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Joshua Savidge

December 13, 2016

INTR 611

Dr. Pierson

Philosophy of Teaching

Context: Adult ESL in the United States

Here will be outlined my philosophy of teaching and language instruction, as well as the

principles that will guide me as a teacher. Some of the principles will be pertinent to language

instruction in general and some will be specific to the context of adult ESL. I will give an idea as

to the theories, principles and philosophies that will guide me as a teacher attempting to offer the

most effective language instruction possible for my students.

First, the teacher should seek to guide their students towards communicative competence.

Acquiring communicative competence in English means that students will have attained

linguistic (grammar), sociolinguistic (language functions), discourse (fluency) and strategic

competence (communication strategies). Each of these aspects of communicative competence are

important for the success of a student looking to learn English as another language. In seeking to

assist students in elevating their language proficiency towards greater communicative

competence, the teacher should conduct error analysis in order to ascertain as to their current

level and find ways to help them advance in their proficiency. Error correction should be

selective and purposeful, as teachers seek to remedy specific problem with each correction.

These convictions guide my approach in English language teaching.


In looking to foster linguistic competence, I will have students study grammar through

meaningful means. A language instruction method that seems particularly applicable to the Adult

ESL context is Community Language Teaching (CLT). As a teacher, I want to teach my students

grammar forms and linguistic competence as it pertains to a variety of contexts, tasks and

functions. Grammar should be taught for the students to use and communicate with in their lives,

whether it be verbal discourse or literacy skills. The goal of linguistic competence in adult ESL

should first be comprehensibility and communication, then from there students can grow to even

greater levels of fluency and master of English for more specific purposes if they so desire.

As a teacher of adult ESL students, sociolinguistic competence is of particular

importance to me. With students from a wide variety of contexts and cultures, the adult ESL

classroom can function not only as a place of linguistic instruction but also cultural learning. In

order to communicate effectively and successfully, students must to be taught communicative

norms such as body language, tone of voice, politeness and other cultural factors that they may

not be aware of. These factors can often serve as a barrier to communication and for students

looking to grasp English here in the US, it is an important element of communication for

maintaining relationships, search for and securing jobs, communicating with landlords, etc.

In teaching discourse competence, I foster plenty of opportunities for my students to

practice communication in meaningful ways and settings. To do this, I believe roleplaying,

conversation groups, small groups and jigsaw activities are important for giving students

speaking practice. As I look to increase my students’ fluency in discourse, a consistent principle

to is challenge my students while still ensuring they are relaxed, comfortable, feel safe and are

motivated to learn. Activities such as group conversations or roleplaying are effective because

they keep stress low while still providing adequate challenge to students in discourse
competence, while activities like jigsaw instill confidence within the students and allow them to

communicate information that they know about to students that do not. In addition to these

discourse settings, it is important that students develop skills such as accuracy and correct

pronunciation in their discourse as these are conventions of language that are important. These

elements of discourse should be monitored and corrected as needed, but not to the extent that

they discourage experimentation and communication.

Lastly, strategic competency is a vital area that I will help students grow in. In order for

students to be able to use language in their lives effectively they must learn how to develop

strategies to deal with communication issues and words or phrases they don’t understand.

Oftentimes failure to develop strategic competence leads to communication breakdown. As a

teacher, I want to connect linguistic instruction to what the students encounter in their lives and

the communication difficulties they may already have in order to help them develop strategies

for working around gaps in their linguistic knowledge. Having these “work-arounds” can

empower students to engage in and maintain longer conversations.

As students learn and make errors in their language development, it is the job of the

teacher to devise strategies to correct these errors. In order to engage in error correction, the

teacher first must analyze the needs of the student so that they might observe where or why the

students are making errors. From there, it is important for to always ensure that the students feel

safe and comfortable in class. Having students talk in small groups is a great way to assess

certain needs because I can walk around to the different groups and listen for errors. As such,

after engaging in needs assessments, if several students seem to be struggling with a concept, I

could look to see what issues were difficult for the students and have the entire class review. If

only a few students were struggling, I could address the specific small groups and remind them
of the concept they were struggling with. There needs to be balance, however, as students should

also have the opportunity to self-correct their errors. Small groups are also effective in this

regard because the afford students a setting in which their peers can correct them, and they can

correct themselves or their peers.

Students’ learning styles are absolutely essential for the teacher to be aware of in their

teaching. I look to engage students through a variety of means, be they auditorily, visually,

kinesthetically or verbally, in order to both activate multiple areas of sensory processing,

allowing for more affective learning, and to teach to learners’ strengths. To do this, I think it is

helpful to use various media forms, such as videos, music, stories, roleplaying, pictures and other

methods, to help students engage with the material in whatever way is most effective for them. I

think it is important for new information to be provided in variety of ways so that students are

given every opportunity to grasp the material. Further, when it is time to review old material,

various styles can be used to reinforce material through a different style.

As a language instructor of adult ESL students, it is important for me to be a sort of

cultural ambassador in any way I can. Given the great diversity of students’ backgrounds, some

coming to America for professional reasons and some for more dire reasons, an ESL instructor

needs to be available to help students navigate their new cultural settings. Issues like social

norms, how to complain to a landlord or call 911 are all important issues for students to be

equipped to deal with. Teaching students about the culture of the United States, as well as still

being welcoming to and promoting the value of students’ first languages and home cultures, is

one of the jobs of the ESL instructor, especially in the Adult ESL context. I want to give students

a better sense of American culture while they are in the safe environment of the classroom, so
that they may have the tools to converse with people and navigate their day-to-day world

effectively and confidently.

One of the most important elements in kindling the success of students in language

acquisition is motivation. The teacher needs to understand why students wish to learn the

language and engage that motivation in order to make the learning for meaningful to the

students. In the case of Adult ESL, many students are motivated to learn English so that they can

get a job, navigate and function in the US or communicate better with their family members. By

doing things like connecting lessons with workplace experiences or family relationships and

stories, students not only will acquire the vocabulary surrounding these various spheres of life,

but they will also be learning things that they are motivated to learn about, making the process

more effective. Making learning meaningful for the student is also important to me as a from a

pedagogical standpoint. Language is best learned when it is connected to students’ preexisting

knowledge and framework. If students are mothers or teachers or bankers, finding ways to

engage that framework will help students remember vocabulary and lessons more effectively.

I believe that students deserve love, respect, investment and energy. As a teacher, I

believe it is important not only to help my students acquire the English language, but to also be

wholly invested in them as people. Providing students with a sense of safety and community in

my classroom is paramount to me. Being able to feel comfortable and appreciated in class is not

only valuable to the learning process but valuable to the students personally, given any number

of uncertain variables that may be present for them as they live in a foreign context.

This is a summary of the principles and values that will guide me as an Adult ESL

instructor. Through a communicative approach, fostering a relaxed but challenging learning

environment, I aim to equip students to be able to acquire language for a variety of functions,
express themselves and navigate their world in the US. Teaching of any kind is teaching to the

whole person and my core philosophy of teaching is to bridge excellence in language acquisition

with holistic education in order to motivate and encourage my students to excel.