Date of Award

2019

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Education

First Advisor

Gerald Campano

Abstract

This dissertation examines the literacy and language practices educators and adult immigrant learners engaged to make sense of English in a community-based English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) class. By taking a grounded approach to understanding adult immigrant students’ collective literacy and language meaning making, the author argues for a focus on approaches to adult ESOL that build from students’ lives and inquiries. Specifically basing her analysis in the sociopolitical context of the US, the author explicitly calls for a pedagogy that resists persistent xenophobic and nativist national trends by supporting the wellbeing of students and honoring their intellectual legacies. Utilizing data collected from a year-long practitioner inquiry study, the author details her process of mediating her own perspectives on language teaching with those of her students to formulate an approach that represented both students’ interests and teachers’ commitments. Through an analysis of her own teaching and students’ learning, the author posits a model for critically student-centered teaching in adult ESOL settings that foregrounds connection, care, and curiosity. The author postulates that by seeing students’ relationships both in and out of class as sources of learning, by making concerns about students’ welfare central to class learning, and by approaching learners as fellow language investigators, adult ESOL teachers can provide a learning experience founded upon what students want from their English classes and supportive of students’ endeavors beyond language learning.

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