Archive for the ‘ESOL’ Category

After Career Preparation Mastery, Getting through the Digital Gauntlet to a Job Interview

January 7, 2018

Competency-based adult education and backward (curriculum) design approaches are effective ways to create curriculum content that adult learners need to prepare for careers.

Competency-based adult education is an instruction system in which intended learning outcomes and performance measures are defined and made clear in advance to students who then are given the time they need to learn and to demonstrate that they have mastered the competencies. Increasingly, some industries, post-secondary education institutions, and some adult basic skills program are moving toward competency-based education systems.

Backward design is an approach to creating curriculum that begins with what the designers want learners to know and be able to do when they have completed their curriculum, that is, when the learners have mastered the learning objectives, or have attained the learning outcomes. Curriculum designers then “work backwards,” identifying the instructional activities and resources that will enable learners to master the objectives and attain those outcomes. Developed by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, this is now a widely embraced and effective approach to curriculum design. However, do competency-based approaches and backward design curricula go far enough if the learner’s goal is to get on a career pathway leading to a family sustaining salary? Is well-designed instruction, with excellent teachers managing it, and students’ commitment to mastering the content all that learners need to get hired for jobs in their chosen career pathway?

If the adult learner has identified a career pathway to pursue, an important if, then it’s not enough to just prepare by completing a well-designed occupational training course and/or a higher education certificate or degree program. Here’s why. The way in which employers, especially large corporations, choose candidates has changed, and this is not a new phenomenon; it’s been moving in this direction for at least a decade. You may have noticed that these jobs all require submitting online applications. A major reason is that they include an applicant tracking system (ATS) a human resources database that sifts large numbers of applications for a job and organizes them into categories, ranking them by keywords (e.g. skills, competencies, titles of positions held, found, degrees, etc.) Typically this takes the software seconds at most to sort each application. Accomplished adult learners may have mastered the intended outcomes of an education or training program, but may be rejected as a candidate for a position by the Applicant Tracking System because they haven’t described themselves using words or phrases that the software understands.

To be asked to a job interview for the position, applicants need to be taught how to look at a position description and identify the key words that the ATS is likely to recognize. This implies that the applicant has access to a computer or portable digital device and the Internet, and the ability to:

  • Use an online job board such as Monster or Indeed to find the right jobs to apply for and to upload a carefully prepared resume
  • Accurately research what a position requires both from the position advertisement and also from O*NET descriptions of what position descriptions that have this or similar titles usually require
  • Select key words to include in the online application for the position
  • If possible, review the online application without completing it to understand the questions, take notes on them, and record verbatim questions not understood which may require further research
  • Accurately complete the application

These are new competencies for finding good jobs that require good research and problem solving skills as well as computer and Internet comfort and competence. These competencies include not only the required knowledge and skills for the position but also the digital literacy skills to get through the ATS digital gauntlet to a job interview in which they can demonstrate that they have the required knowledge and skills for the position.

For more information, see: What do Corporate Recruiters Want? and Applicant Tracking System Definition

Photo Logs (Phlogs)

August 26, 2007

Phlogs (Photo logs, or blogs with photos) have a lot of appeal for adult education/ESOL. They could be used as part of a classroom virtual visit, for example. Students using regular, digital, or even throwaway cameras could do phlogs of their neighborhoods. (I did one of my neighborhood several years ago called “from my window .” Every photo was taken from a window of my house or car. Then I wrote short captions underneath — a perfect beginning level ESOL activity.) You’ll find it at

Picture taken from window in home of David J. Rosen

Students at project Hope in Boston a few years ago did a history phlog, Dorchester Now and Then, comparing photos from their neighborhoods now — and earlier. You’ll find it at

Codman Square then and now

Immigrant students could also document their passage from their first country to their neighborhood in North America — scanning photos which were taken earlier. All students could document what they like — and don’t like — about their communities. And phlogs could be used for action research/social change projects — documenting urban or rural environmental hazards, poor public services (trash not picked up, street signs missing, giant pot holes, etc.)

Project-based Learning: The International Classroom Virtual Visit Project

August 26, 2007

In a post to the National Institute for Literacy Technology discussion list on July 17, 2003, Irshat Yusupovich Madyarov wrote:

I’m looking for a platform to be used for an internet-based intercultural communication between two schools with kids from different cultural backgrounds. This would involve user-friendly message board, posting pictures, etc. There will be a web site as a part of this project, so we could as well integrate all communication tools we need into this website. i know some websites that offer this type of service. I would like to hear about your experience.

I replied:

One example of project-based (constructivist) distance learning, which involves matched classes, groups or schools from different countries is the International Classroom Virtual Visit project. Susan Gaer, an ESL instructor at Santa Anna College in Southern California, and I developed the project in 1999. Since then we have helped teachers and their classes, from various countries, to match up and exchange information about themselves and their cultures. Students introduce themselves, their class/school and their communities through student-and teacher-made Web pages. They ask each other questions using group or individual e-mail. Most of the classes are adult ESL/ESOL students, but some are K-12 students, and some are adult basic skills students. Some of the matches have been cross-generational.

It’s a great way to encourage production of writing, cultural learning, and increased comfort and experience with the internet. For some (teachers and students) it’s also an opportunity to learn about web page design, including graphics.

For more information about this project, and to see the Web pages the classes have developed since 1999. you can go to the Virtual School Visit section of Susan’s E-mail projects Web page at:

To join the International Classroom Virtual Visit project, go to:

An inexpensive platform which you might be interested exploring for project-based learning, that has a message board, a place for posting pictures, and many other virtual learning environment features is Community Zero