Professional Resources, Part 2

  1. Edutopia – Retrieved from or

This website bases all its resources on six basic strategies for learning:

  • Comprehensive Assessment
  • Integrated Studies
  • Project-Based Learning
  • Social and Emotional Learning
  • Teacher Development
  • Technology Integration

Founded by filmmaker/director George Lucas, the idea is to promote exciting learning with “student teams working cooperatively and children connecting with passionate experts”.  The resources include videos, job postings, research, and lesson plans.

There is one whole section on diversity with several short videos for teachers.  One in particular is narrated by Dr. Dorothy Strickland (2012), which recommends the teacher learn as much as possible about where each child is coming from, but be able to step back and deal with each child as an individual.  This also applies to adult learners and isn’t necessarily easy, but very important.

  1. Smithsonian Education (multiple resources with state standards, lesson plans, etc.).

I was able to visit just part of the Smithsonian earlier this year and found myself amazed at the overwhelming amount of knowledge contained within the walls.  Now, much of that knowledge is available online through this website with resources for teachers, students, and families. One can search by state standards to ensure the lesson plan is appropriate for the region.  There are suggestions for planning field trips, and opportunities for professional development.

I especially like the webcasts available online and would certainly use some of those in a classroom.  Another lesson plan which would appeal to the students is From Corido to Ballad which teaches about the history of the cowboy culture. “El corrido de Kansas” is probably the earliest existing song about the cowboy life, and in the lesson, students change a Spanish language song to an English language song.  It presents the opportunity to understand the gist of the song, rather than a literal translation.

  1. Educurious – Retrieved from

Educurious® is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization on a mission to fundamentally transform the K-12 education experience. Our vision: To create an effective education system in which young people learn in meaningful and inspiring ways, and classrooms are places they want to be.  Their goal: “To cultivate curious, motivated young people who are ready for college and tomorrow’s careers….They combine project-based learning, technology, and connections with real-world experts, to create meaningful learning experiences that cultivate contemporary skills.

  1. Teacher Toolkit – Retrieved from

This resource offers links to many articles and blogs by others in education.  Most recently, I found an article that had lists of questions for every level of teacher to ask themselves for classroom/self- improvement.  In addition, there are links to training, chat, YouTube videos, etc.  One can search for ideas specific to their teaching.  Type in “writing” and the site brings up many resources.

  1. Colorado State University – Retrieved from

This website offers varied ESL lesson plans and the materials (worksheets) to use.  While observing the ESL class these last weeks, I mentioned this site to the teacher and she uses it quite frequently.  It provides resource links to other colleges and universities.  Currently, I’m reviewing lessons on writing.

  1. The Power of Reading, by Dr. Stephen Krashen (2012).  [Youtube video].  Retrieved from

Dr. Krashen’s ideas have been integral to the entire TESOL program.  He discusses what the differences are between acquisition of first and second (or third) languages.  His lecture is easy to follow and he emphasizes key points.

  1. “My English”: Second Language Acquisition as Individual and Social Construction, by Kurt Kohn. (2012). [Youtube video].  Retrieved from

Another video, this one brings understanding to the teachers about the why of learning and speaking English.  Kohn says, “I want to get it right” not just be understood.  This is especially important for adult learners.  As a bonus, it was pleasant to hear English spoken so carefully and clearly.

  1. Research-Based Strategies for English Language Learners (White Paper) – Retrieved from

I found this paper to be quite helpful in explaining and showing how scaffolding works in teaching English to non-native speakers.

  1. CASAS-CAHSEE (2014). CASAS Basic Skills Content Standards. Retrieved from

This website offers the standards for students to take and pass the CASAS-CAHSEE Exam (2014), a state test of English language proficiency which is designed to show proficiency in:

  • Writing conventions
  • Writing strategies
  • Word analysis
  • Reading comprehension
  • Literacy response and analysis

There are assessment tests available. Students preparing for citizenship tests or employment opportunities will appreciate the experience. CASAS recognizes the following areas of competencies:  phonology, vocabulary, grammar, general and informational discourse, and strategic and critical thinking.

  1. Discovery Edu Retrieved from

This network features blogs by educator for educators.  Recently, I have been following SOS, Spotlight on Strategies.  There are many resources for training and techniques for bringing Discovery into the classroom.


The Impact of Multilingualism on Grade Point Average Among College Undergraduates

The Impact of Multilingualism on Grade Point Average among College Undergraduates

Laurel Gilmore

EDU 653:  Second Language Acquisition

Marisa Gambardella

January 18, 2015

Synopsis of Article

The Impact of Multilingualism on Grade Point Average among College Undergraduates (Kovalik, 2012) discusses research to determine whether or not students who speak more than one language have an impact on the grade point average of those students.  Multilingualism is first defined as fluency in multiple languages.  Merriam-Webster (n.d.).  Alexandra Kovalik determined that very little research was available on this topic.  She presented a survey to “various preselected classrooms” … of students in a “large public university in the northeast” (p.142).

The survey was administered to 305 students of whom only 12% were multilingual.  Of those multilingual students, 71% indicated an existing grade point average of 2.67 to 3.55.  In contrast, students who spoke only one language had higher grade point averages of 3.76 to 4.0.  The author further describes benefits of multilingualism which include the ability to “bridge gaps in communication,” encourage respect, and “create cohesion within the world” (p. 142).  There were only four literature reviews conducted by the author who determined very little had actually been written specifically to address grade point averages.  She posited two hypotheses:

  • Null: There is no difference in grade point averages…
  • Alternative: Multilingual students would have a higher grade point average.

The survey appears to have validity in how it was administered, although there was a large gap between gender participants. The author determined results that “suggest that there is no significant relationship between multilingualism and grade point average, or if there is one, that the relationship is negative” (p. 147).  The author further states her finding “contradict much of the increasing value that is being put on learning multiple languages”.  She does draw attention to the deficits of the survey and suggests ways in which it could be improved if completed again.

Article Analysis and Reaction

This student found the article quite interesting and also expected the results to support the second hypothesis that multilingual students would have higher grade point averages. A study by Braunmüller and Gabriel (2012) states “default modes of communication observed in large parts of the world are determined by both individual and societal multilingualism rather than by monolingualism”.  It would therefore seem logical that multilingualism benefits would outweigh the disadvantages and perhaps even increase scholastic results.

In the first review of an article by Lutz and Crist (2009), results seemed to indicate students “who have some sort of ability to speak Spanish have a higher GPA than those who do not” (p. 143).  However, another study by Coombs and Cebula (2009) appears to dispute that theory.  Coombs and Cebula studied whether nurses who were multilingual were rewarded for having that skill.  Apparently, they are not, even though there is a great need for multilingual nurses.  Jacob Koppenberg (n.d.) says “If a patient speaks a different language than the healthcare workers around them, a trip to the ER – or even a routine doctor’s appointment – can become terribly overwhelming, scary and even potentially dangerous”.  Nurses are often the liaison between patients and doctors and there is great value in their ability to communicate in the patients’ native language.

Peter Martin (2010) performed a different study to “examine the impact of multilingualism on a student’s identity” (p. 143).  The author of the subject article admits this research does not “look at grade point average” but seems to feel this is important.  It may not be as easily measurable, but important in an abstract way.  The conclusion of Martin’s study was that multilingualism had a negative impact on students. The students felt isolated and experienced feelings of “racism and exclusion due to the lack of space given to embrace their multilingualism” (p. 143).   Steve Marshall (2010) supports this and says “ESL is not only a linguistic state, a course, an abbreviation, appreciated by many, disliked by others; it is also as an institutional and learner identity that some students associate with non-acceptance, deficit, and even non-recognition of their multilingual and multicultural knowledge and competence” (p.51).   He further describes “a range of social, cultural, and linguistic factors” which helps students identify themselves within university settings.  Often these students’ assets are not recognized for their value, because of their first identity as ESL students.

The final study by Joyce Milambiling (2011) was also a study of feelings and not specific to grade point averages.  Students appeared to benefit from being multilingualism as they were able to use “their language skills to help them when learning another language” (p. 143).  This supports the view of this student that an instructor should get to know the students cultures, characteristics and backgrounds.  The instructor should also understand the motivations and goals of their students and learn how each processes information and learning styles.  With that, the instructor can help the students by identifying challenges and being able to use resources more efficiently.


Most of the studies seem to have difficulty identifying the actual value of learning a new language.  The intrinsic values are easy to see but much harder to quantify.  Further surveys should be conducted in this area.  Those surveys could rely more on instructor feedback as opposed to being self-reported by the students.  A larger data base with balanced gender participants would indicate higher validity.  As Ms. Kovalik says, “Although this research question doesn’t confirm that multilingualism positively impacts grade point average, it cannot be concluded that it doesn’t impact other aspects of one’s life” (p. 148).



Gabriel, C. & Braunmüller, K. (2012). Multilingual Individuals and Multilingual Societies. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Pub.                            Co.

Kovalik, A. (2012). The Impact of Multilingualism on Grade Point Average among College Undergraduates. Perspectives (University Of New Hampshire), 142-148.  Retrieved from sid=79caa98a-8dfa-4ab0-9034-97a4250935e5%40sessionmgr4005&vid=6&hid=4211

Coombs K. C. & Cebula, R.J. (2009). “Are there rewards for language skills? Evidence from the earnings of registered nurses.” The Social Science Journal. 47:3, 659-677.

Koppenbert, J. (n.d.).  The value of being a multilingual nurse” Oniglot.  Retrieved from

Lutz, A. & Crist, S. (2009). “Why Bilingual boys get better grades in English-only America? The impacts of  gender, language and family interaction on academic achievement of Latino/a children of immigrants.” Ethnic and Racial                 Studies. 32:2, 346-368.

Marshall, S. (2010). Re-Becoming ESL: Multilingual University Students and a Deficit Identity. Language And Education,                  24(1), 41-56.

Martin, P. (2010). “‘They have lost their identity but not gained a British one’: non-traditional multilingual students in higher education in the United Kingdom.” Language and Education. 24:1, 9-20.

Merriam-Webster (n.d.).  Retrieved from

Milambiling, J. (2011). “Bringing One Language to Another: Multilingualism as a Resource in the Language Classroom.”                  English Teaching Forum. 1, 18-35.

Cognitive Science of Teaching and Learning


This latest discussion is meant to be a reflection of my personal learning experience in this class. The topics spanned Artificial Intelligence to Playing the Whole Game to applications to real-life experience.

I had limited knowledge of Artificial Intelligence (AI) when we began. I remembered the robots of my childhood, such as WALL-E, Johnny 5 (Short Circuit), C3PO (Star Wars), and Rosie the Maid (The Jetsons). These examples of AI showed intelligence, compassion, and emotion. Computers can process millions of bits of information very quickly and perform tasks or answer questions. They can even converse. In reality, however, they are not able to feel emotion.

We’ve discovered emotion, or feelings, are necessary for true thinking. “Feelings can be seen as responses to facts and sensations that exist beyond the tight horizon of awareness. They can also be thought of as messages from the unconscious, as conclusions it has reached after considering a wide range of information — they are the necessary foundation of thought” (Lehrer, 2007).

The next steps in our journey brought us to how to understand how we think – cognition.


There were some key concepts in this and include:

Rules – Rules are the guidelines for behavior. They are learned and keep life from deteriorating into chaos.

Logic – Logic is a name for the general family of formal proof systems with inference rules. It’s reasonable and based on connections between facts and observations.

Concepts – Concepts are the big picture ideas and are the representations of our mental images wherein groups of similar features are grouped together.

A perfect example of this is the class. We were given certain rules regarding assignments, due dates, participation, etc. The readings and research provided the logic to back up our ideas. This all comes together to form concepts of what we have learned and understand.

So how does this apply? In the workplace, we also have rules although the logic sometimes escapes us. The general concept for most business is to make money by providing some type of service. In teaching ESL, we will use grammar rules to help students understand and be able to speak English. Logic will come into play as we apply reasons for the rules and bring it all together to categorize similar concepts.

Making Learning Whole

After learning the basics of how we think, it was time to Play the Whole Game (Perkins, 2009). Perkins presented us with seven principles, using analogies, to learning how teachers can transform education.

Play the Whole Game – Start simple but teach the overall lesson. Explain the rules, and make the experience meaningful. This is especially important when teaching adults. Carl Rogers believed adult learners need their learning to be practical and applicable to their lives.

Make the Game Worth Playing – Help the students understand the why of learning. Is it applicable to their lives? Is it meaningful? What motivates the student, or even the teacher? My favorite quote on student engagement and motivation was by Wlodkowski (1999, p. 7) “Historically, motivation and sex share a similar fate: both promise extraordinary rewards but when actually realized they continue to mystify and confuse. At the core of each is desire”.

Work on the Hard Parts – Practice the difficult things. If multiplication is tough, work on it until the student ‘gets it’. Golfers work on their swing, quarterbacks work on their throw.

Play Out of Town – Transfer learning from one concept to another. Help the student see connections so every lesson is not learned in a vacuum. This is valuable outside the classroom as well. When children learn to walk, they no longer think about it when running to catch a ball. Math learning will be applied to handling a budget and shopping.

Uncover the Hidden Game – Dig deep and understand what is going on beneath the surface. The hidden games include:
• Strategy – break it down to the basics
• Causal Thinking – what is the relationship between cause and effect? Is it always the same?
• Inquiry – “What do you notice? What do you see? Why?” (p. 151)
• Power – sometimes exhibits of “power, privilege, and presumption” are not obvious. One size does NOT fit all

Learn from the Team – Learn from others. Social learning and a great ESL learning tool which is “Pair Problem Solving” (p. 175). Communities of Practice defined by Etienne Wenger (n.d.) “are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly”. They share a craft or profession and there usually are experts.

Learn the Game of Learning – Help the students learn how to learn. Empower students. This is where the rubber meets the road. As Perkins says, “explicit principles are likely to serve learners well…as objects of reflection and plans of action…” (p. 210). School gives us the tools to continue our education.

Other Important Concepts

We explored our personal learning styles and how this may affect our teaching styles. While I had no big surprises, it was helpful to see the different styles for each of my classmates. In a previous class I learned that most adults are visual learners. As Felder and Solomon (n.d.) point out most college instructors present material either in written or lecture format. When I teach ESL I plan to emphasize visual learning for the adult students, but incorporate other learning styles too.

We also discussed dynamic learning systems. The definition of dynamic is, “always active or changing”, (Merriam-Webster). So learning systems should be changing constantly. Since beginning this program, I’ve seen many changes in how we teach. We started with one-room schoolhouses and have evolved to online programs such as this. Adult education in particular, has changed drastically over the years with the emergence, and proliferation, of online education. The number of online students, with at least one course, surpassed 6.7 million in 2012 (Babson Study, 2012). WOW!

Another important concept was that of Cognitive Illusions. World Mysteries talks about the four kinds of cognitive illusions:
1. Ambiguous – offer significant changes in appearance
2. Paradox – impossible
3. Distorting – distortions of size, length, or curvature
4. Fiction – genuinely not there to all but a single observer
Illusions can be called departures from the truth. They are not logical and break the rules. We have circled back. A great video from Beau Otto (2009) gives great examples of what the eye sees may not be real.

How does this impact and influence my present or future professional learning environment? I’ve been lucky to have a training mentor in my current job. Without knowing the rules, logic, or even concepts I’ve learned by playing on her team. Now I have tools! As my goal is to teach English to adult speakers of other languages, I would like to develop a lesson plan using both formal and informal learning. I will apply the lessons of Playing the Game to these learners. I’m much more cognizant of learning styles and will incorporate different ways of imparting the same information. Mostly, I hope to motivate and engage the students by giving them guidance so they can be in control of their own learning.

How does this impact and influence the world of education and training? Knowledge is power and we can change one classroom at a time. As many new teachers are, I am excited and ready to make a difference. Is this an illusion? The reality may be that time, budgets, and apathy will take a toll. However, I believe we are forming our own Community of Practice and will work together to be better teachers.

How does this impact and influence my personal learning journey? As a student, I’ve gained deeper understanding into my own personal motivation for going back to school at 60 years of age. I can’t help but compare this experience with prior learning environments. I’m fully playing the game and applying concepts to my own reading and research. I’m reminded of Perkins discussion of the “hearts & minds” theory. Every school, every class, every teacher, and most parents do this at some time. “Take it to heart, keep it in mind, and do better next time” (p. 80). I will demand and give constructive feedback.

Questions for the future? Since I haven’t taught in a classroom yet, I wonder how I will recognize the hidden games. Will the lesson plans be effective? Will I be a good teacher?

Finally, I’d like to leave you with a quote from Beau Otto (2009), “There is no inherent meaning to information. It’s what we do with that information that matters”.


Babson Study,

Felder, R., & Soloman, B. (n.d.). Index of learning styles questionnaire. Retrieved from

Lehrer, J. (2007, April 29). Hearts and minds. Boston Globe. Retrieved from

Merriam-Webster Dictionary (n.d.) Retrieved from

Otto, B. (2009). Optical Illusions show how we see [Video File]. Retrieved from

Perkins, D. (2009). Making Learning Whole: How Seven Principles of Teaching Can Transform Education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Rogers, C.R. (1961) On becoming a person. Boston: Houghton Mifflin

Webster’s Dictionary (n.d.). Retrieved from

Wenger, E. (n.d.). Communities of practice: A brief introduction. [Website]. Retrieved from

Wlodkowski, R. J. (1999). Motivation and diversity: A framework for teaching. New Directions for Teaching & Learning (78), 7.

World Mysteries. (2011). Cognitive illusions. [Website]. Retrieved from

Exploring “The Game” and Emotions – The “Hard Parts” – Attention, Memory and Transfer

I’m a Seahawks fan. Seahawks

I have been since the inception of the franchise in 1974 and their first game played August 1, 1976. This is a team that knows how to “Play the Game” as Perkins discusses in his book Making Learning Whole. I make the comparison between the football team and learning because each involves emotion, hard parts, attention, memory, and transfer. These are the topics we covered in the last two weeks.

Demetriou and Wilson (2008) say “From early on our emotional development is inextricably intertwined with our acquisition of knowledge. Psychological research has revealed similarities between human cognitive and emotional processes”. As teachers, and students, it’s important to recognize the impact emotion will have on our acceptance of the learning. In 1975, I had just moved to Washington (state). I knew very few people and didn’t even have a job waiting! But, like most people in the Evergreen State, I was caught up in the emotions of having a new team EXCITEMENT, FUN, RECOGNITION, and PRIDE were just a few of the emotions we all felt.

In a learning environment, we need the same emotions in order to have motivated and connected students. Perkins refers to how needs and affect come together to motivate learning.

These needs include:

1. Physiological – hunger, thirst, bodily comforts
2. Safety/security – out of danger, no threats
3. Belongingness/Love – acceptance & affection
4. Esteem – achievement, competency, and affiliation
5. Cognitive – to know, understand, and explore
6. Aesthetic – symmetry, order, and beauty
7. Self-actualization – potential, self-fulfillment (Huitt, 2001).

Some of those needs are emotional and they all can be reasons for attaining education. Wlodkowski (1999) points out the “engagement in learning is the visible outcome of motivation. Our emotions are a part of and significantly influence our motivation”. Dr. Luis Pessoa (2009) discusses how “cognition and emotion are effectively integrated in the brain”. Dr. Ruby Parker (2014) states “emotion colors every learning experience” and that “every lesson we are to produce must take into account both rational and emotional appeal, because both the cognitive and the emotional sections of the brain are in play whenever learning is involved”.

Emotions can also be affected by our motivations. For the team, extrinsic motivation is money, prestige, winning. For the student, it may be grades, a better job, money (notice how that has a part in almost everything). There are also intrinsic motivations. My all-time favorite player, Steve Largent became the “player who best exemplifies the spirit, dedication and integrity of the Seahawks”. (Booth, 2008). Students are also motivated intrinsically by the joy of learning, dedication, integrity. Yes, it’s a theme.

Teaching English to non-native speakers will be a study in emotion. There are cultural differences to understand and address. While some cultures are more demonstrative about their emotions, others are not. As the instructor, it’s important to recognize the impact emotion will have on acceptance of the learning. We have all experienced teachers whose affect was charming, grumpy, or deadpan. Walking into a classroom and seeing the emotion, or lack of it, on a teacher’s face will affect how the student begins the lesson.

Oh, there were hard parts to starting a new football team. Some of the challenges faced by the new owners included finding the right coaches, getting good players, and building a stadium. Each of these was a singular concept, built of other – smaller concepts, which would come together for the whole. In learning, there are also hard parts. Students use both cognitive and metacognitive strategies to work on the hard parts. While they are consciously thinking about the subject, they are using cognitive strategies which can be general or specific. Like the Seahawks, they will have a plan. Stephen Luke (2006) says, “When it comes to teaching and learning, having a plan—or strategy— is definitely the way to go”.

In football, goals are achieved one yard at a time. In learning, instructors will assess students and set a baseline. From that point on, learning will be added in incremental bits. From Sheckley and Bell (2006):

Strategies for learning:

1. Begin with the Baseline of Prior Experience
2. Extend Learners’ Consciousness – Our job as instructors, then, is to expand the layers of their consciousness—remove areas of blindness—so their consciousness of adult learning has a
broader and richer texture. In doing so, we also help learners make connections between these new perspectives and their prior experiences. Without this connection, the new idea would
not have life.
3. Enrich Consciousness – real life problems

Thank goodness instructional designers have already developed a game plan for teaching English to adult learners. Luke (2006) tells us about Self-Regulated Strategy Development (SRSD). Students are introduced to a range of learning strategies designed to develop literacy skills across an entire curriculum.
Key points include:

1. Develop and activate background knowledge (Class)
2. Discuss the strategy, including benefits and expectations (Class)
3. Model the strategy (Teacher)
4. Memorize the strategy (Student)
5. Support the strategy collaboratively (Teacher & Class)
6. Use the strategy by yourself, independently (Student)

And the fundamental features of SRSD include:

1. Explicit and extensive strategy instruction on writing, self-regulation, and content knowledge
2. Interactive learning and active collaboration
3. Individualized instructional support and feedback tailored to student needs and abilities
4. Self-paced learning, with proficiency demonstrations required in order to progress from one stage of instruction to the next

In addition to having a plan, I regularly refer to Dave’s ESL Café for ideas from other teachers.

Pay attention in class! We’ve all heard that at some point or told our own children the same thing. Can you imagine a football coach telling a room full of 250+ pound men to pay attention while he goes over a game plan? Sure. It has to happen or each player will hit the field without the game-winning strategy. Students must do the same. And our job, as instructors, is to make it possible. Recognizing, and appealing to different learning styles is one way. We want the players/students to be engaged. Let’s provide valuable feedback. Perkins talks about the importance of communicative feedback as opposed to the “hearts and minds theory”. Instead of glossing over what needs improvement in hopes the player/student will do better next time, let’s work on those areas that need improvement. Football teams run drills. Teachers also run drills and one purpose is for the students to have those skills in their memory. We will focus on learning grammar and vocabulary one piece at a time. We will build on existing knowledge. McGinty says “Applying conceptual understanding from one setting to the next requires students to utilize the brain’s capacity to build new neural networks”. This is also true for instructors. Although we recognize our preferred learning styles, we can encourage ourselves and our students to stretch and learn in other ways.

Fougnie (2008) says memory is the “mental workspace where important information is kept in a highly active state, available for a variety of other cognitive processes”. We’ve learned however, that when instructors create activities that are too complex, it hinders the students’ ability to hold onto working memory and access stored information. There is a limited capacity for how much can be held in working memory (Gazzaley, 2011). In football, the quarterback isn’t expected to memorize every play. He has a playbook (notes for a student), and coaching from the sideline. When something changes on the field, he has to be able to access the correct play. Students have a similar problem and often rely on the teachers in the same way as a coach. We will also use Active Learning methods. With Active Learning, the students are involved in the process and developing their problem solving and critical thinking skills. Memorization will play a key part in learning English. However, we want to make it easy by using visual aids, audio tracks, and practice.

Throw a pass! Transfer that knowledge! Paul Anderson mentions that will all the learning he did in his field, he began to truly understand the subject when he began to teach others. We all are in the process of transferring our bits and pieces of the puzzle into a picture that will make sense. Research shows “adult learners need their learning to be practical and applicable to their lives” (Rogers, 1961). This is especially true for English Language Learners (ELL’s). There is a reason they are learning a second, or higher, language. The learning must have relevance to real-life tasks, and should be organized around life/work situations rather than subject matter. Eventually, the ELL’s will begin to think in English rather than translate everything in their minds first. When that happens, the puzzle will be complete and the game worth playing.

Current Cognitive & Affective State

Anderson, P. (2009). Metacognition: Learning about learning [Video File]. Retrieved from

Booth, T. (2008, December 19). Holmgren given Largent Award by players. Retrieved

Dave’s ESL Café. Retrieved from

Doolittle, P. (2013, June). How your working memory makes sense of the world. [Video File]. Retrieved from

Fougnie, D. (2008). The relationship between attention and working memory. Retrieved from
in press-chap 1.pdf

Gazzaley, A. (2011). Brain: Memory and Multi-tasking. [Youtube video]. Retrieved from

Instructional Design. (n.d.) Adult learning (K.P. Cross). Retrieved from

Luke, S. D. (2006). The power of strategy instruction. Evidence for Education, 1(1), 1-12

McGinty, J., Radin, J., & Kaminski, K. (2013). Brain-Friendly teaching supports learning transfer. New
Directions For Adult & Continuing Education, (137), 49-59. doi:10.1002/ace.20044

Merlot Pedagogy. (1997-2014). Teaching strategies. Retrieved from

Nordgren, L.F. & Dijksterhuis (2011). IntroductIon: StIll thInkIng dIfferent. Social Cognition, 29 (6), 625–628.

Perkins, D. (2009). Making Learning Whole: How Seven Principles of Teaching can Transform Education.
San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Sheckley, B. G., & Bell, S. (2006). Experience, consciousness, and learning: Implications for instruction.
New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 110, 43-52.

Wlodkowski, R. J. (1999). Motivation and diversity: A framework for teaching. New Directions for Teaching & Learning(78), 7.

Cognitive Science and Teaching ESL

Cognitive Connections

Cognitive Science and Teaching ESL

From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “Cognitive science is the interdisciplinary study of mind and intelligence, embracing philosophy, psychology, artificial intelligence, neuroscience, linguistics, and anthropology”.  That doesn’t narrow it down much.  I have a background in psychology and this class seems to build on prior learning and research.  The reality is we are learning about how we learn. 

Computers have been compared to human brains.  Computers can process millions of bits of information very quickly and perform tasks or answer questions.  Computers can even converse!  However, at this time, they are not able to feel emotion.  We’ve discovered emotion, or feelings, are necessary for true thinking.  “Feelings can be seen as responses to facts and sensations that exist beyond the tight horizon of awareness. They can also be thought of as messages from the unconscious, as conclusions it has reached after considering a wide range of information — they are the necessary foundation of thought”. (Lehrer, 2007).  Emotion is part of the human essence.  Some may call it the soul.

We’ve discussed Artificial Intelligence (AI) and I would argue feeling or experiencing emotion is not yet possible for AI.  Of course, Hollywood movies often have unlikely heroes with Artificial Intelligence and emotion.  Some examples are WALL-E, Johnny 5 (Short Circuit), C3PO (Star Wars), and Rosie the Maid (The Jetsons).  Even Data from Star Trek was able to implant an ‘emotion’ chip so he could have feelings too.

Johnny Five

William Rapaport (1996) asked if computers, while executing algorithms, are “simulating mental states … or exhibiting them.  Do such computers think”?  I have wondered if AI has a super-fast, condensed way of learning.  Deb Roy (2011) recorded his child learning to talk and points out that much of the learning is based on social interaction.

So the question is, how does this relate to teaching ESL to adults?  We need building blocks to help those students learn.  Those include logic, rules, and concepts.  Do they come in any particular order?

I lean more toward thinking the rules/logic/concepts is almost cyclical in nature.  But, I still think the rules are the beginnings with early learning.  Parents, and other caregivers, teach infants and children basic life lessons such as what constitutes acceptable behavior.  Young children’s concepts of life are so limited because they just don’t have experience yet.  It’s a different situation with adults who begin problem-solving with a concept and then choose, or adapt, rules and logic.  But, they had to have the rules there in the first place.

Rules are the guidelines for behavior.  They are learned and keep life from deteriorating into chaos.  Teaching ESL will include grammar rules such as “i before e, except after c” and “who/whom”.  Another example is when to use “bring or take”.  Many languages, other than English, do not differentiate between the two.  Dave’s ESL Café has some wonderful grammar lessons available at no cost. 

Logic is a name for the general family of formal proof systems with inference rules.  It’s reasonable and based on connections between facts and observations.  Going forward into a teaching position, logic should be helpful in getting students to make the connections between ideas and experiences in order to develop their language skills.  We want them to be able to use both inductive and deductive reasoning to develop concepts.

Concepts are the big picture ideas and are the representations of our mental images wherein groups of similar features are grouped together.  I have to reference New World Encyclopedia (2008) which defines it as “concepts are the categorization of objects, events, or people that share common properties. By using concepts, we are able to organize complex notions into simpler and therefore more easily usable forms”.  Teaching concepts to ESL learners may be more difficult than the rules and logic but may also be the basis for learning the rules and logic.

We know children and adults learn differently.  Therefore, it is logical that children and adults would solve problems in different ways.  Children have not yet developed critical thinking skills which are helpful in problem-solving.  They are, however, very creative and may think of solutions that would not occur to adults with their already established rules.  Jean Piaget (1952) believed children learn best through doing and actively exploring.  This may help them solve simple problems but not more complex issues.  Adult ESL learners have been compared to young learners who are just developing the schemata needed to assimilate and accommodate learning.  (McLeod, 2009).  An example of this is learning about food and having a restaurant experience.  This was part of my lesson plan in a previous blog post.

Next, we need to look at how adults learn.  Carl Rogers (1961) believed adult learners need their learning to be practical and applicable to their lives. Each adult brings individual experience to their learning and each learner may be in a different stage of life.  There are many psychological tests available to help us identify our individual preferences for how we learn.  I plan to teach ESL to adults.  Literature tells us most adults are visual learners.  However, there are different learning styles and educators must recognize this and be able to teach to all. 
Hey Teacher

McGinty says “Applying conceptual understanding from one setting to the next requires students to utilize the brain’s capacity to build new neural networks”. 


The different learning styles represent how we get information to the brain so it can process and we can learn.  An active learner will touch.  A visual learner will see.  A verbal learner will hear. “The brain has neurons organized by synaptic connections…” which form into patterns.  The sensory input patterns will translate to concepts, images, and analogies (Stanford, 2010).  “The human brain is an active processor of information.  Brain-based instruction recognizes the fact that learning develops with the increase of neural networks and creates experiences where students can make connections between new and prior learning” (McGinty, et al, 2013).

In conclusion, the cognitive science of learning and teaching is still in its early stages.  Research continues to find the best methods.  It is expected Artificial Intelligence will play a stronger role.  But, most importantly, we must continue to learn and grow our brains.



Dave’s ESL Café (n.d.) Grammar lesson plans. Retrieved from

Lehrer, J. (2007, April 29).  Hearts and minds.  Boston Globe.  Retrieved from

McGinty, J., Radin, J., & Kaminski, K. (2013). Brain-Friendly teaching supports learning transfer. New Directions For Adult & Continuing Education, (137), 49-59. doi:10.1002/ace.20044  

McLeod, S. A. (2009). Jean Piaget. Retrieved from

Rapaport, W.J. (2006, October 29). Cognitive science. Retrieved from

Rogers, C.R. (1961). On becoming a person. Boston: Houghton Mifflin

Roy, D. (2011, March). The birth of a word . Retrieved from

Jozwiak, T. (2009, June 3) . Johnny Five is Alive Retrieved from

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. (2010). Cognitive Science. Retrieved from


Open Educational Resources

Just like many trends and movements, the positives are often presented first and most prominently, while the cautions or critiques require extra research and critical thought. You have been presented with both sides in your readings and video this week. Discuss what you believe is the most exciting and promising aspect of the Open Education movement and the biggest challenge to be overcome associated with it.


It seems we have been leading up to this moment from the beginning of the first class in The Future of Education.  I found this definition and believe it sums it up nicely, “Open Educational Resources (OER) are high-quality, openly licensed, online educational materials that offer an extraordinary opportunity for people everywhere to share, use, and reuse knowledge. They also demonstrate great potential as a mechanism for instructional innovation as networks of teachers and learners share best practices” (Hewlett).  This leads to what is “exciting and promising” about OER. 

*  High Quality – There is a wealth of information available on the Web for anyone who wants to take the time and do the research.  In times past, a student or interested person would not have ready access to peer-reviewed articles or research papers.  We can find information about everything from weather systems to the first printed 3-D house. In education, an example might be the sharing of techniques that work best in different classrooms.

*  Openly Licensed – Free information available to all.  When following organizations on Twitter or educator’s blogs, we have access to free information.  Software, YouTube videos such as from Michael McNally, teaching materials such as from Dave’s ESL Café are available.

We discussed previously Communities of Practice and Professional Learning Communities.  The common theme is to teach and learn from each other.  Open Educational Resources are a key resource for these groups and may be either formal or informal learning.  Bonk (2009, p. 356) discusses the “convergence of three factors: (1) an enhanced Web-based learning infrastructure, (2) billions of pages of free and open content placed within the infrastructure, and (3) a culture of participation and knowledge-sharing…”.  CoP’s and PLC’s have learned to use these factors to meet the goal of creating a better learning environment for the learners.

On the other hand, there may be some challenges associated with OER.  The first one that came to mind is who tests and confirms the validity of information found online?  We’re all familiar with SNOPES, a website dedicated to proving or debunking urban myths.  But, what about educational ideas?  Students may Google a word or topic and generally the first thing to pop up is from Wikipedia.  While this website can be very useful, it also may have unverified information.  The student must keep an open mind and actually do the research.  Another challenge, addressed by Bonk (p.377-378) is online plagiarism. Apparently, there are websites that will write a student’s papers for them for a nominal fee.  Bonk also pointed out that “information of the world will get into the wrong hands” (p.379) in reference to terrorists.  One can learn to make a bomb by perusing certain websites. 

OER’s are fantastic and has already been used for my Learning Activity.  One of the best sources for free ideas is Dave’s ESL Cafe.  This is a website for everything and everyone interested in teaching or learning ESL.  There are lesson plans, job postings, ideas for maintaining control in the classroom, and information about different cultures.  I also found several more great resources via Twitter and organizations I follow.  One such is PBSTeachers @pbsteachers.  They have collections of educational games for all age groups.   Edmodo @edmodo has ideas for ways to incorporate technology into the classroom.  And TeachThought @TeachThought has the most amazing visual of a digital classroom

I wonder though, who monitors all this information?  Should it even be monitored?  We’ve looked at OER’s for educators but there is also a wealth of information for learners.  Some of the learners are children and teens.  Are the parents and teachers responsible for filtering information?  





Bonk, C. J. (2009). The world is open: How web technology is revolutionizing education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. ISBN: 9781118013816

Dave’s ESL Café. Retrieved from

McNally, M. (2012, March 22). Democratizing access to knowledge: Find out what open educational resources (oer) have to offer. Retrieved from

OER [image]. Wikiversity. Retrieved from

Open Educational Resources. The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.  Retrieved from