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Adult ESL Students and Service-learning: Voices, Experiences, and Perspectives

By Sharon L. Bippus


Service-learning is the merging of academic work with real-life community service activities that encourages students to reflect and think critically about their experiences. Although service-learning has been used in various disciplines, it has not been used extensively with English language learners. However, it offers ESL (English as a Second Language) students the possibility of expanding their potentials beyond the four walls of the classroom. This multiple-case study examined the unique perspectives of six adult ESL students from five different countries. Data collection consisted of the students' written work (journals, reflections papers, and projects) and semi-structured interviews. By offering ESL students opportunities to provide a service to others in authentic English-speaking environments, these students gained communicative competence and developed confidence in themselves. Although the participants were nervous about working in the community initially, they overcame their anxiety by using various strategies and realized that they do have the ability to communicate successfully with English speakers in the "real world," and they possess valuable skills that they can offer to the community. Additional benefits to the students included increasing their knowledge of American culture and history, developing a higher level of motivation, and forming connections to other human beings. Challenges included overcoming fear and feelings of incompetence and sustaining the same levels of confidence and fluency, once the service-learning project and the semester were over

Topics: ESL, ESOL, service-learning
Year: 2011
OAI identifier:

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