During COVID-19 school closures, learners of English as a second language (ESL) at all levels (K-12 newcomer students, adult immigrants and refugees, and post-secondary international students) were disproportionately disadvantaged due to their limited language ability, a lack of technological skill or access to technology, isolation from teachers and other learners while their learning is dependant on interaction, and home situations not conducive to online learning. This project aimd to support ESL learners undertaking remote and blended instruction during COVID-19 by bringing together partners from the K-12 English school district, adult language learning, and Memorial University to create a document compiling best practices, strategies and resources obtained through hosting a virtual conference and soliciting views from stakeholders.
The document is based on a two-day conference held virtually on November 13-14, 2020, with the theme ”Language Learning in a Time of Change.” The keynote speakers included a world renowned scholar, Dr. Jim Cummins, whose presentation is entitled “Educating Immigrant and Refugee Youth: Rethinking the Instructional Implications of Research in the Age of Covid-19” and Dr. Paula Kristmanson, President of TESL Canada who spoke on “Active Learning in a Time of Change: Experiences and Insights from TESL Pre-Service Teachers.”
Having set the tone for the conference with the keynote presentations, this conference actively engaged presenters and attendees across sectors in workshops, discussions, round tables and panel presentations. Participants’ and presenters’ suggestions and insights during the two-day conference were compiled in a document outlining best practices, resources and strategies available in and relevant to the Newfoundland and Labrador context for teachers of ESL learners in K-12, adult education and postsecondary sectors during COVID-19. This document has been made freely available through the TESL-NL website and other stakeholders’ websites.
The project brought together partners from: the K-12 school system--English School District (NLESD) teachers and administrators, adult language learning--Association for New Canadians’ (ANC) Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) school, Memorial University-- English for Academic Purposes (EAP) program and Faculty of Education graduate program, and professional organizations--TESL Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) and TESL-Canada. This was the first opportunity for members of these organizations to come together for extended professional sharing and discussion. The project relied on the cooperation and teamwork of the involved organizations and participants.
The lead partners are Dr. Xuemei Li of Memorial University’s Faculty of Education and Dr. Martha Trahey, Vice President of TESL Newfoundland and Labrador. The planning, administering, and resources for the project were shared between Memorial Faculty of Education and sectors of the TESL NL organization, including the Association for New Canadians (ANC), teachers in the K-12 school system, Faculty of Education graduate students and Memorial’s EAP program.
Moderators, coordinators and discussion leaders for the conference were volunteers from these sectors who completed the organization, promotion and administration for the conference as well as the compilation, production, and distribution of the document. Memorial graduate students in Education played a key role in facilitating meetings and developing the resources.
Memorial has benefitted from participating in this project by:
-sharing faculty professional expertise related to second language teaching.
-hosting speakers of national and international renown.
-playing a key role as a mediator among previously disparate groups involved in education.
-being a leader in the development of resources targeting online learning for ESL learners in NL.
-building capacity among graduate students by providing technological training and exposure to real-world educational issues.
-providing program-related employment opportunities for graduate students assisting in the coordination of the conference and compilation of the document.
Partners have benefited from participating in this project by:
-gaining valuable networking, cooperative, and bridge building opportunities.
-developing expertise and building capacity through the sharing of knowledge.
-producing a document targeting their specific institutional needs as related to online and blended learning during COVID-19 in NL.
The communities served by project participants i.e., newcomers and international students, benefited from this project by:
-having access to improved remote learning opportunities
-having access to knowledgeable, confident teachers informed about online learning