Inquiry Projects - 2001-2002

The following proposals were received for the 2001-2002 round of projects. The proposals are listed alphabetically by lead/contact person, with a brief indication of the theme / area of interest following participants' names, as well as the proposals themselves.

This time around, LR/RI and RIDE invited participants to begin with broader initial questions and to refine their questions over the early stages of the project year. Participants began work to further shape their questions and work plans during a two-day retreat held in late October. We then met as a full group four more times, including on June 13th, for a final sharing session and celebration of the work. Participants' final reports are posted below (or will be shortly). A new round of projects will begin in September, 2002. A call for participation will be issued shortly, and linked to the site. For more information, please contact LR/RI.

Marie Crecca-Romero Mentor, Inc. dba Project RIRAL[Transition to College]

I would like to do an inquiry project on the Transition to College Program. This program was first developed by World Education to create additional educational opportunities for adults who have graduated from high school, or who have received a GED, and have a strong desire to go to college.

The goal of this program is to offer academic support, study skills and counseling to students who are motivated and committed to continuing their education, who have a desire to enrich their lives, yet need additional preparation to ultimately succeed in college.

I would like to explore the relationship between the Transition to College program and the ultimate success of the students who attend the program. For example: What hinders a student from persisiting in the program? Does the support of Transition to College help students to persist in their goals?

Al thougb I do not have anyone in particular to work on the inquiry project with me, I expect to collaborate with the following people: Pat Bellart from Project RIRAL, Jessica Spohn from World Education, teachers, counselors, and staff of the local community college.

Marie's final report

Inclusive Adult Learning Environments ERIC Digest No. 162 by Susan Imel, 1995

Adult Women in Community Colleges ERIC digest

Sherry Fiaux, Rhode Island Family Literacy Initiative, Providence Public Library [student-driven curricula/attendance]

What's your interest? What do you want to explore?

I would like to explore the effects of using student-driven curricula in the ESL classroom with the objectives of: (1) increasing student attendance, (2) enabling learners to achieve specific, measurable goals within a 9 month period, and (3) achieving greater learner participation or involvement in community services. I want to learn how to create and implement lessons in a multi-level class that are centered on specific goals set forth by the students. By involving them in the decision-making process of selecting topics, functions, and outcomes, I hope to motivate students to become invested in their learning and help them transfer this learning to their lives outside of the classroom in ways that are meaningful and useful, and will directly impact the quality of their lives.

I teach various levels of ESL in three different libraries. While students in two of the three libraries come to class regularly, learners in the third library have had inconsistent attendance. Taking into consideration, the obstacles that often prevent adults from coming to class, I would like to use their motivation (their goals) to keep them interested, engaged, and measure their progress against these goals. I am aware that learners' goals, and subsequently lesson goals may change and need to be adapted throughout the next nine months.

The process of identifying and documenting individual goals has already begun, and it is clear that the majority of learner needs center around community services, more specifically employment, education, and health and hospitalization. These topics, among others may be explored in depth through project-based learning for intermediate and advanced learners. Beginning ESL learners might concentrate on skills that affect their employability, and ability to communicate in their daily lives.

There are several reasons I have chosen this area as a focus of teacher inquiry: one is the problem of student attendance. Secondly, without formal standards or testing, I want to be able to measure student progress in a way that is meaningful to the students. Thirdly, I want to help them to become active in their community as a means of improving their English skills as well as general knowledge of how systems, that directly affect them., work.

Who can help?

I would like to collaborate with my colleague, Sacia Stiles, who works as a lead ESOL teacher, in the same program. Both of us have read the book, "Making Meaning, Making Change", which has influenced our ideas on development of curricula. By working with different student populations, comparing notes, and sharing ideas and experiences, we will have a broader base of knowledge with which we can extend, redefine and experiment.

Sherry Fiaux's final project

resources for participatory education

"Street Law practical, participatory education about law, democracy and human rights. Through its philosophy and programs, Street Law empowers people to transform democratic ideals into citizen action. Street LawÕs programs do not end at the door of the classroom. Each student gains essential lessons that can be used for life."

First Lay the Groundwork by Margaret Anderson "Despite the rich and productive discussions, I wondered constantly whether I was doing "participatory education" the "right" way. ... I wrote in my class journal, "I donÕt know whether I am doing this whole VERA thing right. We are working on great questions that have to do with civic participation, history, how to get involved and take action, understanding some of the societal forces that affect our lives. But what is the project? What is the action? How do we define action?" I felt like I should be moving the group towards some concrete action. And yet, the group didnÕt seem ready to get out into the community. We needed to develop our capacity for taking action. At the very least, we needed to be able to listen to each other and disagree about important topics without getting angry. We needed to be able to function as a group without spontaneously self-destructing."

Freirian Educational Methodology

Building Community and Skills Through Multilevel Classes by Judy Hofer and Pat Larson, [part of an issue of Focus on Basics dealing with multilevel learning in adult settings ]

Lynn Foley, Debra Blaine, Pat Belart, Dale Potter and Joseph DelGiorno, Project RIRAL

Email: Lmgfoley@aol, (Lynn Foley); Gort14@home, (Deb Blaine);, (Joseph DelGiorno);, (Pat Belart)

What is your interest? What do you want to explore?

Our collective interest is in improving our ability to serve our students with learning disabilities. Through this inquiry project we hope to support and mentor each other through further exploration and review of what we learned in the Stromski and Paine learning disabilities workshop we attended last year.

What has led you to focus on this particular issue/area?

A lot of valuable information was given to us during the LD workshop that we feel needs to be reviewed and discussed as new issues and concerns arise in our classrooms.

Lynn and Debra are now working at sites where there are no other teachers. By attending monthly meetings with others from the LD workshop (Dale, Joe and Pat), they will get the support they need from their peers.

What do you think you might accomplish as a result of participation in this process?

  • Refresh our knowledge of learning disabilities
  • Support and mentor each other
  • Continue to identify and better support LD students in our classrooms
  • Participate in "give and take" with peers
  • Use the information learned from the Stromski and Paine learning disabilities training, together with the collective, practical experience of this inquiry group, to mentor other agencies and staff members.
  • LD resources

    Learning Difficulties/Disabilities resources from Focus on Basics

    Debra Blaine's final report

    The Genesis Center ESOL Night Program

    Rebecca Foster, Hermes Leal and Victoria Richter [identifying career interests]

    We would like to explore the area of developing future job/career interests. While many tools exist for individuals to identify career interests, we have been unable to find any that are specifically tailored to the needs and skills of new English speakers. Moreover, current tools fail to fully consider/support the limitations and advantages of speakers of other languages. One of the objectives of our ESOL program is improving English skills for job development purposes. However, few of our students have fully considered the wealth of job/career opportunities nor have they matched their own skills and interests with those opportunities.

    We propose to develop a tool and/or curriculum that would enable students with a variety of language abilities to identify jobs and careers that match their individual skills and interests. As each of us teach a different level of ESOL (beginner, advanced beginner and intermediate), we would be able to adapt and test the tool/curriculum for a wide variety of language abilities.

    While we will primarily collaborate with each other on this project, we will also draw upon other teachersÕ experience and advice here at the Genesis Center and beyond.

    workplace literacy resources

    Rebecca Foster and Victoria Richter's final report

    Hermes Leal's final report

    Inquiry Project Proposal, Jenifer Giroux, Rhode Island College Outreach Programs [native language - influence on learning English]

    1. What's your interest? What do you want to explore?

    I would like to explore the impact the native language of an individual has on his/her ability to learn a second language. I am interested in researching this topic because the class that I currently teach is comprised of students from many different countries and different native languages. The native language of the majority of my students is usually Spanish. As a result, I am very aware of obstacles in pronunciation and grammatical constructions that native Spanish speakers may have. The students in the current class come from a wide variety of countries such as Egypt, Korea, Russia, China, Cambodia, Poland, Bosnia, and Latvia. In addition, native Spanish speakers are in the class but for the first time they are in the minority.

    As a result of the population change in the class, I am interested in creating and implementing new teaching strategies and methods to meet the needs of my culturally and linguistically diverse students.

    2. Who can help? The students in this particular class are receiving English as a Second Language classes as part of the requirements for our training programs. Therefore, the other teachers involved in the training programs can give me insight into the progress of my students and any obstacles that they may facing in other classes. The students will also be a tremendous help and resource as I learn more about their native language and culture. If any other inquiry applicants are interested in this topic, I would be happy to work with someone on this project.

    Jenifer's final report

    Amanda Hathaway Family Literacy Program, Providence Public Library [technology and language learning]

    What's your interest? What do you want to explore?

    As a computer coordinator with the Rhode Island Family Literacy Initiative, I am interested in the connection between technology and learning English. Specifically, what I would like to explore is ways in which the Internet and basic computer skills can be integrated into learning a second language, as well as introducing learners to the diverse opportunities and resources that can be found online.

    Based on my experience as a computer teacher at two Providence Public Library branches, I have found that the majority of students have limited computer experience, and are affected by the "Digital Divide." It is challenging to teach those who have no computer experience how to use new technology, and even more complex to do so with students who are trying to learn English at the same time. For these reasons, I am interested in exploring different techniques and methods of using technology to teach English, while simultaneously incorporating computer skills competency. It is my hope that by participating in this process, I will be able to develop an effective and creative strategy for introducing technology and the Internet that will assist students in advancing their English skills as well as encourage them to incorporate technology in their lives.

    Who can help?

    People that can help me are other teachers who have been using technology to teach English and teachers who teach computer literacy. The Rhode Island Family Initiative employs eight computer coordinators state wide, who are engaged in using technology to teach English. Their work and experiences can serve as an important resource to my project.

    technology and learning resources

    Amanda's final report

    Leanne Ovalles, The Genesis Center [stress and learning]

    What is your interest? What do you want to explore?

    My interest is the area of ESOL and stress management. Many of our students have very stressful lives and often express feelings of helplessness, burnout or depression. I would like to bring techniques for stress management into the ESOL classroom.

    I am interested in creating activities which incorporate learning English and stress management techniques. I'm wondering how I can combine the two in the most productive way. There are a lot of materials out there on stress management, however most of them are unaccessible to our population because the reading level is too high and they are culturally inappropriate. I would like to create accessible, culturally appropriate ESOL materials that incorportae stress management techniques.

    In addition to creating materials, one area of stress management that I am very interested in is organizing support groups in the class. I am thinking of creating groups of 4 students who will commit to supporting each other. This may include calling each other up when they are absent, giving each other a ride to class if needed, and being a resource that people can turn to when they have a problem.

    Finally, I am interested in exploring the effects of teaching stress management and having support groups. Could it improve attendance? Could it help students to be more motivated in class? Could it help them in their jobs?

    Who can help?

    I will look for input from other teachers at The Genesis Center and in the ESOL Sharing group who have taught stress management techniques in their classes. I will also look to organizations in the area which offer support for immigrants.

    Leanne's final report

    Michele Rajotte, Genesis Center 620 Potters Ave. Providence, RI 02907[learners' lives, interactions/engagement with communities]

    After attending day classes, adult learners either go home, or go to work. From their descriptions, the jobs are not meaningful and it is not what they would choose to do. The jobs do support their families and provide some security, but most of the learners are not happy in the workplace. According to an article in the Utne Reader, "For most of human history, people worked far differently than we do, usually right at home in the midst of family, community, and nature."

    I would like to explore the following questions:

    Do our learners remain in their jobs because they have not seen what the community has to offer?

    Do they remain in their homes because they do not have connections in their community?

    If they had the opportunity to visit sites in the surrounding areas and to discover connections with other people, could this initiate change in their choice of work and everyday life?

    I hope to introduce places in the Providence community that will enlighten the lives of our learners and their families. I hope to see a change in their lifestyles and the kind and quality of work they choose to pursue in the future.

    How to Feel Good: Learning to Relax and Exercise

    Michele's final report

    Inquiry Project (Proposal) 2001-02 Baha Sadr

    I teach beginner level ESL at the Genesis Center during the day. There are 20 students in the class and most of them are mothers receiving financial assistance from the government.

    The most important objective for the learner is:

    Being able to communicate and interact within the American social structure, as well as their own communities.

    My main effort as a teacher has been to create an environment where we all can learn from one another, in spite of all the problems we are facing on a daily basis. In this way learning becomes fun and accessible with the students trusting one another and sharing their life stories. Therefore, students are not intimidated and not afraid of making mistakes.

    A major obstacle that can cause discomfort and mistrust in a classroom is when students form small groups of their own based on their nationality, ethnicity, etc. This will surely stop the sharing process.

    I have used many techniques trying to avoid theses situations, however, at this point I would like to focus my inquiry project on the following questions ;

  • How to recognize the cultural differences and learn from them.
  • How to identify prejudices and try to reduce and illuminate them.
  • What kinds of activities/excercises would be successful in identifying and strengthening common interests and increase the learners' confidence in the ability to teach and learn from each other.
  • Finally, How can we empower students to believe that they are active members of the community , so that they can advocate against prejudice they are experiencing in the world outside the learning community.

    Baha's final report

    Application for Teacher Inquiry Project 2001/02, Sacia Stiles, Family Literacy Program, Providence Public Library [learners' input/developing content/approach with learners]

    I am a Lead ESOL Teacher in the Family Literacy Program at Knight Memorial and Mount Pleasant Branch Libraries in Providence. The Family Literacy Program is a free, first-step, open enrollment English program for adults and their children. I am beginning my second year with the program which employs, aside from my own position, a Program Assistant, who works with the children, and a Computer Coordinator, who teaches basic computer literacy to the students. We also utilize volunteer tutors to lead small group activities or work one-on-one with students

    My goal in the program has been to make the classes learner-centered, incorporating communicative activities and LEA (Language Experience Approach) stories based on themes that I have chosen to cover. The approach that I hope to explore through this inquiry project was one that I discovered in Making Meaning, Making Change, by Elsa Roberts Auerbach, which seems to take this idea a step further. Auerbach's book discusses, "Participatory Curriculum Development for Adult ESL Literacy," in which themes come out of issues which students raise in class. Lessons are based on students' real experiences in their daily lives.

    Aside from this general approach of eliciting student issues in class, I hope to meet individually with each student in order to identify their needs, learn more about their educational and work experience, and work together to set specific, attainable goals for the coming nine months. I also believe that, based on the ideas already discussed in class, EL Civics themes, such as using the public library, learning about healthcare and financial systems, etc., will naturally arise in this context.

    My hopes in starting my class with these goals for the year are that:

  • language taught in class is useful and relevant to studentsÕ lives.
  • students feel engaged through the personalization of the lessons.
  • students grow as autonomous learners, able to set and to attain clear goals.
  • attendance and retention improves as students feel interested in, as well as responsible for, attending class.
  • Who can help?

    My coworker, Sherry Fiaux, and I will be working on similar inquiries for this course. Since we both fill the same position in the program, but at different branch libraries and with different populations, we will be able to collaborate and share results throughout the year. I also hope to share ideas with other ESOL teachers in the area and do further research regarding participatory curriculum development.

    Sacia's final report

    additional resources

    ERIC full text documents - digests, tredns and issues alerts and more brief resources (each including references for additional readings/information).

    NCLE (ESOL) digests and other resources

    Active Learning and the Adult Student

    citizenship resources

    Focus on Basics, Volume 3, Issue A, March, 1999 - focusing on Adult Multiple Intelligences

    Project Based Learning

    Focus on Basics, Volume 2, Issue D, December 1998 - focus on project-based learning

    Project Based Learning; Buck Institute for Education

    Project Based Learning: What is it?

    Project Based Learning with Multimedia San Mateo County Office of Education

    Project-Based Learning for Adult English Language Learners ERIC Digest, National Clearinghouse on Literacy Education

    (The previous four resources are taken from John Fleischman's Responses to Questions from the NIFL Technology Listserv)

    Focus on Basics, Volume 3, Issue D, December 1999 - focus on writing instruction

    writing resources for learners and practitioners

    Subject index; Focus on Basics

    page created October 2, 2001

    updated January 29, 2004

    inquiry main page

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