Adult Language Learners

Book Review
Adult Language Learners
Ann F.V. Smith and Gregory Strong (eds.). Alexandria, VA: Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc., 2009. Pp. iii + 175.

Reviewed by Stephanie A. Wilton
Kobe College High School
Nishinomiya, Japan

Adult Language Learners: Context and innovation addresses specific issues facing teachers who work with adult language learners in a wide variety of contexts such as university, continuing education, vocational training, and language teacher certification programs.

After a preface by the series editors and an introductory chapter by the volume editors, the book is divided into three sections: Teacher Development, Extending Learner Autonomy, and Innovations within a Course. Each section is composed of five to six descriptive articles, which address a range of contexts and course types that relate to the particular theme.
The first section, Teacher Development, is composed of six articles. It starts with Brandt s chapter Thinking Locally, Training Globally: Language Teacher Certification Reappraised, in which the author suggests that program administrators take into account the local teaching context and include space for more reflection and feedback in their programs. In the next article, Mind the Gap: Second Language Acquisition Theory into Practice, McCormack describes how actual case studies and classroom practice have been integrated into a required second language acquisition course in an MA TESOL program. Following this, chapters four and five concentrate on technology used in teacher training programs. Kim discusses integrating technology training into a university TESOL course in Podcasting and Online Journals as ESOL Resources. And, in chapter five, E-portfolios for Lifelong Teacher Development, Baker, Crawford, and Jones demonstrate how online portfolios were used to support a distance learning post-graduate certificate program. After examining teacher training programs in the first four articles, the final two chapters of this section shift focus slightly to address language teacher practices. In Teacher Enthusiasm in Action, Ding presents specific ways for teachers to evaluate how they project themselves in the classroom, and Oanh compares how teachers can use memorization effectively in communication-based classes in Memorization in Language Teaching: Vietnam and the United States.

The second section, Extending Learner Autonomy,also contains six articles. In the first, Murray describes a university course in which students choose their materials and set their own learning goals in the first chapter of this section, A Self-Directed Learning Course. Next, Lamping discusses how mentoring relationships help students build literacy in Stepping into a Participatory Adult ESL Curriculum. Continuing in the vein of encouraging student interaction in the classroom, Alexander illustrates how group work can encourage learners to take responsibility of their learning in Learning Teams in Edinburgh. Following these two chapters on learner interaction in the classroom, the emphasis shifts to building learner autonomy through classroom activities. In An Interactive Approach to Book Reports, Andrade demonstrates one way of transforming the common book report into an interactive, integrated skills project (p. 89), and Dias describes how students build computer and research skills while delving into controversial issues relevant to their community in A Web of Controversy: Critical Thinking Online. Finally, Researching Pains: Iranian Students Exploring Medical English, by Ghahremani-Ghajar, Mirhosseini, and Fattahi, illustrates how students personalize their learning by conducting research in English on a close relation s physical or mental pain.

Each of the five articles in the final section, Innovations within a Course, portrays an array of inventive ideas for shaping curricula. Strong s article depicts a course in which students explore foreign culture within their own city in Field Trips with Japanese Student Ethnographers. The next chapter, Role-Playing with Fire: Hot Topics and Heated Discussions, by Stillwell, discusses methods for creating an appropriate environment for the safe use of role-play (p. 127). This is followed by A Case for Discussion, in which Smith shows how case studies can be integrated into an English for academic purposes course. Next, Motivating Thai University Students with Radio Drama, by Kubanyiova, describes how a student-directed project helped increase motivation in an integrated skills course. And in the final article of the book, co-authors Augusto-Navarro, de Abreu-e-Lima, and de Oliveira demonstrate a process of designing and reforming an English for specific purposes course to meet the needs of the learners and their employer in Ongoing Needs Analysis: English for Aviation in Brazil.

This volume indeed contains a wide variety of articles addressing a multitude of contexts and course types. With limited technical vocabulary, this book is an easy read for teachers with any amount of exposure to the field. Overall, this volume manages to present highly accessible and practical ideas for the classroom, grounded in applied theory from the ESOL field.