Critical issues for women in adult ESOL (Academic Session)

This colloquium explores a range of issues facing women (both learners and practitioners) in adult ESOL contexts. Presentations focus on women in the workplace, health and literacy education, domestic violence, participatory research with women learners, and classroom-community connections.

Presenters: E. Auerbach, T. Goldstein, L. Hewitt, J. Horsman, J. Isserlis, K. Rivera

March 21, 1999This page is in process; as additional papers and handouts arrive, they will be posted.

The impact of welfare 'reform'

Klaudia Rivera, Assistant Professor, Long Island University, Brooklyn, NY

Klaudia's talk centered on policy around welfare/welfare reform and its impact on women, focusing on broad social context for issues that women learners and practitioners face.

"But I'm Not a Therapist" Literacy and Trauma

Jenny Horsman, Spiral Community Resource Group, Toronto

I will introduce the findings of an extensive research study in which I examined the impacts of violence on women's literacy and ESOL learning and explored approaches to programming in the light of these impacts. Focussing on literacy/ESOL work through the lens of the impact of experiences of violence on learning and examining educational and therapeutic discourses offers new insights which radically shift possibilities for programming for all learners.

I will talk briefly about the concepts of trauma and violence and question the way trauma is usually seen as an individual medical problem and asssumed not to be "normal". I will look at the implications for education. I will describe a series of impacts of violence that, while they may be present in the educational setting are frequently hidden or misread, and consider options for reconceptualizing the divides between education and therapy and for developing new programming strategies. I want to encourage participants to question their own thinking about issues of violence and learning and draw on their own knowledge of programs and women learners, to consider impacts of trauma and begin to think about options in the context of their work.

The Three C's: Connections, Collaborations and Community -Health issues in the ESL classroom

Lee Hewitt, Consultant HEAL:BCC project with World Education and Harvard School of Public Health, Boston

How connections between personal/individual and social/political can be addressed in classroom practice with specific examples from health issues (how health issues can be addressed in a social/political way that doesn't frame them only in a medical model - patient needing to be cured by expert).

Language choice and women working in bilingual/multilingual workplaces: Implications for teaching Workplace ESL

Tara Goldstein, Associate Professor, Ontario Institute of Studies in Education, Toronto

Reporting on a critical ethnographic study on language choice and bilingual life in a Portuguese and English-speaking manufacturing factory, this paper will discuss the question of why workers may not learn and use English at work. Such a question is important in light of the economic gains associated with the use of English in North America and the social goals underlying government funding of workplace English language training in both the U.S and Canada. Focusing on the assumptions that have been made about the use of English and access to economic opportunities, the paper will examine the use of languages other than English in terms of the economic arrangements and possibilities that govern workers' lives. In addition to linking language choice to the political economy in which immigrant women live out their lives, the paper will also examine current workplace English language curricula in light of the relationship that can be traced between people's language practices and their positions of class and gender within the political economy.

Us, not them; we, not they

Janet Isserlis

I'm hoping to lay out the connection between our lives as women who work in adult ESOL education to our lives as women, period, leading to two recommendations: The first is that in our ongoing work with teacher education we need to move beyond methodology per se and acknowledge that we're not merely talking about the learning styles or intelligences learners possess. I'm talking about building habits of mind that compel us to consider what barriers and strengths we all bring to our work (as learners, practitioners, administrators) and to utilize our knowledge of the nuts and bolts - skills and practices of reading and writing - to inform a critical approach to a learner-centered pedagogy. I'd also like to elucidate connections between community providers and adult women learners in the areas of domestic violence and other social services; what can we learn through closer collaboration with those who work with the same learners we do? We absolutely have to stop this separation of 'us' and 'them' when we talk about women's issues in adult education.

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