One of the main challenges of remote teaching is creating opportunities for students to stay connected. However, experts at the Garfield Campus have used their passion and creativity to help adult English language learners (ELLs) stay connected. A critical skill in making meaningful connections is to connect previous knowledge with new knowledge. These connections help individuals link their experiences with their world, others, and themselves. Therefore, educators should consider the relationship between academic success and the opportunities for adult ELLs to connect while learning remotely.
Why do these connections matter for adult ELLs learning remotely? First, helping ELLs connect with classmates helps them in mastering a deeper understanding of English concepts and skills, which helps develop academic persistence. Second, ELLs can cope with the challenges of language acquisition in today’s virtual world by connecting with instructors. According to Jackson (2019), student-instructor interaction is pivotal in assisting ELLs to navigate the educational systems and achieve their academic goals. Furthermore, creating opportunities for ELLs to connect with their unique identities enables them to build on prior experiences to construct knowledge and make sense of their new environments, which is essential for vulnerable students, such as refugees and asylum seekers (Kerwin and Nicholson, 2021). These are just a few positive outcomes when educators create safe spaces for adult ELLs to stay connected.
How does the Garfield Campus help adult ELLs stay connected? Monica Barrios-Zamora allows Literacy students to personalize what they learn online. For instance, when she teaches a lesson about food, she encourages students to make short videos preparing their favorite dishes. Professor Barrios-Zamora said, "Some students even dress up with chef hats and really get into the cooking spirit." Building a sense of community is paramount because limited opportunities for social connections can impact mental health and quality of life (Annear et al., 2017). Ricardo Sandoval teaches English as a second language (ESL) 1 online, and he creates culturally diverse groups in breakout rooms where ELLs have the autonomy to discuss topics they regard as meaningful. According to Pressor Sandoval, creating these stress-free opportunities is critical because ELLs connect and support each other academically and personally. Javiera Torres uses online tools and Apps where ESL 2 students can connect by sharing their pictures and special events. For example, Professor Torres is helping students use Padlet to send each other Thanksgiving Cards and stay connected during the Thanksgiving break. The study by Der Ananian et al (2021), suggests that making connections online is pivotal for adults because it helps increase motivation and reduce anxiety due to loneliness. Dulce López is an academic counselor at Garfield’s Career and Counseling Center. Dulce helps students stay connected through meaningful workshops that students find relatable, such as workshops about job searching, interview preparation, and building a resume. Students connect with other academic counselors and mental health counselors. These connections positively contribute to identity formation, increase self-esteem, and help adult ELLs explore vocational educational choices. (Karlsson et al., 2022).
Remote teaching has not stopped the commitment and ingenuity of the Garfield family in creating spaces where adult ELLs can stay connected. The above examples, and the research, suggest that ESL educators can leverage the ESL pedagogy and remote teaching intersection. The research also suggests that ESL educators should reflect on the importance of creating opportunities for adult ELLs to stay connected while learning remotely because these connections link adult ELLs with their unique identities and complex desires. And this is an essential step toward meaningful student success.
Note: Thank you to Monica Barrios-Zamora, Dulce López, Ricardo Sandoval, and Javiera Torres for sharing their creative examples. Your contributions are highly appreciated.
Annear, M. J., Elliott, K. J., Tierney, L. T., Lea, E. J., & Robinson, A. (2017). “Bringing the outside world in”: Enriching social connection through health student placements in a teaching aged care facility. Health Expectations: an International Journal of Public Participation in Health Care and Health Policy, 20(5), 1154–1162. https://doi.org/10.1111/hex.12561
Der Ananian, C., Mejía, G. M., & Doebbeling, B. (2021). Experience design studio for social connection of older adults. Innovation in Aging, 5(Supplement_1), 39–39. https://doi.org/10.1093/geroni/igab046.147
Jackson, S. (2019). Student Questions: A path to engagement and social presence in the online classroom. The Journal of Educators Online, 16(1). https://doi.org/10.9743/jeo.2019.16.1.6
Karlsson, T., Muhrman, K., & Nyström, S. (2022). A Path towards a possible future – Adult students’ choice of vocational education. Vocations and Learning, 15(1), 111–128. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12186-021-09280-6
Kerwin, D., & Nicholson, M. (2021). Charting a course to rebuild and strengthen the US Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP): Findings and recommendations from the Center for Migration Studies Refugee Resettlement survey: 2020. Journal on Migration and Human Security, 9(1), 1–30. https://doi.org/10.1177/2331502420985043
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