The Challenges Facing Adult ESL Programs

adult ed, adult education, adult ells, adult eslEnglish as a second language programs geared for adults are an unsung, yet critical component of the nation’s language learning needs. Yet they are met with certain challenges that are unique to adult learning programs.

Students come and go—or just go. Attracting new students can be a challenge. And those students who do stay have trouble meeting their goals. What can be the causes of these issues and what can be done?

Programs fail to set proper goals with/for their students

Goal setting in the adult ESL space is two-fold, hence the “with/for” in the heading. Goals should be set with the student to reflect the purposes that bring them into your program in the first place. Is it employment prospects? Familial issues? Government requirements? All of the above? The student’s input can help guide the curriculum.

Failing to provide a curriculum that reflects your learners’ abilities

That being said, sometimes you have to make decisions for the learners, namely by selecting the right curriculum. This curriculum and the materials to be used within should reflect the needs of your target learner, yet be flexible enough to meet each individual student at their particular level of proficiency. Trying to hit a “happy medium” only frustrates students on either end of the learning spectrum, leading to retention issues.

Industry-specific content

Our newest programs are geared for learners who are looking to succeed in certain industries. They not only cover the proper vocabulary and grammar conventions of normal language learning, but they also leverage specialized words and situations that the learner is likely to come across on the job. This is just one more way to help the student achieve his or her goals.

All of these issues can be solved through online, blended learning. With this approach, the learning is flexible enough to meet everyone’s needs. Your program gains a wealth of curriculum to use that better reflects the needs of your community. Your learners are able to challenge their proficiency in a scaffolded manner, while also being able to learn skills that will be immediately applicable in the outside world.

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