mapped to the ESOL curriculum, for use by ESOL teachers across the range of ESOL providers (FE colleges, refugee community organisations, etc.)

We are looking for ESOL teachers/ providers who are interested in being involved in this Reflect ESOL initiative, whether helping with the materials development process, receiving training, experimenting with the approach, or joining the network.

If you are interested please contact us: Eamon Scanlon eamons@actionaid.org and Kate Newman katen@actionaid.org

Tel: 020 7561 7561. For more details on the Reflect approach see: www.reflect-action.org

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