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Adult ESL Literacy Impact Study: Instruction and Outcomes. Larry Condelli Stephanie Cronen American Institutes for Research, USA LESLLA Sixth Annual Symposium Cologne, Germany August 26, 2010. Overview of Presentation. Summary of Study Purpose and Design Impact of the Intervention

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adult esl literacy impact study instruction and outcomes

Adult ESL Literacy Impact Study:Instruction and Outcomes

Larry Condelli

Stephanie Cronen

American Institutes for

Research, USA


Sixth Annual Symposium

Cologne, Germany

August 26, 2010

overview of presentation
Overview of Presentation
  • Summary of Study Purpose and Design
  • Impact of the Intervention
  • Content of Instruction
  • Student Attendance
  • Discussion and Implications of Findings
evaluation of an esl literacy intervention sam and pat
Evaluation of an ESL Literacy Intervention: Sam and Pat
  • Structured language approach
  • Adapted from Wilson Reading System
  • Never before evaluated for ESL
  • Literacy activities organized

around basal reader/workbook

  • Heavily phonics-based
sam and pat instructional approach
Sam and Pat: Instructional Approach
  • Direct instruction, transparent
    • Rules explained, modeled, practiced
  • Controlled text, vocabulary and grammar
    • Words match phonics already learned
  • Sequential
    • Easy to hard in defined steps
  • ESL instruction to support literacy
sam and pat literacy and language skills covered
Sam and Pat: Literacy and Language Skills Covered
  • Phonics for reading and writing
  • Sight words
  • Oral reading for

accuracy and fluency

  • Reading comprehension
  • Vocabulary
  • Speaking and listening
  • Grammar
research questions
Research Questions
  • How effective is instruction using the intervention in improving the English reading, speaking and listening skills of low-literate adult ESL learners?
  • Is the intervention more effective for certain groups of students (e.g., language, literacy level)?
  • Do differences in level of implementation of Sam and Pat and other instruction relate to variation in impacts?
study design
Study Design
  • 10 adult ESOL centers across USA
  • Paired intervention and “normal” ESL literacy classes (34 total)
  • Random assignment of students and teachers
    • 1,344 students participated for one term
  • Minimum 5 hours/week 10-12 weeks instruction with approach
  • Other instruction also


  • Each class conducted

twice over a year

student flow in the study
Student Flow in the Study


NL Literacy

  • Student applies to center
  • Assessed for NLL
  • Recruited into study
  • Gives informed consent
  • Random assignment to class
  • Pretests administered
  • Instruction
  • Posttests administered

Recruited into Study

Informed consent

Random Assignment




students assessments
Students Assessments
  • Phonics and decoding
    • Word attack
    • Letter/Word ID
  • Reading comprehension
  • Vocabulary (ROWPVT)
  • Listening, oral expression
sam and pat teachers in the study
Sam And Pat Teachers in the Study
  • All teachers randomly assigned
  • 3-day teacher training on curriculum
  • Follow-up visits by trainers
  • Classroom observations

to monitor fidelity

  • Refresher webinar at

start of second term

students in the study true literacy leslla
Students in the Study:“True” Literacy (LESLLA)
  • Little or no literacy in native language
  • Limited oral English
  • Education: 0-3 years
  • Languages:
    • Haitian-Creole
    • Spanish
    • Burmese
    • Others
students in the study non roman alphabet literate
Students in the Study: Non-Roman Alphabet Literate
  • Some Literacy in native language with non-Roman script
  • Mean education: 6 and more years
  • Limited oral English
  • Languages:
    • Armenian
    • Arabic
    • Farsi
    • Chinese
    • Others
findings and impacts

Findings and Impacts:

Student Test Results

main impact analyses
Main Impact Analyses
  • No significant impacts on literacy or language outcomes for full sample (below) and subsamples
  • But all students gained on pre-post tests
lack of impact of sam and pat
Lack of Impact of Sam and Pat
  • The study took place in a challenging environment that makes having/finding an impact difficult, but that represents reality
    • Low exposure and instructional time in adult ESL class
      • Short class duration
      • Limited instructional time and irregular attendance
    • Training teachers
      • Lack of specialized training in literacy
      • Short training time available
findings and impacts1

Findings and Impacts:

Instruction: What is taught?

classroom observations
Classroom Observations
  • Literacy development instruction:
    • Pre-literacy
    • Phonics
    • Fluency
    • Reading strategies & comprehension
    • Writing
  • ESL Instruction:
    • Oral language development
    • Grammar, etc.
    • Vocabulary
    • Socio-cultural knowledge
    • Functional literacy
instruction in literacy classes
Instruction in Literacy Classes
  • In control (“normal”) classes, little literacy taught- Why?
    • Importance of oral language for daily life
    • Student expressed needs
    • Lack of teaching on how to teach LESLLA students
  • More diversity of instruction in control classes
    • More NL use and bringing in outside
    • Less constrained by curriculum and study needs
effect of attendance on test scores
Effect of Attendance on Test Scores
  • Instruction and outcomes correlated
  • Instruction appears to have an effect on learning
  • Relationship is weak
  • Larger effect on reading outcomes
    • May mean literacy gains more sensitive to gain, may be testing artifact
observations and discussion

Observations and Discussion

Implications of Possible Findings for Practice and Research for LESLLA Students

implications for leslla practice
Implications for LESLLA Practice
  • Sam & Pat is no more effective than other types of ESL literacy instruction
  • Under what conditions, then, would Sam & Pat be a good choice for instruction?
  • Attendance relates to instruction, weakly
    • Is this what you expect? How could it be increased?
  • Teachers of literacy classes teach little literacy
    • How can we improve this --through curriculum and teacher professional development?
  • What are some potential explanations for these results from your perspective?
thank you
Thank you!
  • Contacts
  • Enjoy Koeln