Language and literacy learning community- an overview

Learning Communities: The Swearer Center employs over 80 student coordinators. Student coordinators accept considerable responsibility and authority for their work, and, for many, this is the first time they have connected professional responsibilities with personal authority. Consequently, the Center attempts to provide environment to support students leaders in their professional development. In addition, the Center is believes that community work is done best when it is grounded in a reflective, critical discussion of its goals, practices and outcomes. In this spirit, Learning Communities are designed to help students maximize the transformational learning that can take place through community work while learning to lead other students through a similar process.

Learning communities are different from academic seminars. They emphasize the learning and teaching responsibilities of all participants and don't privilege one member who may have more expertise or organizational responsibility. The full-time staff members, who lead Learning Communities, are facilitators of a process, not experts doling out answers. Learning communities have several goals:

  • to provide broad academic, political, economic and social context for our work;
  • to promote mutual support, collegiality, and a sense of community among members of the extended Swearer Center community;
  • to share approaches to program management (recruitment, training, evaluation, problem-solving);
  • to model reflective pedagogy in the belief that it can then be applied to all aspects of the center's programming;
  • to connect students' academic experience with community-based practice;
  • o to investigate the larger moral questions of social change and personal transformation that are manifest in service work; and
  • to critically explore the social and personal implications of our work.
  • Learning communities meet every week for ninety minutes. They use experience, readings, exercises, site visits, and discussion to meet their goals.

    Language and Literacy : overarching statement to be developed with ADLand L, to address community contexts in which adult language/literacy learning occurs, speak to strengths and deficit-based participatory learning, etc.

    Expectations : Active participation in Learning Community is a primary expectation of employment at the Swearer Center. Because the Swearer center is based on the philosophy that community work is most valuable and transformational when done in a reflective context we require that all student staff regularly participate.

    Learning Community should be a shared experience for all participants. Although this schedule provides and outline of discussions and topics, it has intentional flexibility and can be adjusted to meet the needs of the group. It is the responsibility of all members of the learning community to provide feed back to the facilitators if adjustments seem necessary.

    outline for language and literacy learning community meetings :

    Week one: introductions to programs: overview - What are we doing? introduction to people and programs.
    the workplan: Start planning; see this reource to get started

    Week two: sharing work and training plans
    Intro to community partners

    Week 3: Community partners: Tips/Sharing stories/communication
    Planning for trainings and LC

    Week 4: Literacy principles

    from Situated Literacies: Reading and Writing in Context edited by David Barton, Mary Hamilton and Roz Ivanic. London: Routledge (2000).

    from the first chapter, Literacy Practices, by Barton and Hamilton, page 8.

    Literacy is best understood as a set of social practices; these can be inferred from events which ar mediated by written texts.

    There are different literacies associated with different domains of life.

    Literacy practices are patterned by social institutions and power relationships, and some literacies are more dominant, visible and influential than others.

    Literacy practices are purposeful and embedded in broader social goals and cultural practices.

    Literacy is historically situated.

    Literacy practices change and new ones are frequently acquired through processes of informal learning and sense making.

    Week 5: The Adult Learner

    resources for adult basic education/English language and literacy

    readings :

    Beginning ESOL Learners' Advice to Their Teachers by MaryAnn Cunningham Florez

    Swearer adult education tutors' manual (hard copy; to be distributed)

    Laureen Fredella's tutors' manual (hard copy; to be distributed)

    The ERIC Clearinghouse provides a number of brief reports (digests, practice application briefs) related to basic adult education. The CAELA clearinghouse provides similar documents, focussing on adult English language learners. Please scan these titles and select at least two that would be useful to your tutors as you begin training and teaching.

    Literacy Resources/RI - please scan the teacher tutor and ESOL pages

    Principles of adult language and literacy learning - part of the cyberstep project, linking adult learning principles to sepcific examples of web sites/activities/practice.

    Adult Learning Principles from the Study Place

    Using Adult Learning Principles in Adult Basic and Literacy Education ED425336 Susan Imel 1998

    running meetings/facilitation skills

    What is a facilitator? from Zhaba facilitators collective

    Zhaba facilitators collective

    presentation skills from the Zhaba collective

    ice breakers, some silly, some feasible from the Popular Education interactive toolkit.

    Swearer programs: Language Works -- lesson plans, reflections, program reports

    Language Works, Swearer language and literacy workers' newsletter: semester one/2000.

    Language Works, Swearer language and literacy workers' newsletter: semester two/2001.

    themes and topics

    Planning for the semester
    Review goals and mission and statements/activities generated at 1/29 training
    [sheet for goal setting, attendance and assessment
    recruitment of volunteers and new coordinators

  • digests on assessment:
  • Needs Assessment for Adult ESL Learners (1997, ERIC Digest)
    Adult ESL Learner Assessment: Purposes and Tools (1995, ERIC Digest)
    Learner Assessment in Adult ESL Instruction (1992, ERIC Q & A)

    general resource materials for ESOL teaching

    Techniques for Authentic Assessment Practice Application Brief ED381688 Sandra Kerka 1995

    Principles of Language Learning and Teaching, 3rd edition H. Douglas Brown (1994); additionally, a search at ["Douglas Brown+grammar"] yields a number of online grammar activities culled from Brown's texts

    classroom resources/lesson plans

    Frontier College: A Toolbox for ESL Tutors - an instructional guide for teaching ESL to newcomers. Provides interesting assessment questions to help tutors determine what learners know about a particular theme before launching into the topic. Although some of the themes are Canadian-based, the questions and processes are easily adaptable to other contexts.

    tutor resources on LR/RI's site. Also check LR/RI's ESOL page for additional materials and resources.

    Using Inexpensive Technologies to Promote Engaged Learning in the Adult Education Classroom - links to various resources desribing approaches to integrated high and low end technologies (videos, computer, photos, etc.) into classroom work.

    Tips for ESOL/literacy teachers from Bringing Literacy to Life by Heide Wrigley and Gloria Guth.

    Student Coalition for Action in Literacy Education (SCALE)

    Giving feedback / Observing classes

    reading: Successful Supervision: Three Perspectives, Caroline Gear, Rebecca Shiffron, Steve Kurtz, in Adventures in Assessment, Volume 12, Winter, 2000.



    Trauma and the Adult English Language Learner (2000, ERIC Digest)

    Mental Health and the Adult Refugee: The Role of the ESL Teacher (1999, ERIC Digest)


    resources: LR/RI's advocacy page

    Literacy and Culture


    Language Diversity and Learning : Other People's Children Lisa Delpit
    Spelling and Social Justice Enid Lee

    Adult Education: National issues

    resources: The National Institute for Literacy - check policy update and National Literacy Advocacy (under discussions), especially

    Adult Education in Rhode Island RI Department of Education

    unpacking white privilege


    Diversity vs. White Privilege, an interview with Christine Sleeter, in Rethinking Schools, Volume 15, No. 2 - Winter 2000 / 2001

    Unpacking the invisible knapsack by Peggy McIntosh

    Peggy McIntosh, an Anglo American sociologist, says that white people carry around an "invisible knapsack" of privileges. She is referring to the way that society is organized so that white people receive privileges of which they are usually unaware. For example, white students usually do not have to be concerned that they will be the only one from their racial background in the classroom. Whites seeking rental property do not have to fear that they will be turned away because of their race. Generate a list of invisible privileges that whites have in U.S. society.

    McIntosh Privilege Questionnaire

    from The Change Agent - working across differences or other articles - on line at

    Webquests - tolerance and diversity Some of these links are dead, but many are not; useful approaches to considering explorations of tolerance and diversity

    health and literacy

    Health and Literacy Practice Application Brief, 2000.

    Health and Literacy Compendium - An annotated bibliography of print and Web-based health materials for use with limited-literacy adults

    Health and Literacy Special Collection; compilation of resources related to teaching and learning about health.

    technology resources

    online ESOL resources from the Literacy Assistance Center in New York.
  • Using email in the ABE classroom by David Henry, in Bright Ideas
  • Gallery of ESOL lesson plans
  • Instructional technology resources for educators
  • Captured wisdom - video vignettes - Home Countries
  • Computers in Action (lesson plans) and Computers and English for Speakers of Other Languages - sites for "teachers interested in integrating technology into the ESL/EFL classroom. Its goal is to promote the use of technology in the field, thereby bringing more equitable access to the knowledge, skills, and technology necessary to the people we teach."
  • Adult Literacy Tech Design Lab
  • Northeast Literacy and Technology Consotirum; for, about and utilizing web-based resources

    Goals: what have we accomplished? Where do we go from here?
    planning training for new coordinators/volunteers

    Overview of adult education

    The Change Agent, September, 1999, Looking In, Looking Out: Reflections on Adult Basic Education

    Popular Education: Adult Education for Social Change ERIC Digest No. 185, Sandra Kerka, 1997

    Adult Education: Social Change or Status Quo? ERIC Digest No. 176.

    Adult Learning: An Overview by Stephen Brookfield. [to read more of Brookfield's work, click here)

    More on adult learning

    Adult Education for Social Change: From Center Stage to the Wings and Back Again An ERIC Monograph by Tom Heaney

    Highlander Center "When Adult Education Stood for Democracy", review article by Thomas Heaney in Adult Education Quarterly

    Education: a powerful tool article providing an overview of the impact of the Highlander Center and of popular education in adult learning.

    Literacy in the community learning context by Craig McNaughton. While considering Canadian adult literacy programs, many of the reflections on community and literacy are applicable to US and other contexts.

    See also resources here

    community development

    Asset-Based Community Development Institute Web

    Community Planning Resource Guide 2002 Out, review / overview of work on assets-based community development


    Setpember 28, 2005


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