The vision of English Skills Learning Center (ESLC) is a community where all voices are celebrated. This vision guides our teaching philosophy and approach to curriculum development and implementation. By regarding the learner as a whole individual, relying on research-based practices, striving for social justice and equity, and utilizing a model of two-way mutual integration we build that community both within and outside our organization.
The learner as a whole individual - Students’ backgrounds, beliefs, cultures, skills, bodies, and languages all play a part in who they are and how they learn. ESLC classrooms honor the wholeness of learners by taking a strengths-based approach and by incorporating trauma-informed and culturally responsive methodologies. Students exercise agency and lead activities. There are a limited number of students in each class, so they can receive the individualized attention necessary for success, and so each learner has the opportunity to demonstrate their strengths and leverage them in taking ownership of their learning process. Classes are interactive with everyone afforded the opportunity to participate. However, non-participation is always an option. Instructors respond to the verbal and non-verbal cues students give to empower them to regulate their own learning and their own bodies. This safe environment is essential for building classroom community and for participants to find joy in the process of learning. Using age-appropriate games, songs, and movement as means of transmitting and reinforcing information and skills not only makes the classes more enjoyable, but invites the students to learn with their full selves. Another way ESLC reaches out to the whole individual is through translanguaging. ESLC classes are not “English only.” All languages are valued and respected, and learners are encouraged to use their languages as resources to learn English and to express themselves. By engaging their whole selves in the classroom, learners know their voices are heard and celebrated.
Translanguaging is the act performed by bilinguals of accessing different linguistic features or various modes of what are described as autonomous languages, in order to maximize communicative potential.
Ofelia García (2009: 140)
Researched-based practices - ESLC is committed to staying on top of the research in the field and applying the implications of that research to the benefit of the learners. We incorporate a balance of communicative activities, authentic content, and practical repetition to address all four skills areas (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) in each lesson. These aspects along with implicit, contextualized grammar, and appropriate scaffolding allow for realistic rigor and for meeting learners where they are - even in multi-level classes - and align with Personalized, Competency-Based Learning. Moreover, analysis of assessment outcomes and student-driven curricula ensure suitable and realistic Student Learning Objectives. All lessons and curricula start with these goals and operationalize them through the application of Bloom's Taxonomy to ensure classes are based on what learners need. These goals are also met through targeted corrective feedback, activities building upon each other, and incorporating metacognitive instruction. Using materials in multiple ways, covering the same content in different learning styles, and reflecting as a class after activities teach students how they learn best as individuals. These practices along with reaching out to the learner as a whole allow instructors to become warm demanders. They build trust with the learners and provide opportunities for productive struggle in order to maintain appropriately high expectations, which empowers learners to make their voices heard.
Social justice and equity - Along with student-driven classrooms and up to date andragogy, social justice and equity in adult education is a priority of ESLC as we seek to dismantle the effects of white supremacy in the classroom. Culturally responsive teaching is the cornerstone of our approach to instruction. There is no one way to teach or learn, there is no one voice more important than another, and the experiences learners bring to the classroom are equally as valuable as those of the instructor. The differences and similarities of all cultures and of all humans are celebrated and encouraged in the classroom. ESLC is firmly committed to anti-racist action. Beyond not tolerating any discriminatory behavior, we also actively seek to advocate for others and identify and overcome our own implicit biases. Additionally, trauma-informed practices ensure the rights and dignity of everyone who engages with ESLC.
Two-way mutual integration - It is the responsibility of a community to welcome newcomers by taking on their share of the work of integration. ESLC offers volunteer opportunities for the welcoming community to do so. By participating in ESLC trainings and engaging with learners in the classroom and at events, volunteers learn from the strengths of those entering the community, adjust their perspectives, and increase awareness of all community voices in their spheres of influence.
The tenets of the learner as a whole individual, research-based practices, social justice and equity, and two-way mutual integration provide the foundation for creating a community where all voices are celebrated. A foundation that allows for optimal learning, for education is a basic human right. The right to education empowers individuals and strengthens us all.