ProLiteracy is pleased to highlight “Narratives of Adult English Learners and Teachers: Practical Applications Reviewed by Susan Finn Miller,” by Susan Finn Miller, Lancaster Lebanon IU13 Community Education. This article is featured in Adult Literacy Education: The International Journal of Literacy, Language, and Numeracy, ProLiteracy’s free online, peer-reviewed research journal created to inform practitioners, researchers, policy makers, and funders about best practices in adult literacy, numeracy, and English language education.
An excerpt of “Narratives of Adult English Learners and Teachers: Practical Applications Reviewed by Susan Finn Miller” is highlighted below.
Both current adult English as a Second Language (ESL) practitioners and those who aspire to work in the field of adult ESL will benefit from reading Clarena Larrotta’s book. The book summarizes interviews and observations of adult learners and ESL instructors in central Texas as well as graduate students preparing to become teachers. Through case studies, Clarena Larrotta honors the voices and experiences of adult English learners and their teachers. Drawing from the narratives featured in these case studies, the author underscores effective instructional practices. She also offers words of critique to highlight some of the challenges she sees and to offer suggestions for supporting immigrants who are seeking to learn English.
Larrotta’s qualitative research is framed around the concept of “engaged scholarship” which seeks to support a meaningful, collaborative, and reciprocal relationship between the university and the community for the benefit of all those involved. This work seeks to emulate, validate, and promote Barkhuizen’s (2007, 2014) narrative approach to research and teaching practice which engages teachers and learners in reflecting upon their personal stories as a means to deepen the learning of the adult students and their instructors as well as the researcher. These stories will resonate with practitioners working in the field of adult ESL.
Larrotta appreciates the importance of second language acquisition theory and emphasizes the value of a learner-centered pedagogy based on the principles of Paolo Freire. Her approach begins with the assumption that every adult learner has prior knowledge, strengths, and talents, i.e., “funds of knowledge,” that should be drawn upon for learning. In addition, she explains that language instruction should engage learners in meaningful, authentic language experiences.
Dialogue between learner and teacher are at the heart of the matter for the purpose of discovering what is important to learners. The stories from adult learners and teachers illustrate how building on learners’ strengths supports them to achieve their personal goals.