New EARN spotlights on multilingual approaches and serving learners with emerging literacy

The EARN project has just released new spotlights that may be of interest to this group:

  • Using Multilingual Approaches to Support English Language Acquisition – This spotlight explores the use of multilingual approaches for the purpose of supporting English language acquisition. A multilingual approach offers instructional strategies to supplement instruction in English and support English language acquisition. Multilingual approaches allow learners to access their full linguistic repertoire for the purposes of accelerating their English proficiency. The spotlight is not intended as policy guidance.
  • Civics in the Adult Education Classroom – IELCE activities must include instruction on the rights and responsibilities of citizenship and civic participation. This spotlight describes and provides examples of how civics content and activities can be integrated and contextualized into IELCE instruction in different ways. It also clarifies the importance of not duplicating services funding under other funding sources, such as preparation for the U.S. citizenship exam. 
  • Supporting the Economic Integration of Adult Learners with Emerging Literacy Skills - This spotlight explores instructional approaches and resources to support the economic integration of learners with emerging literacy, who may have limited or interrupted formal schooling in their native countries. 


I appreciate the spotlight on ML and TL practices and find the research on these topics compelling.  My question relates to the equity of these practices, especially in a linguistically diverse program or in a state-level policy context.  For example, providing resources in different languages is a straightforward way to increase access to information, but what is the threshold for which languages should be represented?  And what are some best practices for the organization of potentially many versions of the same document?

Additionally, how is equity ensured when offering HSE prep in one language and not the other? This is especially difficult because HSE testing includes only English and Spanish (at least for our state).  

I hope these questions don't come off as too critical, because, truly, I believe what the research is saying about these practices.  I'm just wondering how equity and ML/TL approaches look at scale. Any thoughts?

Hi Christy,

Thank you for your comments. I think you raise important questions! Here are a few thoughts. 

In a linguistically diverse program, there are instructional practices that encourage students to use whichever language is most familiar for them. For example, this could include allowing students to individually brainstorm in their first language before participating in a group event in English. For program-level practices, such as providing resources in multiple languages to increase accessibility, I think the threshold will likely differ for each program's context and may even differ over time depending on changing immigration trends and changes in the program itself. This threshold might depend on the program's access to resources and the linguistic backgrounds that are represented at the agency by staff, learners, and the community. As highlighted in the spotlight, the staff at the English Empowerment Center in VA have collaborated with multilingual volunteers to offer language support both in the classroom and for other services such as the translation of materials. I also wonder how translation-related technology could support these efforts to offer information in multiple languages in the future. Which factors do you think could influence this threshold? For state-level policy, I'm afraid that I would like answer your question with another: What can we learn from current offerings in HSE testing in languages other than English to potentially shape more equitable scaling efforts for additional languages? Your question is a good reminder for me to continue to search for additional examples and resources on equitable scaling efforts both in adult education and in other equity initiatives that might be applicable to our context.  

I appreciate your questions, and I think that they should remain in consideration for potential scaling of these multilingual practices. Thank you for raising these questions, and I look forward to continuing these types of important conversations. 


Thanks for your thoughtful response, Alexis. I agree with you about student brainstorming in L1 first  and think it's a great way to get started with TL.  Ultimately, these practices hinge on the teacher facilitating TL practices in a student-centered way.  It's more of a teacher as facilitator or guide approach in these situations, rather than a teacher as a keeper and giver of knowledge.  It's the students whose assets are coming to the surface and supporting their learning journeys. As a lover of infographics, I feel like there's got to be one somewhere that illustrates this process!

Regarding state-level policy, it's hard to work through these questions without concerns of linguicism and other kinds of discrimination; however,  I'm happy to hear about Michigan's Meaningful Language Access Coordination Act and would love to see this implemented in other states.  Providing linguistic access for MLEs to meet their basic needs will surely help them reach their long term goals. 


Again, thanks for the response!