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
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
- 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
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),
Spring Institute for International Studies, Denver,
(They have a large federal grant from the Office of
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
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.