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Training to Teach Adults English

By Irene Schwab (with Jane Allemano, David Mallows & Anne McKeown) Cost: £14.95 Publisher: NIACE Pages: 132 ISBN: 978-1-86201-841-9

Reviewed by Rachel Stubley Rachel Stubley is a senior lecturer in post-compulsory education at the University of South Wales. She leads specialist teacher education courses in ESOL and Adult Literacy/Communication and teaches on the PGCE Post-compulsory Education. She is currently researching writing and teacher education from a social practice perspective for her doctorate at Lancaster University.

I approached this text a little sceptically. For a range of demographic, policy-related and perhaps other socio- cultural reasons, teacher education in Wales (where I have been based for 13 years) has yet to embrace the idea of joint adult literacy and ESOL teacher education and this book is clearly aimed at participants on such courses. Even before I got to this, I was unsure of what the word “English” in the title referred to - it turns out that the original title Training to Teach Adults English: literacy and ESOL, which would have been clearer to me, was partially lost in the final edit. Having read the book, I am however (almost) completely won over.

Chapter 1 The Learners immediately allayed my fears that a joint 'literacy and ESOL' approach might confuse brand new practitioners, 'diluting' the distinctive subject expertise of adult literacy or ESOL practitioners, or even disadvantaging some or other learners. By clearly unpacking the range of factors (linguistic, personal, educational etc) impacting on learners, and encouraging the reader to look carefully and separately at the oral and written skills learners bring, Schwab sets out the scope of professional insight and understanding required to do the best by all our learners. All in only nine attractively laid out pages too!

The slightly longer chapter 2 Approaches to Literacy and Language Learning is a proper introduction to key debates in literacy and ESOL (e.g. skills vs social practices; cognitive vs social theories of learning; even the pros and cons of ESOL frameworks such as PPP) but makes these entirely accessible to new teachers by the skilled use of examples and illustrations from both inside and outside the classroom. This is a really excellent introduction to learning theory for literacy and ESOL teachers.

The next chapter looks at The teaching and learning cycle. As throughout the book, this chapter manages to be most succinct without ever feeling sketchy or superficial. Every chapter also uses a small and carefully selected range of references and provides ideas for further reading. Schwab returns to planning and teaching in later chapters on The four skills (which skilfully integrates and, where necessary, differentiates, ESOL and adult literacy concerns) and Planning learning for inclusive practice, ensuring that a very sound range of pedagogic principles and practice are discussed.

The three remaining chapters, which focus on the trainee teacher's own development as a professional, are contributions by other authors, all of them experienced teacher educators and academics at UCL Institute of Education London. The chapter Language knowledge addresses the need for literacy and ESOL practitioners to develop their understanding of language (examined here under four headings: word, sentence, text, phonology). However, presented without a language or literacy learning context, or the possibility of identifying individual learner needs, there is the danger that new practitioners will be encouraged to study and then teach 'grammar' out of context. The hope (here, and in general) is clearly that practitioners will use their developing linguistic knowledge to underpin their work in supporting learners' language and literacy development. Bearing this in mind, this chapter of the book may need the additional guidance of a teacher


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