Culturally Inclusive Teaching of Adult English Language Learners

Culturally Inclusive Teaching of Adult English Language Learners

Christy Michele Rhodes (East Carolina University, USA) and Kathy Diane Lohr (East Carolina University, USA)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3474-7.ch007

Abstract

The growing diversity of the United States population continues to impact public education in many ways. One key area has been the increased awareness of the need to adapt learning environments to enhance the motivation of students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds. Culturally responsive teaching is one approach designed to increase motivation by replacing mainstream teaching practices with those grounded in students' experiences and ways of knowing. This multicultural approach is enacted in many adult English language classes throughout the country. It is the purpose of this chapter to highlight those practices for the larger adult education community.
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Introduction

Describing an adult English language class as diverse is almost an understatement. Throughout the years, colleagues from other programs have commented on this diversity, referring to the adult English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) class as a “mini United Nations”, as learners from China, Colombia, Ecuador, Iraq, Iran, Mexico, Panama, Syria, just to name a few, shared our crowded classroom. These same colleagues frequently asked, “How do you understand everyone? Do you speak all of their languages?”, to which I replied, “No, but I speak their cultures.” - Author, 25-year veteran adult English language teacher

The growing diversity of the U.S. population continues to impact public education in many ways. One key area has been the increased awareness of the need to adapt learning environments to enhance the achievement of students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds. Culturally responsive teaching is one approach designed to increase motivation by replacing mainstream teaching practices with those grounded in students’ experiences and ways of knowing. In contrast to traditional pedagogies, the culturally responsive teaching (CRT) framework places students’ cultures at the core of the learning process and utilizes the “cultural knowledge, prior experiences, frames of reference, and performance styles of ethnically diverse students” (Gay, 2000, p. 29). The adult English language classroom provides an illuminating example of effective culturally inclusive teaching practices. While many of these practices attend to the ethnic diversity most readily evident in this unique environment, educators also engage students’ additional identities in recognition of the intersectionality of various facets of who their students are. Studies have revealed that CRT practices are widely and frequently enacted in adult English language classes throughout the country, often without the explicit awareness of the instructors. These practices utilized to create this inclusive environment serve as a model of teaching praxis for other adult learning environments. Thus, the purpose of this chapter is to highlight those practices for the larger adult education community.

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