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Affiliate News: February 2010

Affiliate News (February 2009) Conference Reports & Articles: NYSTESOL Professionals Meet to Bridge the Gaps

by User Not Found | 11/11/2011

NYSTESOL Professionals Meet to Bridge the Gaps

Deborah A.

On October 18,2008, the NYS TESOL Professional Concerns Committee held its second discussion event entitled, “Bridging the Gap: A Discussion Forum for ESL Professionals” at Pace University in Manhattan.Committee chairs Rebekah Johnson and Dafna Ben-Anath led the meeting.

The afternoon began with participants attending one of three workshops: Community and Adult Literacy ESL, K-12 ESL, or Higher Education ESL.Dara Fulton and Elaine Roberts led the community/adult literacy group with the topic “An Humanistic Approach to ELL Teaching.”Stacy Fellom gave a presentation on “Writing Strategies for Students: Addressing the High-School to College Curriculum Gap” for the K-12 group, and Lisa Kraft and Agie Markiewicz conducted a workshop on “The Idiomatic and the Academic: The Dual Transition of the ELI Student” for the higher education group.After the presentations, leaders continued discussions within their groups on relevant issues and shared concerns.

participants in the discussion forum

Following the specialized workshops, all those in attendance proceeded to a large-group discussion.Leaders and participants from each group gave brief oral summaries of their sessions. The community/adult literacy group focused on prejudice in the classroom; they explored ways teachers can establish a comfortable environment within a multicultural classroom.Participants emphasized the importance of being sensitiveto all cultures and languages and helping the students feel comfortable with one another.Group members suggested learning the pronunciation of students’ names in their native language and bringing in literature with which students could identify.The K-12 group discussed various writing strategies for English language learners as well as state regulations and tests.The higher education group focused on the responsibility of educators to teach Americanculture and political correctness in the classroom and explored the issues stemming from students’ limited knowledge of academic writing and academic discussion skills.

After all of the groups had reported on their sessions, participants were asked to articulate global concerns in the field.Attendees touched upon many issues including fostering learning and study strategies, developing literacy, addressing student expectations, obtaining funding for supplies, and managing test pressure.Instructors also mentioned the challenges of diagnosing and providing support for students who might have special needs or learning disabilities at the higher education and community ESL levels.Participants voiced concerns regardingthe changing U.S. job market and the issue of adequately covering required class material within the time constraints.In addition, educators discussed the various tests students needed to take at each level and global testing issues.

Finally, Rebekah and Dafna asked the group to consider “gaps” in their knowledge about the practices and problems existing in other areas of the ESL field.As participants from all backgrounds discussed the gaps, writing emerged as the main issue.Professionals in the K-12 field spoke of teaching formulas to pass specific tests, noting that most students learn simply how to memorize these formulas and not how to analyze or write research papers. Professionals in this area said that at the K-12 level, the work tends to focus on the students and their personal experiences. A few participants from the field of higher education observed that many students had not learned crucial academic writing skills prior to entering college, and the importance of moving beyond personal description to analysis prior to the college writing level was discussed.K-12 educators agreed that academic writing should be taught earlier and that students should be taught more about journalism.In addition, the issue of technology and its effects on students and their language use was debated (e.g., the use ofshortened words when messaging which can carry over into other forms of student writing). Members in the field of higher education said that plagiarism is an issue for college students and expressed the need for students to understand academic integrity and learn citation styles, possibly even before the college level.

For the attendees, the event was a wonderful opportunity to network with other ESL professionals and to hear about issues facing the ESL community at large and at other levels.Indeed, an effort toward bridging the gap between curriculum, ideology, and practice in other ESL arenas was initiated.Now, the dialogue must continue.