Meeting the needs of ESOL learners

Tony Adams

Originally from Sierra Leone, Tony Adams works at City of Glasgow College teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, Communications and Media Studies. Like many college lecturers, he has a range of career and education experiences. He originally graduated with a BA African Political Systems and American History, and taught History and Government in secondary schools. He has worked as a writer for a range of publications and has completed further study in journalism, including an MA Journalism Studies.


Why did you decide to engage in this professional learning?

To support my career development and help me to support the diverse needs of my students, I have completed a number of professional learning (PL) programmes.

I completed the Trinity Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (CertTESOL) at the Language Institute in Edinburgh. I followed this with the Teaching Qualification (Further Education) (TQFE) at the University of Dundee.

My main focus for completing this PL was to develop the skills and knowledge to create, manage and maintain an effective learning environment for ESOL learners. My other aim was to meet the needs of my diverse learners. I recognised that my students have a range of individual learning needs and that they come from diverse educational, cultural, socio-economic, and demographic backgrounds. It was therefore vital that I create an inclusive learning environment that enables all learners to learn irrespective of their background circumstances or needs.

In 2017 I did the Educational Institute of Scotland’s (EIS) Equality Rep training after finding out that there was no Equality Rep at my institution. This PL provided me with useful insights and working knowledge of the 2010 Equality Act, Protected Characteristics and the Public Service Equality Duty. The training led me to develop an interest in anti-racist education. Through anti-racist education, learners can be empowered to develop an understanding of their own values, beliefs and those of others.

What did the professional learning involve?

The CertTESOL involved learning about the different methodologies involved in teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL) and about grammar, phonetics and a range of issues surrounding the EFL industry.

TQFE is a teaching qualification designed as an in-service professional learning opportunity for lecturers in Scotland’s Colleges. The programme aims to help practitioners review their own practice, extend their skills and knowledge in relation to the professional context in which they teach and enhance the experience of all learners in further education.

The EIS Equality Rep training was provided by the Trades Union Congress and is a 4-day course resulting in an SCQF Level 6 qualification.

How did your professional learning link with the Professional Standards for Lecturers in Scotland’s Colleges?

The PL that I engaged in for my TQFE has helped me to understand that there can be no predictive theory of teaching and learning. That’s why professional development and reflection on teaching and learning should be an ongoing process for a practitioner. I am therefore committed to continuously and actively engaging with up-to-date research and developments in learning and teaching to inform my practice. (Standards 3.1 3.2)

I also think an effective lecturer must be able to create an environment of learning activities from which it is very difficult for a student to leave without learning. An effective lecturer must be aware of the interrelatedness and relevance of aligning the curriculum with teaching, learning, and assessment as well as the need to have an inclusive curriculum in providing guidance and support. That is what being a reflective lecturer is ultimately about.

What was the impact of your learning on you, your colleagues and your students?

I delivered a presentation to my department together with a Teaching Assistant colleague, A Case for Project-Based Learning.

Through my own reading and individual research, I found out that project-based learning works well in meeting the Four Capacities (successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors) associated with Curriculum for Excellence.

I designed a student project log book adapting the SQA’s specification: researching, selecting, presenting and responding.

"A well designed project and enquiry based learning engages learners and leads to positive learning outcomes." Learning Futures

Well planned, managed and assessed project based learning (PBL) allows students to hone ‘21st Century Skills’ – Critical Thinking, Communication, Collaboration, Creativity – and to create ‘high-quality authentic products and presentations’.

City of Glasgow College ran a PBL course in partnership with Altogether Glasgow. Student project submissions included learning Chinese language, Syrian gold jewellery, fashion designs, and tours of of Rottenrow Gardens.

Between 2014 and 2019 I worked with my National 5 students to host a fund-raising speech and poetry recital event for a local charity to mark UN Human Rights Day (10 December). This included international cuisine and refreshments in the Student Association and partially fulfilled the students’ SQA Working with Others unit.