Inquiry Projects - 2002-2003

The following proposals have been received for the 2002-2003 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.

As before, LR/RI and RIDE invited participants to begin with broad initial questions and to refine their questions over the early stages of the project year. Participants worked to further shape their questions and work plans during a two-day retreat held in mid-October. We then met as a full group four more times, including a final sharing session and celebration of the work, held on June 13, 2003. For more information, please contact LR/RI.

Bob Geake Blackstone Valley Arc Resource Center

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

Our interest is the further exploration of civic awareness in the 500 plus population of disabled adults we serve in the Blackston Valley community and how we can promote self education and informative programs to enable our population to make an informed opinion at elections times and to become involved in the civic responsibilities of their communities.

This process would begin with an agency wide survey to evaluate the current standing of our population's awareness of the candidates and issues in this year's election. Once informational needs are established, an ongoing "Democracy Team" will address these needs through informational meetings and a candidate's night to meet and question individual candidates and voice their concerns.

Our goal is also to increase our population's involvement in the election process by encouraging them to volunteer at campaign headquarters of the candidates of their choice, and then to continue civic involvement after the election.

Who can help?

Our plans include the state Board of Elections, the Democracy Contract and other organizations promoting civic awareness.

polling places in Rhode Island

Civics resources

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

citizenship resources

read Bob's final report

Sherry Fiaux, Rhode Island Family Literacy Initiative, Providence Public Library

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

I am interested in exploring the process, practice, and effects of team teaching in our Family Literacy Program (RIFLI) of the Providence Public Library.

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

This year I plan to reduce dependence on volunteers to teach ESL to adults, and my colleague Amanda and I will team teach at the Knight Memorial Branch of the Providence Public Library.

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

What I hope to accomplish through the process of teacher inquiry is:
  • Increase quality of instruction by using experienced teachers rather than volunteers with no teaching experience.
  • Adapt my practice to include multi-level teaching and include intergenerational literacy activities.
  • Experiment with and reflect on the cause and effects of team teaching.
  • Who can help? Who do you plan to collaborate with?

    I plan to collaborate with Amanda Hathaway, and ESL teacher and Computer Assistant employed by the Providence Public Library. I welcome input from any teachers who have team taught and/or who engage(d) in Family Literacy Activities.

    LR/RI's intergenerational literacy resource page

    read Sherry's final report

    Nancy Fritz, Genesis Center

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

    I'd like to explore the various types of professional development for ESOL teachers and learn what kinds are most effective in changing/improving people's teaching (in their opinion).

    To explore this topic, I would like to do the following things, not necessarily in this order‹ 1) facilitate teachers being able to experience a wide variety of professional development throughout the year. Some of these would be attending conferences, attending workshops, bringing in outside speakers, observing other teachers teach, sharing ideas among each other, providing workshops for each other 2) provide time for teachers to reflect on the various experiences they have had and think about the effect that the experience has had on their teaching . I would find or develop questionnaires to help with this process.3) talk with and visit other agencies to see what they do for professional development 4) read about the topic and see what research about this subject says. I will be a participant in the study too and try to analyze what types of professional development are most useful to me.

    Who can help?

    The teachers at Genesis have expressed interest in participating in this process and in giving their feedback.

    read Nancy's final report

    Rebecca Foster, Genesis Center

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

    I'm interested in exploring the incorporation of Total Phsysical Response Storytelling (TPRS) in the adult ESOL classroom, while at the same time maintaining a participatory, student-driven atmosphere. I've read a great deal about the success of TPRS, though most of the research done so far seems to have taken place in the K-12 setting. I'm interested in seeing how this technique plays itself out in an adult ed ESOL classroom, with all its multi-lingual, multi-level challenges.

    Please describe the area you are hoping to explore through the inquiry process. While we do not ask that your specific question be formed at this point, we want to know what your thinking is ­ what are you hoping to explore and learn about your practice? What has led you to focus on this particular issue/area? What do you think you might accomplish as a result of participating in this process?

    I've been playing around with TPRS this past year in my work-site class, but with only 3 hours a week, continuity is difficult. While TPRS is by nature a very teacher driven approach, I have found so far that the storytelling model does allow for a great deal of learner centered real-life stories and input.  TPRS also seems to engage the slower learners (and provide them with more successful experiences with language) than anything else I've tried. I'm hoping this inquiry will encourage me to not only incorporate TPRS in my evening beginning level classroom, but to sytematically look at how it plays out, what seems to work well, what doesn't, what are the specific issues related to adult ESOL that limit or support the use of this practice, etc.

    Who can help?

    With whom, if anyone, do you plan to collaborate on this project?

    The person who turned me on to TPRS also teaches at the Genesis Center, and while I don't think he will participate in the inquiry project, I'm hoping to draw on his experiences and insight as much as possible.


    TPRS Storytelling

    P.O.V.'s Borders: PBS's Web-only Series Showcasing Interactive Story Telling; arguably connected (or not?) to TPRS

    resources for participatory education

    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 ]

    Using TPR-Storytelling to Develop Fluency and Literacy in Native American Languages

    one more resource

    Read Rebecca's final report

    Amanda Hathaway Family Literacy Program, Providence Public Library

    Amanda was not able to participate in this round of projects, due to scheduling constraints; her proposal is here in the event that others might share this interest, contact her or LR/RI in order to share ideas, resources, information

    My interest is in exploring what happens when a family literacy program is team taught in the Rhode Island Family Literacy Initiative. This format is a different structure from the rest of our classes that are taught by a lead teacher who plans lessons for volunteer tutors to work with students in small groups. In a team taught class, each teacher works with a group of ten students during the entire component of the class.

    I am hoping to learn the most effective way to teach a family literacy class to a group of about twenty learners, most of who are at a beginner level. How can we as teachers increase the quality of the class, working in a learner centered class.

    Last cycle, in the Spring of 2002, I team taught at the Washington Park Library with another teacher. This was our first experiment in team teaching and I felt that I began experimenting with this different format. I am interested to think about it more and study it in greater depth.

    I will be working on this inquiry with the other team teacher, Sherry Fiaux. Additionally, I believe that I will be assisted by other lead teachers and the administration in the Family Literacy Initiative and other participants in the Inquiry Project. Additionally, I believe returning learners in the team taught class will be able to compare the new structure with tutor method.

    Kevin McKay Family Literacy Program, West Warwick Public Library

    Question: How can an ESOL teacher systematically measure an adult student's progress and use this method of measurement to inform the student at regular intervals of their progress and provide valuable information to the teacher? In addition, to use this method of measurement systematically or over a period of time to validate a student's progress


    It is a difficult task to evaluate or assess an adult ESOL student's progress. Many argue that the best way to assess a student is informally or by what a student knows and demonstrates informally. Some argue that it is necessary to give formal assessments or tests to measure a student¹s ability or progress. When developing a system of assessment to measure one's progress I will incorporate both methods of assessment with an emphasis on informal assessment.

    Hope to accomplish

    For students:

    Encourage meaningful involvement of students to:

  • Make goals and objectives clear to the students
  • Motivate students to commit more interest and time to material for a particular lesson by giving adjustable (based on each student's individual characteristics) assessment quizzes.

  • Announcing an assessment or quiz may promote:
  • Studying
  • Taking and organizing notes
  • Reviewing information or vocabulary words during class for additional practice

    And possible more

    Provide feedback on their performance and stages of language development.

    For ESOL teachers:

  • Assist the teacher in identifying objectives or goals based on student¹s interests and needs.
  • Subject matter or themes
  • Skills
  • Achievement level
  • Individual student achievement
  • Whole class achievement
  • Expectations of students
  • Give teacher a good indication how well the students are learning and retaining information taught.
  • To inform the teacher to possibly alter, change or adapt teaching practices to insure that students are learning
  • Assessments can be used for review.

    Who can help?

    With whom, if anyone, do you plan to collaborate on this project?

    I plan to use various resources. Materials expected to use are Assessing Language Ability in the Classroom, second edition, by Andrew D. Cohen & Making Meaning, Making Change, by Elsa Roberts Auerbach. Additional materials may be used. Also available to assist me with the inquiry project will be my colleges in association with the Rhode Island Family Literacy Initiative from the Providence Public Library, East Providence Public Library and Pawtucket Public Library. I will also research applicable information from other local adult ESOL organizations.

    LR/RI's resource page on standards, assessment and accountability

    Read Kevin's final report

    Leanne Ovalles, The Genesis Center

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

    I am interested in exploring how I can assist my students in persisting in their studies of ESOL and in reaching their goals in life. I often see that students have very large, unclear goals and therefore do not make much progress achieving their goals. Student often becomes discouraged in working toward their goals because they have unrealistic expectations, they encounter many obstacles, and they do not have strong support systems.

    I was inspired by an article which I recently read titled "Helping Adults Persist: Four Supports" by John Comings, Andrea Parella and Lisa Soricone. This article reaffirmed much of the work I did in my class last year in helping students to identify the causes of stress in their lives (negative forces) and possible solutions for dealing with those problems. The article states that "programs must help students to develop an understanding of the negative and positive forces that affect their persistence" and that "the strongest positive force mentioned was the support of people, followed by self-efficacy and personal goals." This article helped me to summarize and articulate what I would like to explore in my inquiry project this year.

    I would like to further explore the concept of support groups that I introduced in my class last year as part of my inquiry project. This year I would like to expand the use of the support groups to create a supportive environment where students can:

  • better understand the negative and positive forces that affect their persistence
  • develop self-efficacy and self-confidence
  • learn to clearly define their goals and identify specific attainable tasks
  • support each other in overcoming obstacles, achieving their goals, and remaining positive
  • am interested in seeing what affect these support groups will have on the classroom. Will students be more motivated? Will it help students to persist in their study of English and in reaching their goals? Will student retention and attendance increase? Will students take more responsibility for their learning? Will it create a better classroom dynamics? Will providing these supports help students to take action to improve their lives outside the classroom?

    Who can help?

    I will look for input from other teachers who work at The Genesis Center and who are involved in the Inquiry project. I will also use resources such as the article "Helping Adults Persist: Four Supports" by John Coming, Andrea Parrella and Lisa Soricone.

    Read Leanne's final report

    Michele Rajotte, Genesis Center 620 Potters Ave. Providence, RI 02907

    I teach level II Project Opportunity at Genesis Center. The second language learners in this class will continue to improve reading, writing, listening and speaking skills in English, learn the necessary job and computer skills, and begin a new job by the end of our school year.

    Last year, through the Inquiry process, I introduced our learners to the community. At the end of the year, I surveyed the learners to learn what had been most memorable and interesting for them. They agreed that the 3-day nonviolence training that had been presented as a gift from the "Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence" was excellent. I believe that after that training, our classroom environment became kinder, learners were more concerned about one another, and more compassionate within the local community, at work and in their relationships with friends and neighbors. These parents learned to find peaceful solutions to their problems and at the same time learned leadership skills. As role models for their families, these small changes will teach their children appropriate behavior in school and among friends, to have peace on the inside and on the outside.

    What happens when I integrate peace education into the curriculum throughout the year?

    What happens when the learners have more time to develop and express their thoughts on our local and global issues and the new fear of terrorism in this country?

    What happens when the learners are reminded of their conection with nature? All people in all cultures are connected through nature, but many of us have forgotten the source and materials that support us. Will this memory of our connection initiate a new sense of inner peace? many of the learners have come from a place where they lived in harmony with nature; what can they teach us? Will environmental awareness create change in their way of living in the United States?

    Within a class of diverse cultures, I hope to build a culture of peace.

    "A culture of peace will be achieved when citizens of the world understand global problems, have the skills to resolve conflicts and struggle for justice nonviolently, live by international standards of human rights and equity, appreciate cultrual diversity, and respect the Earth and each other. Such learning can only be achieved with systematic education for peace." Hague Aenda for Peace & Justice for the 21st Century.

    Read Michele's final report

    additional resources

    ERIC full text documents - digests, trends 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

    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

    Nancy and Rebecca, Leanne and Kevin at  tables
    Nancy Fritz and Rebecca Foster (foreground), Leanne Ovalles and Kevin McKay (rear)
    at a two-day retreat for inquiry participants, October 15 - 16.

    page created September 19

    updated January 29, 2004

    inquiry main page

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