Professional development is a recurring issue among adult ESL instructors (CAELA, 2008). In the field of adult ESL instruction, many professionals have varying backgrounds in terms of certification and preparation. In fact, a majority of adult ESL instructors tend to have backgrounds in teaching K-12 learners and not adults (Smith & Gillespie, 2007). These disparities in preparation are problematic because adult ESL educators are not fully equipped with the knowledge of language learning theories and strategies that are appropriate for teaching a second language to adult learners. Although efforts are currently being made to professionalize the field of adult ESL instruction, providing professional development opportunities to this group of educators still remains a challenge (CAELA, 2008).
One solution that adult ESL educators have resorted to is the use of online tools for professional development purposes. Unlike online training or certification programs, some online tools are less expensive and at times, offered at no cost (CAELA, 2005). Also, online resources can offer opportunities for interaction, sharing, and presenting content in an asynchronous manner. This medium grants adult ESL professionals the flexibility to participate and interact with others around the world, at their own pace and on their own time. Some recommended online resources include online professional journals and newsletters, websites and online materials, online toolkits and handbooks, mini-modules or units, online list serve groups or discussions, and webspaces (CAELA, 2005). These sources are beneficial to adult ESL professionals because they provide information on effective strategies, issues, themes, content, skills, and support from others in the field.
Personally speaking, Twitter is one of the best Social Media tools for adult ESL instructors. With the ability to personalize who you follow as well as the ability to set up Follow Lists, being on Twitter is like attending several virtual conferences a day. It is truly amazing.
Another recommended site is www.esolcourses.com/ developed by Sue Lyon-Jones. This site provides free lessons and materials for teaching ESL to elementary, secondary, and post secondary learners. In addition, resources for varying levels such as beginning, intermediate, and advanced are available. Further, the site covers English for academic as well as professional purposes, which is reflected in the English for Work section. Overall, Ms. Lyon-Jones has done a great job at building a site suitable for ESL learners of all ages, levels, and needs.
In closing, we encourage adult ESL instructors in the U.S. to join the virtual world of professional development. In doing this, you will meet likeminded educators, share innovative practices, and develop global personal and professional relationships. The availability of online tools and communities take away the excuses from receiving quality professional development. It’s free, it’s accessible, and it’s adaptable to fit your professional needs. So, what are you waiting for?
CAELA. (2005, November). Online professional development for adult ESL educators.
Arlington, VA: Matthews-Aydinli, J., & Taylor, K.
CALEA. (2008, January). Adult ESL teacher credentialing and certification. Baltimore,
MD: Crandall, JoAnn, Ingersoll, Genesis, and Lopez, Jacqueline.
Smith, C., & Gillespie, M. (2007). Research on professional development and teacher change: Implications for adult basic education. Review of Adult Learning and Literacy, 7, 205-244. Retrieved May 2, 2010, from www.ncsall.net/fileadmin/resources/ann_rev/smith-gillespie-07.pdf network/