Woodland Community College is a small college located near Sacramento, California. Our ESOL program is very small, serving below 200 students. For the past few years, the program has been orphaned since the last full-time faculty retired. Last year, the college hired an ESL Resource Faculty on AEBG funding to completely redesign the program. The new program will be launched in spring 2019.
Woodland Community College
Accelerated Program Design
Woodland’s accelerated ESOL program is, in many ways, fashioned after Cuyamaca’s accelerated program. However, we had some unique constraints that have caused the final product to look a bit different, but the overall aim is the same, to provide a sequence that lets capable students move faster while still providing support for students who need more time.
The main reason for the difference between our programs is that Woodland is a very small school with an even smaller ESOL program. Also, administrators at my school would not allow me to stack A and B sections of credit courses together into the same class and time slot. There is no way that we could fill a B section separately, so I had to think of something different.
The solution that I came up with was to create a credit and a noncredit version for each level, which will allow students to repeat when needed. The credit/noncredit courses will be mirrored in the same classroom at the same time.
Our academic program has three accelerated levels that unite reading, writing, discussion, and grammar around a relevant central theme and line of inquiry. Some students will be able to complete the sequence in 3 semesters, others in more, depending on each student’s needs. The credit courses are pass/no pass. The benefit of this is that a no pass won’t negatively affect a student’s GPA. Taking the noncredit version is an option for a student who receives a pass but doesn’t feel confident to succeed in the next level. The core courses were also written with hybrid as an option to allow for greater flexibility when scheduling.
For each level, there will be a corequisite support course. The noncredit versions of the support courses will be open entry/open exit. This will allow students to opt-in mid-semester if they realize they’re struggling and need more support and class time.
The three levels below support will be a 3-unit contextualized grammar course that uses the reading from the core course as a starting place to look at grammar. I took this idea from Cuyamaca’s grammar corequisite courses. For the one and two levels below transfer courses, the corequisite course is a 2-unit content support corequisite that will be focused on what students are struggling with in the core course.
We will also offer a 1-unit open lab course that encompasses all three levels. This course will be taught in a computer lab and will be a place for students to work on assignments and topics related to the core courses they’re taking. The lab instructor will help answer questions and provide students with activities and resources for what they’re working on.
You can see two visuals of our sequence below. The first one shows the sequence flow and courses, and the second one shows the repeatable nature of the sequence.
Each accelerated class at Woodland Community College will be based on a central guiding theme and inquiry question. Students will read about, talk about, and write about things related to the theme. Student collaboration and engagement will be a focus, and everything will be contextualized.
Woodland Community College is piloting the use of a guided self-placement website to use for placement in our ESOL program. Students will complete several steps to help them select a level. Below you can see a screenshot of the starting page of the website.
The last step is an optional survey of English use to help us as we improve how we support and place our students. We plan to conduct post-semester surveys to see if there are any correlations between the level students place at, how challenging they think it will be, and their overall success in the course. Eventually, we hope to use the survey as a way to help guide students to a starting place for exploring the levels.
If you would like to check out the website, send me an email at email@example.com. Let me know the name of your institution and position, and I’ll send you the link so you can check out the website.
Questions and Answers
What level are students at when they enter the sequence?
Since we’re piloting a guided self-placement, this will vary slightly. We do have four noncredit levels preceding the academic sequence that we offer on Saturdays, but a student isn’t required to complete all before jumping to the accelerated sequence. The third level below transfer is geared for high beginning/ low intermediate.
What happens when you have true beginners show up to your program.
They will either take our beginning-level class on Saturday or will take a class at the local adult school who we’re partnering with.
What is hard to get the English department to let your ESL sequence go right up to transfer level?
Grammar is taught in context in a just-in-time fashion. If students are struggling with something that they need for an assignment, then that grammar will be practiced in the core course. Grammar is not the main focus of the course. The task is the main focus, and when grammar is needed to complete the task, then it’s tackled in the context of the assignment. I think this is a much more motivational way to approach grammar than to learn endless topics (often abstract ones) without a purpose or context.
As I mentioned above, the courses will also have a hybrid option. I anticipate the online time being a great place to put extra grammar support for those students who are struggling with a particular topic. There are also corequisite support courses that will provide support for the core course. This will also be a place that needed grammar topics will be covered.
Finally, we are creating online Canvas modules that will be available to all students through our student success center. We’re targeting commonly confused topics that are also relevant to what students need to do in a composition course. If a teacher notices that a student is struggling with a topic, then he/she can recommend to the student to check out the module. We’re also going to provide students with a grammar reference packet, so they can reference topics when they need to.
Have you considered adding a transfer-level ESL composition course as the last course in your sequence?
I don’t see that as a direction we’ll move in. I think it could work well for some programs, but we’re a small school. I do think that once we get the rest of the program going, we’ll explore offering a transfer-level English course that’s labeled to be for multilingual students. It would be taught by someone who has minimum quals in both ESL and English.