Teaching academic language and critical thinking

A new article has appeared in the MinneTESOL Journal that focuses on understanding adult learners and scaffolding instruction to help students acquire the skills needed to succeed in reading and writing and to help students develop the complex thinking skills required to attain post-secondary goals.  I thought it was very interesting - and relevant for ABE or ESOL students - so wanted to share with colleagues: http://minnetesoljournal.org/spring-2014/teaching-for-developmental-diversity-an-approach-to-academic-language-and-critical-thinking



Hi Kim, Thank you for sharing this article. I can't wait to read it. I recently came across this latest MinneTESOL Journal on academic language and read several of the articles, but I missed this one. I especially appreciated the article "What's in a noun" dealing with text complexity, the piece by Kate Kinsella, "Cutting to the Common Core," and the article by Susan Ranney and her colleague's on "Academic Language Demands."  Kinsella provides several lists of useful sentence starters that teachers can use to support students to use academic language in their speaking and writing. The article by Ranney et al. provides a framework for lesson planning, adapted from Jeff Zwiers, that gives teachers a structure to ensure they address essential aspects of language in their teaching, including discourse, vocabulary and syntax.

These articles, though focused on K12, are very timely since the College and Career Readiness Standards are helping us to shift our focus in adult ESL in hugely important ways.

By the way, the new MinneTESOL Journal website is really beautiful! I want to encourage all list members to check it out!


Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, Assessment CoP

Thanks for sharing the article, Kimberly.

In reading through the article,Teaching for Developmental Diversity: An Approach to Academic Language and Critical Thinking, I found the classroom activities suggestions to be very helpful. It was validating to see peer review as one of the activities since in addition to clarifying learning outcomes for the cohort, it also builds a collaborative learning environment in the classroom.

~ Priyanka Sharma
SME, Postsecondary Completion


Kim thank you for pointing out the article and the value of the developmental perspective. At an intuitive level, the diversity of the learners' skills and approaches suggests significant differences and the need to match our instructional approaches to the learners. We've seen such aptitude x treatment or trait x treatment interactions often discussed in our research literature.

Of late I've been weighing a stronger perspective about the self-regulated learner which has application regardless of the learners' developmental level (e.g., Taylor (2006); Keagen (1994)). Winne and Hadwin (1998) and Winne (2001) have provided a framework that helps us understand the learners' cognitive, motivational, and contextual factors influence on their learning processes. Linking the developmental perspective in the article that you included Kim could help provide a more nuanced understanding of the learners' needs and developing those meta-cognitive skills that one could expect to help their efficiency.

For example, in this Reading and Writing discussion group we've had several exchanges about learners' varying motivations for learning. Do they fit a developmental pattern? Maybe. Do they require thoughtful consideration in goal setting domains, pacing, criterion levels of performance. Yes. The self-regulated learning framework allows us to organize the information in lesson planning.

My main point is that when we're taking these perspectives into consideration for planning curricular and instructional choices, an integrated, coherent approach is valuable. How we do it is a topic for future discussion and maybe a little focused professional development. 

Here's the citations for important material on the self-regulated learning framework.

Jeffrey Alan Greene and Roger Azevedo. (September, 2007) A Theoretical Review of Winne and Hadwin's Model of Self-Regulated Learning: New Perspectives and Directions. Review of Educational Research77, 334-372 DOI: 10.3102/003465430303953 http://rer.sagepub.com/content/77/3/334 

Winne, P. H. (2001). Self-regulated learning viewed from models of information pro- cessing. In B. J. Zimmerman & D. H. Schunk (Eds.), Self-regulated learning and academic achievement: Theoretical perspectives (2nd ed., pp. 153–189). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Winne, P. H., & Hadwin, A. F. (1998). Studying as self-regulated learning. In D. J. Hacker, J. Dunlosky, & A. Graesser (Eds.), Metacognition in educational theory and practice (pp. 277–304). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. 

Kind regards,
Reading and Writing Discussion Group Moderator