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Post-TESL Course: ESL Literacy Material Design

Post-TESL Courses Begin at Bow Valley College

The following post was written by by Emily Albertsen, a faculty member at the School of Global Access

With funding support from the Alberta Government, Bow Valley College is piloting a series of Post-TESL courses. This series of 12-hour online courses provides professional development to ELL practitioners across the province, offering a chance to engage deeply with a topic and connect with a professional community.

The first of these courses was ESL Literacy Material Design. It was offered this fall to more than 40 ELL practitioners from across Alberta. The course content was delivered through a blend of webinars, slidecasts, videos, readings, and example materials, and participants completed quizzes and assignments. They also regularly posted to the discussion board to present and discuss their ideas. Reading were drawn from the recently published resource, A Practical Guide to Teaching ESL Literacy (Bow Valley College, 2018).

“I now have the knowledge and tools to effectively provide my students with literacy materials at their level.” 
(Course Participant)

The focus of ESL Literacy Material Design was creating effective materials for ESL literacy learners. Participants learned that learners need to be able to read 95% of a text in order to comprehend it and discussed many principles of effective material design, including language and textual features, cognitive load, relevant and authentic materials, scaffolding and the gradual release of support, and how to create materials that target the development of specific literacy skills and strategies.

“This course was pivotal in reshaping how I feel about my teaching and how I need to adapt my practice to ESL Adult Literacy learners. This course helped me streamline my thinking and gave me many guided paths to help organize my thoughts and teach with intention guided by best practices. I know I have a lot to learn still, but this has greatly increased my skills and thus my confidence. I am so thankful.”
(Course Participant)

ESL Literacy Material Design looked at the creation of both hands-on and text-based materials. Participants explored a wide range of examples, from a 3D map built together with learners to a vowel chant, realia, board games, and sorting and categorization activities. They also looked at fictional, non-fictional, and functional texts at five different levels of literacy development. The course concluded with an opportunity for participants to create and share their own materials. 

ESL Literacy Material Design was a very successful pilot course. What really stood out was the deep engagement of the participants, the community they built with each other in the online space, and the wonderful learning materials they created. In many cases they used these materials in their own classrooms, moving from professional development to implementation and feedback within the four weeks of the course. 

Four more Post-TESL courses will be piloted in 2018 and early 2019