ESOL Lab School
 Portland State University Department of Applied Linguistics 
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Connecting Pratice, Policy, Research (CPPR)  

A major commitment of the PSU Adult ESOL Lab School, since the early planning stages, has been to provide an interchange or connection between researchers, practitioners, and policy-makers. The goal is to have high quality research inform practice and policy, to have practitioners and policy-makers involved in shaping the research agenda, so that all activities can benefit from continuous improvement through the variety of critical perspectives. Below is a sample of some of the activities of the Lab School that have benefitted from outside input during planning and development.

Survey of the Adult ESOL Field to Inform Selection of First Lab School Intervention

In summer 2002, the Lab School management team (which includes both practitioners and researchers), after reviewing NCSALL project goals and the TESOL Research Agenda for Adult ESOL, developed a list of possible interventions. Each was carefully evaluated against criteria established by the Lab School management team. Criteria included practical matters, such as the practitioners perceived ability to do the intervention and then switch and do the control, the degree to which the proposed intervention made effective use of the technical capability of the Lab School (such as, continuous audio- and video-recording, coding authentic, unscripted classes; special ability to focus on student pairwork), and research and theoretical issues (how best to design each study and how useful the various proposed projects would likely be to the field of adult ESOL).

Through this review process, the initial list of ten or more projects was narrowed down to three:

  • research on low-level adult ESOL reading instruction second language
    literacy development
  • research on the use of volunteer conversation partners as a supplement
    to professional classroom instruction for low-level adult ESOL learners
  • research on the use of computers in low-level adult ESOL instruction

Feedback of the perceived value to the field of adult ESOL of each proposed projects was sought from ten practitioners and program directors, both locally and nationally, from the following programs:

Portland Community College, Portland, Oregon
(the Lab School educational service provider)
Clackamas Community College, Clackamas, Oregon
Mt. Hood Community College, Gresham, Oregon
Minnesota Department of Children, Families and Learning, St. Paul, MN
National Center for ESL Literacy Education (NCLE/CAL), Washington, D.C.
Spring Institute for International Studies, Denver, CO
(They have a large federal grant from the Office of Refugee Resettlement)

Interestingly, although there was considered interest in learning how best to use computers in low-level adult ESOL instruction, every person interviewed selected the reading intervention as the most valuable to the field of adult ESOL. Several noted that although adult ESOL students need to develop computer literacy, many programs either lack computer access entirely or have only limited access through outdated hardware and software. Nearly all notes that whatever else is taught, all adult ESOL programs must teach English literacy and the field lacks high quality research on effective literacy instruction practices with very low-level adult ESOL learners. Accordingly, the Lab School decided upon its first intervention in the area of low-level adult ESOL literacy instruction.

Using the MAELC for Professional Development: An Adult ESOL Practitioner Study Circle, 2002

Through a grant from Portland Community College (PCC), the PSU Adult ESOL Lab School's educational service provider and partner, ten low-level adult ESOL instructors participated in a study circle on the topic of teaching ESOL Literacy in the winter and spring of 2002.

In addition, another goal of the study circle was to continue to learn best uses of the MAELC for professional development. The initial professional development workshop (ORTESOL, October, 2001) using the MAELC had shown the diversity of participants' reactions to the authentic classroom media and in some cases their difficulty in understanding how it differed from scripted, rehearsed professional development training videos. In planning this first study circle, knowledge of participants' differing ways of seeing the video was taken in to account. Before viewing the MAELC video clips, participants were first led through discussions of expectations of training videos and how they differed from both their own experiences of teaching and what they would see in the MAELC video clips. Participants were guided to carefully describe, rather than immediately judge, what they saw in the video clips, as an important step to gaining understanding of actual classroom practices.

In this first study circle, feedback was collected at the end of each of the four sessions on the participants' evaluation of the MAELC video clips used in that session. Feedback was gathered on type of clips selected, length of clips (too short? too long?), and whether there was sufficient context provided for participants to fully understand the clips. The Lab School continued to explore how best to use the MAELC in the second year's study circle. This is an ongoing evaluation activity, as the MAELC will be used in a growing variety of professional development activities over time.

Collaboration with NW LINCS Trainers to Evaluate Utility and Ease-of-Use of Lab School Web-based MAELC Video Clips

As part of the process of presenting video clips from the MAELC on our website, the Lab School developed a procedure to seek feedback from adult education professional developers on the site's technical and educational usefulness. In cooperation with Linda Eckert, NW LINCS coordinator, a beta group of six LINCS specialists evaluated the ease-of-installation of the Lab School's media software, ease-of-use of the Viewer program and quality of the video. They also provided feedback on the usefulness of the media for professional development and gave suggestions for training program uses.

The MAELC media website is still in development and the Lab School will continue to seek and use feedback from users to fine-tune and optimize the site.

website feedback