Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


Writing and adult ESOL in the US: A synthesis of the research


English Department


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



Arts and Humanities


Writing and adult ESOL: A synthesis of the research According to the Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OAVE), nearly half (42%) of the more than 2.1 million adults in adult basic education (ABE) in the US were enrolled in ESL programs in the year 2009-2010. This indicates a substantial and growing need for teachers with expertise in ESL for non-literate, low-literate, and low-educated adult ESL learners. Unfortunately, we still know little about how this diverse group of learners acquires literacy in a second language, particularly with regard to writing, which, for a variety of reasons, has been viewed as less relevant than other modes of communication for these learners (Cumming & Gill, 1991; Gillespie, 2000) and, as a result, paid little attention in the research. This dearth of knowledge also results from the fact that SLW scholarship has, until very recently, focused most of its attention on advanced writers in post-secondary contexts (Cumming, Leki, & Silva, 2008). Finally, what has been learned about these students writing is not readily available to researchers, teacher educators, or teachers in SLW because: (1) the scholarship is published in a wide array of forums, including many outside the traditionally-looked-to research journal; (2) many of these forums (websites, conference proceedings) are not indexed by major databases; (3) the scholarly journals in which the research is published are in ABE not one of SLW s parent disciplines (Applied Linguistics, TESOL, Rhetoric & Composition); and finally (4) it is not addressed in most ESL teacher preparation programs, whose focus has been academic ELT (Faux, 2005). This presentation aims to redress this problem by synthesizing the body of scholarship on the writing of adult literacy learners. The presenters will review the research, identifying key questions and findings, and draw implications for future research and pedagogy, specifically for teacher educators. References Condelli, L., & Wrigley, H. S. (2004). Identifying promising literacy interventions for adult ESL literacy students: A review of the literature. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute for Educational Sciences. Cumming, A., & Gill, J. (1991). Learning ESL literacy among Indo-Canadian women. Language, Culture and Curriculum, 4, 181 200. Faez, F., & Valeo, A. (2012). TESOL teacher preparation: Novice teachers and their preparedness and efficacy in the classroom. TESOL Quarterly, 46(3), 450-471. Faux, N. (2005). Preparing teachers to help low-literacy adult ESOL learners. In Low-educated adult second language and literacy acquisition: Proceedings of the inaugural symposium (pp. 135-142). Utrecht, Netherlands: LOT. Gillespie, M. K. (2000). Research in writing: Implications for adult literacy education. In J. Comings, B. Garner, & C. Smith (Eds.), Annual Review of Adult Learning and Literacy, Vol. 2 (pp. 63 110). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Leki, I., Cumming, A., & Silva, T. (2008). A synthesis of research on second language writing in English. New York: Routledge.

Conference Name

Symposium on Second Language Writing

Conference Location

Shandong Univ, Jinan, China

This document is currently not available here.