Guest Discussion: ESL as Mechanism for Advancing Health Literacy
Submitted by Julie McKinney on November 17, 2014 - 10:28am
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I'm thrilled to introduce Maricel Santos as our guest this week! Maricel is a professor in the Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) graduate program at SF State University, and is also a research scholar. Her recent publication is the culmination of a four-year project, done in collaboration with the California Diabetes Program, which explored how participation in adult ESL programs can affect immigrants' health, and also how adult ESL learners can serve as agents of change in health care. See below for a brief description and some excerpts.
In this discussion, we will hear from Maricel and other members of the project team, including partners in public health and adult ESL. We will talk about how the task force worked together to create the research design and the curriculum, how the ESL teachers incorporated the health content and skills into the existing curriculum, how they were able to address the social dimensions of health literacy, and the impact this had on the students and teachers. And most importantly, we will explore together how these findings can enhance our own program and classroom efforts.
In the meantime, who had a chance to take a look at the article? Does anyone have any impressions, questions or comments to share?
I'm looking forward to some rich discussion!
This research examined survey data from teachers and learners in the context of a 4-year collaboration between ESL teachers and the California Diabetes Program. The goals were to examine health literacy as a social practice rather than a set of functional skills, and to assess how this worked in the context of adult ESL classes. The results confirmed that teaching health literacy in this setting can effectively increase students’ functional health literacy skills and their ability to apply the knowledge to improve health behaviors. But the results go a step further and shed some light on how promoting literacy as a social practice can be a particularly effective method.
Some excerpts from the abstract:
The adult [ESL] system remains an untapped resource in the effort to address health literacy disparities among underserved immigrant populations…
The survey results...indicated that ESL teachers frequently model effective pedagogical practices that mediate social interaction around health content, the basis for acquiring new literacy skills and practices.
This study represents a first step in research efforts to account more fully for the mechanisms by which social interaction and social support facilitate health literacy outcomes in ESL contexts, which should complement what is already known about the development of health literacy as functional skill.
Maricel G. Santos teaches at San Francisco State University in the Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) graduate program. She teaches courses in second language acquisition, ESL methodology, community-based ESL, curriculum development/assessment, and immigrant literacies. From 2008-2013, she was a research scholar supported by a Research Infrastructure in Minority Institutions (RIMI) grant from the National Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities, to SF State. Her research explores adult ESL participation as a health-protective factor in transnational immigrant communities, as well as ways that adult ESL learners can serve as agents of change in health care. Read more…