A large influx of L2 English Language Learners into foundational (developmental) and college level courses at Goodwin College, a career based institution in East Hartford, Connecticut, has presented certain pedagogical challenges.
How can instructors provide support to English Language Learners in building background knowledge and improving writing so that they can complete degrees in nursing, business, environmental and health science? And what strategies work best when teaching writing to English Language Learners at a career based college?
While support is readily available through the Academic Success Center (ASC) for tutoring, the need for both intensive writing instruction and content area instruction was critical. Two concerns identified included building students’ knowledge base (especially pertaining to American culture or history) and grammar, mechanics and punctuation.
A three phase plan was developed to address the needs of English Language Learners. First, the need to set up a support system for English Language Learners began at the foundational (developmental) level with instructor meetings on how best to provide additional background information. For example, the use of “Momma’s Store” by Maya Angelou as a reader’s response exercise needed additional instruction for English Language Learners when it comes to the history of discrimination and the influence of the Klan in the South. Instructors targeted certain essays and writing assignments to use and then provided additional background information primarily through specially designed reading guides for each of the novels used as well as, video, Blackboard, and discussion. Careful review of the curriculum helped alleviate the confusion faced by many students who lack the background information to fully comprehend certain essays.
Phase Two dealt with the dilemma of building students’ writing skills and was addressed by instructor referrals to a separate study group. The instructor provides one hour of intense instruction on topics that are particularly challenging to a student mastering English. Topics of focus include verb tenses, prepositions and articles to sentence level issues.
An additional phase of the plan included opening the study group to the college community. Referrals by the nursing faculty and from other areas such as dental hygiene have moved the study groups from intense instruction based sessions to sessions tailored to meet the individual needs of the students. Topics for these sessions include writing instruction particular to that subject area and instruction in test taking and study skills.
Phase Three provides for development of grammar modules on the college website to allow for better access for all students.
Sperger, Diane Ed.D and Kania, John Ed.D., "Building a Support System for English Language Learners at a Career College" (2014). Faculty Publications. Paper 21.