World Education Services (WES) is a non-profit organization that provides research about international education, and offers credential evaluation services. WES has published Steps To Success: Integrating Immigrant Professionals in the U.S., which details the results of a recent study on the experiences of immigrant professionals, and offers recommendations for fully utilizing their training and education.
WES, in collaboration with Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education (CCCIE), is currently conducting an online survey on immigrants who attained educational and/or professional credentials in their home countries. The Survey: Immigrant Access to Educational Pathways is intended to gather input in preparing resources that will help foreign-educated immigrants access educational pathways to support their career aspirations. The focus is on individuals who achieved at least a high school diploma and/or professional credentials in their home country. The survey should take no more than 10 minutes to complete and will close after December 23, 2015.
Career Pathways Moderator
Mike, I am in the process of reading the report - Steps to Success - and noted that ESOL classes do not significantly help non-English speakers advance socio-economically, see below.
I think that if classes are offered with bilingual support and if they also focus on job or profession related lessons, the problem would be solved. For example, just like a lesson on Directions, Paying a bill, etc., there could be lessons that cover almost any job or profession, such as nursing, construction, etc.
With the use of technology, all of these lessons could be gleaned from the internet, or teachers could create these lessons working with those students who are work in a specific field. Each lesson only has to be written once.
Then, at a certain point, a student could "graduate" to an English Only course, such as nursing.
Th evidence is in that a One Size Fits All approach is not working and I feel that the results can be seen by the quote below.
"ESOL Classes and Success
Respondents who did not speak English as their primary language and who had taken an English for
Speakers of Other Language (ESOL) class (free or fee-based) were slightly less likely to have achieved
earnings success, at 25% compared to 35% of those who had not taken a class.
Those who had taken an ESOL class (free or fee-based) were also slightly less likely to have
achieved skills success, at 22% compared to 32% of those who had not taken a class.
Finally, those who had taken an ESOL class were also slightly less likely to have achieved professional
success, at 17% compared to 26% of those who had not taken a class.
Again, as noted above, there were myriad factors that may have affected this finding. We would caution
against making any assumptions about the efficacy or value of English language instruction based on this
data. Future research on English language instruction and immigrant economic success is needed for
Although I agree that when it is feasible providing targeted first language support can be beneficial (such as raising cultural awareness, developing soft skills and improving digital literacy), there are many other factors that more likely to have caused the "less likely" finding in this report, the most obvious being that many participants in free ESL classes are undocumented and have fewer opportunities for career advancement because they cannot legally find employment in companies where such advancement opportunities exist.
Not having an improvement in career or economics, however, does not mean they have not improve the outcomes for themselves or their children. In my experience, my students' children have the most benefit from their parents' participation. Not only do they have better grades, they have parents who are more able to advocate for them and be involved in school decisions. I rarely see this mentioned in research on adult language learners, and in my opinion that is a missed opportunity. It is short-sighted to look only at the adult language learner's income and job outcomes.
I emphasized feasibility above because in classes where multiple languages are present, it may not be efficient to try to provide multilingual first-language support. I had a beginning level (SPL 0-1) class once with 30 students and 28 different languages. Trying to accommodate that many first languages would have taken more time and been less effective than teaching only in English.
Mike, for your current research project on immigrants with advanced degrees, when do you hope to have results out? I am very interested in hearing what comes back from the field in general, but particularly, if any of the adult learner population responds, what the learners themselves have to say.
Hi, Glenda -
Thanks for your comments on the myriad of factors that may have contributed to the "less likely" finding in this report. I especially appreciate your comments that "not having an improvement in career or economics...does not mean they have not improved the outcomes for themselves or their children". Your experience with your students' children benefiting from their participation is something that I have heard from others, and which this report - unfortunately - does not capture. This may be something to share with the survey authors as something to include in future analyses.
I am not affiliated with WES, or Global Talent Bridge, and don't have any information on the timeline for the survey results. However, I will keep an eye out for any information that they publish on these results and share them with the community, if and when they are published. You may also follow-up directly with Global Talent Bridge here, to inquire about a timeframe for these results.
Career Pathways Moderator
Glenda, I understand what you are saying and over the years I have had many discussions with people who have expressed the same point of view. In my opinion, there may be a myriad of factors, but the most important is the use of English Only in the classroom. Please keep in mind that I am talking about Beginning classes consisting of adults who know little or no English.
But I feel that there is a very simple solution to finding ways to teach “bilingually” to a Beginning multi-lingual class.
- In such a class all that is necessary – minimally – is to focus on a basic vocabulary using a PICTURE DICTIONARY, asking each student to copy the lesson in his or her notebook, and then adding – in his or her own language – the translation of the word or phrase and their own phonetic spelling of each word or phrase. In this way a master copy can be made by the teacher to hand out to future students. And it only has to be done once, so the “time” issue is not that important.
- Once everyone knows the Basic English Vocabulary of about 2000 words, the class can transition to an English Only format.
BUT the above is an example of what to do in a class …without computers. At the present time there are so many English lessons on the internet in every language just about that all you need to do is find them on YouTube by typing in the student’s first language the subject - and here you just need to show the student once.
I can guarantee that including the above in a Beginning class will increase the students’ attention and accelerate learning. For one thing, students like a bilingual class or lesson at the early stages of their English studies.
And I firmly believe that these students will in fact “achieve skill success, etc” at a faster rate.
I am also aware that there are other factors involved, including a high drop-out rate, which has been described as being a function of inadequate, One Size Fits All ESL classes (see the report by Sean Kennedy, http://lexingtoninstitute.org/california-should-fix-its-broken-adult-ell-programs/).
English Only is a One Size Fits All model which needs to be changed so that we can meet the needs of the students more adequately. Or, to put it another way, if I am wrong, do ESOL classes need improving, and what improvements need to be made?
Paul - for FAQs, please go to: http://wiki.literacytent.org/index.php/Frequently_Asked_Questions
Paul, I love your passion. You've found something that works for you, so keep doing it. I'm just asking you to keep in mind that there are many other ways that are effective. I have found that at the beginning levels, some first language support is helpful, but focusing strictly on vocabulary is not my preferred method. I prefer integrated, communicative approaches from day one. I've been teaching ESL to adults since the late 80s and my students have always had excellent progress, whether I used English-only (because I had too many different languages in the classroom) or bilingual methods (frequently here in Texas if and only if the class is all Spanish or Spanish / Portuguese speakers. I honestly believe the passion and care of the teacher has more to do with student success and persistence at the lower levels than the actual choice of method, provided the method is sound. From the New England Learner Persistence Study, we know that a sense of belonging or community is one of the main reasons students stick with it. It's a scary prospect, learning a new language, and a teacher who clearly is invested in the individual student's success is going to have better outcomes, all other things being equal.
GLENDA, I now have a better idea of what you mean, and I agree with a lot of what you said. But first let me repeat my ‘thesis’ - I believe that a bilingual and phonetic approach is a method that should be used as a Transition to EO (English Only). This type of class can be called a Pre-ESL class, or a Bridge to ESL.
I may have given the impression that all I do is teach vocabulary, but my approach is also integrative, and I am glad you mentioned the term. "The setting must provide resources and values that strongly support the teaching of the language. However, if the strands are not woven together effectively, the instructional loom is likely to produce something small, weak, ragged, and pale--not recognizable as a tapestry at all." (see the citation below).
At the very beginning, I weave pronunciation in with learning each lesson, especially with the use of PUMAROSA, which serves as an excellent introduction to computer use.
Each lesson contains a dialogue, usually, so that the students can begin to practice immediately in pairs. The idea is to introduce speaking using a basic vocabulary that people need in every day life. But at the same time translation is used to facilitate learning.
After a few weeks I introduce my Graded Readers, and also at the same time various grammar lessons that are useful, and often needed. Then we move on to Songs. All of this takes place in two or three months. In all of my ‘live’ classes my students use two 250 page workbooks, more than 20 Graded Readers, plus I give out CDs and DVDs. Now I have put a lot of text, videos and audios on another webpage, which is accessible via mobile devices. Along with lessons on Facebook, I have developed not only a method that works, but materials also.
My students in 'live' classes are usually Spanish speaking, low-income middle-aged women, who have often have had negative experiences in other classes, and making sure that every lesson is understood helps a great deal in learning English quickly.
We are very similar in approach in that you use some Home language support, but I disagree with the idea that there is no way that is “better”. Or to put it another way I believe it is important to re-evaluate how ESOL classes are taught, especially for the immigrant population, which is badly underserved. Presently less than 5% of the immigrant population that needs ESOL is being served. I believe that a bilingual method in a Pre-ESL type class can begin to solve the problem.
Please read the report I submitted by Sean Kennedy, who feels that ESOL classes are broken and need to be fixed from top to bottom.
I am in agreement with Mr. Kennedy, and I believe that English Only is part of a One Size Fits All approach which in many cases is harmful. So I am an advocate of my method because it produces good results and has a lot of benefits for the students, the class, and the program. For one thing, it is more community centered. I think my method is a good model for any teacher.
I am very cognizant of the fact that EO is the prevalent and even mandated method used throughout the country, but I have been doing this for a long time, and now seems to be a good time to try to change minds and then policies.
"Integrated Skills in the ESL/EFL Classroom. ERIC Digest.
One image for teaching English as a second or foreign language (ESL/EFL) is that of a tapestry. The tapestry is woven from many strands, such as the characteristics of the teacher, the learner, the setting, and the relevant languages (i.e., English and the native languages of the learners and the teacher). For the instructional loom to produce a large, strong, beautiful, colorful tapestry, all of these strands must be interwoven in positive ways. For example, the instructor's teaching style must address the learning style of the learner, the learner must be motivated, and the setting must provide resources and values that strongly support the teaching of the language. However, if the strands are not woven together effectively, the instructional loom is likely to produce something small, weak, ragged, and pale--not recognizable as a tapestry at all."
Hi, Paul -
Thanks for bringing up this observation from the report. I think it provides opportunity for conversation around the factors impacting why these learners "were slightly less likely to have achieved earnings success".
One important factor to mention is how the authors define success, included on page 1, as part of the Executive Summary.
The three definitions can be viewed as incremental levels of success, each one building upon the last:
Earnings success refers to immigrants who were currently employed and making at least $50,000 per year.
Skills success refers to immigrants who were employed, making at least $50,000 and making at least “some use” of their higher education in their current job.
Professional success refers to immigrants who were employed, making at least $50,000, making at least “some use” of their higher education on the job, and employed in managerial or professional occupations.
The authors also analyzed the three definitions explained above at a lower income threshold of $30,000 in annual income. Immigrants who fit these definitions were categorized as having emerging earnings, skills, or professional success.
I'm curious what you, and others, think about these definitions of success. Do they seem like a fair assessment of earnings success for learners in your community? Is $50k a reasonable threshold for your local economy? Does it seem too high, or too low, given your population of learners? Note that the studies' authors also analyzed these definitions at a $30k threshold, and defined them as having "emerging earnings, skills, or professional success". Does this lower economic threshold seem more accurate for your population, when taking into account your local economy, and professional backgrounds and career fields of your learners?
Career Pathways Moderator
Mike, Thanks for clarifying this point. So - actually low-income immigrants, especially those without legal status, do not fit in the $50,000 a year category, and could not be part of the conclusions. In other words, immigrants who make $50,000 are very likely to be here "legally" in the first place. So I think it is safe to rule out "legal status" as a factor in the results concerning attendance in ESOL classes.
Most of my students have been low-income adults ranging in age from 20 to 89! I would say 99% had minimum wage jobs. And I believe that learning English was important for many of them to qualify for a higher position with higher pay. For example, a woman who worked in a laundromat that also washed and ironed clients' clothes learned enough English to become the manager for the second shift. Other students needed English to qualify for jobs in nursing etc.
But I think the best way to look at it is to re-vamp English classes so that job-related lessons become just as important as ...shopping. For example, I write lessons which have become workbooks, and in one of them, the lesson on Parts of the Body, I include a trip to the Doctor which is useful for people who want to become nursing assistants or nurses. I include a bilingual dictionary of medical terms. A big lesson - and popular - is on food, with a lot of practice dialogues for waiters and waitresses.
Plus everyone wants to be able to speak English so I concentrate on pronunciation, diction and verb tenses. Speaking English well also helps in understanding English when it is spoken, a skill people would need in order to qualify for a better paying position in any company.
So my response is - Yes - learning English should help people improve their economic status, no matter who they are, and if it does not do so, well, maybe there needs to be a re-thinking in this direction.
Hi, Paul, and Others -
Thanks again for adding your experience and observations. Another definition here which I think is interesting to consider is the authors' use of the term "professionals" to describe the population focus. I bring this up in the context of learners' legal status. Can using the term professionals - here and elsewhere when talking about ELLs - be seen as another way of distinguishing between those who are here legally, and those who are not? In other words, does saying professionals carry a connotation of a certain legal status? If so, what term or terms are applied in research circles to refer to those working learners who are not here legally? Finally, is this an important distinction when conducting and reporting research like this?
Career Pathways Moderator
Since the definition of "success" required students to make at least 50K to be "successful", the likelihood that the general population of ESL students would be lower to be "successful" is logically greater. They would reasonably be less likely to have success, as the report shows. The definition actually supports that legal status may have been a contributing factor in the results. As you mentioned, Paul, many our students in free classes will not meet that threshold. Shoot. Half of the folks that I know in my neighborhood wouldn't meet that threshold. I'm in a rural area and people who make 50K are living high on the hog here. All statistical reports have to be read with a grain of salt. As one of my stats professor said, "Figures don't lie, but liars figure." Not that there is intentional lying going on here - we just need to realize that no causal relationship was established and no factor analysis was conducted, so we don't really know what that finding means. We can only guess.
Mike, no, I don't think we can say that "professional" can distinguish legal status. I have had many undocumented engineers, doctors, and even lawyers in my classes. Just having a degree does not make it that much easier to get a visa to enter the country legally, especially from Mexico, Central and South America. Although, an advanced degree might make it easier to enter the country on a tourist visa and just remain after it expires; but the student would still be officially 'undocumented."
As far as providing English language lessons that focus on one area over the other, I think that's a huge mistake as a rule. People who excel in this culture are able to read, write, speak and understand, and understand the systems and culture within which they are working. I have had students who could read and write almost perfectly but couldn't speak (although they could generally understand), and students who could communicate orally extremely well having learned English at work or "on the street" but who could never make it into management because of grammar, style, or the inability to read and write proficiently.
Keep in mind that adult students tend to find the class that most fits their needs and fall out out classes that don't, which could explain your particular experience, Paul. You have a niche with a group of students whose need you meet, and that's fantastic. Pumarosa has been a blessing to many of my students. But I disagree that we need to focus on just one or two areas. English language learners who want to have better opportunities have the same burden as native speakers: they have to be able to do it all and overcome prejudices about their non-native pronunciation and/or bias against their countries of origin. We as educators can help them navigate those cultural barriers and unspoken systems that tend to work against them just as we help them with the language barrier. Especially in light of WIOA, adult education ESL instructors are going to have to do a better job of doing so. English that is "good enough" is not going to be "good enough" much longer.
By the way, I know they are moving toward ELA (English Language Acquisition) and away from ESL, but I'm having a semantics issue with that. I can teach English as a subsequent language. I can't teach acquisition. That's a brain-based function over which I have no control. ;)