Introduction to the 2014 Edition

Adult Settlement Blended Language Learning: Selected Annotated Bibliography

There are a number of areas of research included in this bibliography. When we began the search for material related to adult settlement blended language learning we quickly learned that although there is a significant body of research literature in the area of blended learning, much of it doesn’t look directly at adult settlement blended language learning. Nonetheless, this literature addresses many of the key subject areas of this bibliography, and is of critical importance in considering the planning, development and implementation of blended learning in the area of settlement language learning. As we drilled deeper to find blended language learning, it became clear that we needed to consider sources, studies and research in areas such as mainstream blended learning in corporate settings, post-secondary settings and secondary and elementary settings; blended English as a Foreign Language (EFL) in post-secondary education in both English speaking and non English-speaking countries; blended English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL); and Computer-assisted Language Learning (CALL). We suspected that these areas could also yield important insights for our understandings of the factors that can contribute to the effective use of a blended approach to language learning.

In an interesting and thought-provoking review of the current state of ESOL in the UK and a brief historical overview of the development of EFL and ESOL, Williams & Williams (2007) support this notion. Their report outlines the distinctions between EFL and ESOL and points to the need for convergence and/or integration of these two categories to meet the current needs of students in the UK.  The report also provides an outline of ESOL provision in Canada, Australia and New Zealand and traces the historical, policy-related and ideological strands in each country that led to the current model of provision. This report underlines the relationships between different categories of language provision and the need to recognize that research from one category may be significant for another.

We have separated the literature into a number of categories that address questions about aspects of implementing blended learning in adult settlement language training in Ontario, Canada.

  • Setting the Scene: We have set the scene by providing some early research on blended learning, filling in some information about the history of blended learning, the state of the field today and ending with slides from Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC)’s 2013 Vision 2020 conference.
  • Learner Readiness and Learner Attitudes towards Technology: The bibliography then moves on to some of the work that explores the importance of motivation, reflection, needs and interest with regard to learners’ readiness and attitudes towards learning with technology.
  • Instructor Readiness: Another important topic that can be tracked through this bibliography has to do with tech tools and how their availability has changed the notion of the digital divide. In 2014 vast numbers of tools and web resources are now available and sometimes are required to be used, but many researchers reiterate themes of ongoing professional development, attitudes towards technology, the importance of balance and choice in “the blend” and how instructors make these choices.
  • Technology Tools: A brief section is included on technology tools to provide an example of how tools can be used in adult settlement language programs.
  • Manuals, Guides and Frameworks: There are a selection of manuals, guides and frameworks from a range of sources, including those from blended learning itself, to more specific ones about using blended learning in language or ESL programs in Canada and elsewhere.
  • Benefits that Extend beyond the Language Program: Many researchers point to the need for adults in settlement language training programs to be familiar and comfortable with the kinds of technology they will be facing at work, in Canadian society and in other facets of education. Some of these are included in the section about benefits that result from blended language programming.
  • Costs and Return on Investment: Readers will note that there are no definitive cost-benefit analyses provided, but there are some studies that give some suggestions and lay out some cost saving strategies.
  • Looking Forward: This section includes emerging trends that are related to devices, administration and access of resources and program innovation.
  • Implementing Blended Learning Language Programs: A number of examples of different kinds of approaches to implementation lay out challenges, successes, changes in attitudes and recommendations for success.
  • There is no separate section in the bibliography related to program readiness; we hope that the many thoughtful studies, guides, reports and examples that are threaded throughout the sections of the bibliography have also created a sense of what is needed to achieve program readiness.

It’s important to put this annotated bibliography in the context of the project for which it was developed. The LearnIT2teach Project is supported by Citizenship and Immigration Canada to offer LINC[1] teachers and managers in CIC-funded programs the tools and training to integrate computer-assisted language learning (CALL) into language training programs. In addition to teacher technical and pedagogical support, the project offers four stages of training for any teacher with basic computer skills. Threaded throughout the training are Chickering and Gamson’s good teaching principles[2]  as applied to online learning. For LINC learners, the project develops and hosts Moodle-based LINC courseware. Intended for use in a blended modality, the courseware encompasses training at CLB levels 2-7, more than 300 learning objects based on existing print-based LINC curriculum and a version of the Moodle learning management system that helps build skills in listening, speaking, reading and writing.

The project employs a Participatory Action Research model to support constant improvement of what is offered to language programs, learners, teachers, administrators and funders. This section of the bibliography includes reports released since the project’s inception in 2010.

Providing informal training opportunities to ESL professionals to raise awareness and skills in implementing blended learning is also part of the mandate of the project. This annotated bibliography is intended to give readers access to a selection of the best and most relevant research and research literature related to the field. We hope the Canadian settlement language training community benefits from the many insights and useful data cited in this document.

[1] Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada, a coast to coast federally funded settlement language training program.

[2] Seven Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Education By Arthur Chickering and Zelda Gamson.