Nexus: A Journal for Teachers in Development
CAELA Provides Professional Development
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By Kirsten Schaetzel and Lynda Terrill


The Center for Adult English Language Acquisition (CAELA), established in 2004, is funded by the Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) of the U.S. Department of Education and housed at the Center for Applied Linguistics in Washington, DC. CAELA was created to help states build their capacity to promote English language learning and academic achievement of adult immigrants and refugees learning English. The capacity building work that CAELA does with states consists of assisting them in analyzing their teacher and student data to plan professional development, finding resources and materials for professional development, and building state systems and networks among states to sustain and enhance professional development.

CAELA’s major tasks are:

* Leading an initiative to build capacity for improving the skills of teachers and administrators in adult ESL programs

* Developing an easy-to-use repository of resources (e.g., research studies, instructional curricula, information on language acquisition) that are accessible through the CAELA Web site

* Producing easily accessible materials that synthesize research and make applications to practice

* Developing a toolkit of training materials for professional developers to train teachers of adult English language learners

* Providing technical assistance to adult ESL teachers, programs, and states

The information that supports these activities and the resources themselves are housed on the CAELA Website. Many of the features and resources of the CAELA Website are useful to teachers teaching English as an additional or foreign language throughout the world. This article discusses what is available on the CAELA Website ( to help instructors and teacher trainers plan both professional development and classroom activities.

The CAELA Website was built on the foundation of the National Center for ESL Literacy (NCLE) Website. This Website was redesigned in 2005 to maintain the NCLE collection, under a new name, CAELA, and to add several more features and increasing functionality for users. The CAELA Website includes many briefs, collections, and digests; an adult ESL resource database; and other materials that teacher trainers and teachers may find useful. The remainder of this article discusses each of these sections and their possible use.


Briefs   (

CAELA briefs, all written since 2005, are easily accessible papers that synthesize research and make applications to practice. These online publications are written by experienced teachers, trainers, and researchers, and cover a wide range of topics integral to teaching adult English language learners. Some of these topics include:

* Online Professional Development for Adult ESL Educators, at: 

* Adolescent Learners in Adult ESL Classes, at: 

* Applying Research Findings to Adult English Language Students, at: 

*How should Adult ESL Reading Instruction Differ from ABE Reading Instruction? at: 

The briefs also contain substantive bibliographies that give teachers and teacher trainers easy access to current, seminal information for further research. Many of the resources cited contain Web links for convenient access.


Collections (

CAELA collections contain information on a topic from many different sources. They provide background information and an overview of the resources that are currently available online and in print on specific topics in adult ESL. They often include links to journal articles and other resources. Background information includes definitions for key terms, current information available and, if necessary, an historical overview of the topic. Collections then list CAELA resources available on the Website, resources from the ERIC database, and a bibliography of articles and reports. Collections also list information about government and non-government organizations and electronic discussion lists that are pertinent to a topic, with their Websites. The following table, appearing in each collection, shows the types of information available on each collection topic and, by clicking on the type of information, for example “Articles/Reports,” the user is sent to that part of the collection. 

CAELA Resources

ERIC Database





Policy Issues

Other Resources

Current collections are: Assessment and Evaluation in Adult ESL, Civics Education for Adult English Language Learners, Learning Disabilities and Adult ESL, Second Language Acquisition, and What Beginning Teachers and Tutors of Adult English Language Learners Need to Know.


Digests   (

CAELA digests are shorter pieces written on specific topics of particular interest to practitioners (e.g., ESL Instruction and Adults with Learning Disabilities, Improving Adult English Language Learners’ Pronunciation). Sixty-seven digests are online at present and cover such topics as assessment and evaluation, culture, methods and approaches, professional development, program design, second language acquisition, technology, and workplace ESL. Digests are written by experienced adult ESL teachers, trainers, and researchers and contain a synthesis of research and information about the topic and references. Digests are shorter and provide less detailed treatment of a topic than briefs do.

Because of their length, depth, and bibliographies, briefs and digests can be effective background readings for trainings and discussion readings for study circles. (A study circle is when a group of practitioners read and discuss research and consider its implications for classroom and program practice. Led by a facilitator, the group meets multiple times to reflect on the meaning of theory and research and to explore its applications to their own work.) Briefs are longer and may contain more information about a specific topic than digests. Whether a trainer or study circle leader chooses a brief or a digest will depend on the amount of time participants can devote to reading. For example, because they are usually only two print pages, digests can easily be used for jigsaw reading activities in trainings


Resource Database 

One of CAELA’s tasks has been to develop an easy-to-use repository of resources about adult English as a second language (e.g., research studies, instructional curricula, information on language acquisition). The repository is accessible through the CAELA Website. With this repository, CAELA is able to disseminate research-based information and resources for effective English language instruction for adults. The repository of resources currently contains 120 research studies and research-based resources and is regularly updated.


The CAELA Website has a section of “Tools” for both Program Development and Instruction. In the Program Development tools section of the Website, administrators and teacher trainers can find information about staff development, ESL methods and approaches, and many other topics. Each of these Webpages contains information about the topic and links to CAELA and other resources for information and implementation. In the Instruction section, there are tools and information for teachers to use. The Instruction section contains information for teachers on assessment and evaluation, ESL methods and approaches, health literacy, workplace literacy, second language acquisition and other topics.


Other Materials 

The CAELA Website also contains other materials that might be of interest to teacher trainers. These include annotated bibliographies, health literacy resources, a practitioner toolkit, and a compendium of project-based learning materials, such as:

*Online Professional Development Resources for Adult ESL Educators, at:

* Research on Reading Development of Adult English Language Learners: An Annotated Bibliography, at:

* Practitioner Toolkit: Working with Adult English Language Learners (a toolkit designed to support adult education and family literacy instructors), at:

* Picture Stories for Adult ESL Health Literacy, at:

* Project Based Learning and Assessment: A Resource Manual for Teachers, at:



All the resources listed, as well as the others on the CAELA Website, are free and available to all who have Internet access. If someone has a specific question about a topic or situation, they can write to CAELA at  A CAELA staff person will answer their question in a timely manner.

“Now many national policy-makers and experts believe that professional…an important tool for improving student learning.” (Viadero, 2005, p.1) Through CAELA’s Website, and the many and varied documents it presents, CAELA endeavors to support administrators, teacher trainers, and teachers.



Viadero, D. (2005). Pressure builds for effective staff training. Education Week, 24(43), 1 & 18. (43), 1 & 18. 

Kirsten Schaetzel is Program Associate of CAELA. She has over twenty years of teaching experience and has worked in teacher training in Singapore, Macao, Bangladesh and the United States. She has experience in curriculum and materials development, academic literacy and monitoring bilingual and special education programs. She is co-author of Think Your Way to Effective Writing (Pearson/Prentice-Hall).

Lynda Terrill is Technical Assistance and Web Coordinator at CAELA. She has over 22 years experience working with both native and nonnative speakers of English in literacy, workplace, family literacy, academic, and special needs venues. She is a co-author of Collaborations: English in Our Lives (Heinle) and Community Experiences: Reading and Communication for Civics (McGraw Hill).

Volume 9, Issue 1, November 2006

                                            NEXUS   ISSN 1521-1894
                                            Copyright 2007