What Can Adult Programs Do to Increase Student Persistence?

Oliva Fernandez What
Can Adult Programs Do to Increase Student Persistence?
Oliva
Fernandez, Marketing Director, Adult and Higher Education

Adult education ESOL instructors are all too
familiar with the ongoing ebb and flow of students who pass through
their classrooms. With attrition rates near 70% in many programs, an
“examination of the process learners go through in deciding to stay or
leave a program and the many factors that influence them” (Garner, as
quoted in Belzer 1998) are at the core of much research and discussion
on the topic of student
persistence
. This article offers some strategies that
instructors can implement in their programs to address the persistence
of their students.

What
Can Programs Do?

Program
Orientation

Programs that provide students with an
orientation to the campus and to the educational offerings report
higher levels of student persistence. Many students are not aware of
the opportunities that are available to them as they progress up the
ESL levels. …

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Why Side by Side Plus Works

Side by Side, by Bill Bliss and Steven J. Molinsky, has helped more than 25 million students worldwide persist and succeed as language learners. Now Side by Side Plus — a special edition of Side by Side — builds students’ general language proficiency and helps them apply these skills for success in daily life and work. Here’s part 2 of the author’s description of how Side by Side Plus works (adapted from a welcome message by the authors).

Student-Centered Learning

The core methodology of Side by Side Plus
is the guided conversation — a brief, structured dialog that
students practice in pairs and then use as a framework to create new
conversations. Through this practice, students work together to develop
their language skills “side by side.” They are not dependent on the
teacher for all instruction, and they know how to learn from each
other. This student-centered methodology and the text’s easy-to-use
format enable students to study outside of class with any speaking
partner — a family member, a friend or neighbor, a tutor, or a
co-worker, even if that person is also an English language learner. If
students need to attend class intermittently or “stop out” for a while,
they have the skills and text material to continue learning on their
own.

The “Fun Factor”

We believe that language instruction is most
powerful when it is joyful. There is magic in the power of humor, fun,
games, and music to encourage students to take risks with their
emerging language, to “play” with it, and to allow their personalities
to shine through as their language skills increase. We incorporate
these elements into our program to motivate students to persist in
their language learning not only because they need it, but also because
they enjoy it.

Sufficient Practice + Frequent Assessment = Success

Students need to experience success as language learners. While other programs “cover” many learning objectives, Side by Side Plus
offers students carefully sequenced intensive practice that promotes
mastery and the successful application of language skills to daily
life. Students can observe their achievement milestones through the
program’s frequent assessments, including check-up tests and
skills checklists in the text and achievement tests in the accompanying
workbook.

For more information about Side by Side Plus, please visit the Companion Website.