ERIC Identifier: ED303045
Publication Date: 1988-12-00
Author: Fox, Robert
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Languages and Linguistics Washington DC.
ESL Program Administration in Higher Education. ERIC Digest.
Although the teaching of English as a second language (ESL) has a long
tradition in the United States, it was not until the 1940s that ESL teaching
began to emerge as a profession. Since that time, the profession has gained in
stature and recognition, and now most states have teacher certification or
endorsement in ESL. Yet one major area of concern has been discussed very little
in the literature or the classroom: ESL program administration.
Many of the administrator's responsibilities will be the same whether the
program is K-12, adult education, or university-based; however, the actual
duties of an ESL program administrator vary according to the type of program.
This Digest will introduce the prospective administrator or interested teacher
to the particular concerns of the university-based ESL administrator, including
program, student, faculty, and administrative issues.
One of the administrator's primary concerns
is the establishment and maintenance of the curriculum. The administrator, in
consultation with the faculty if a faculty has already been hired, must examine
the goals of the program and establish a curriculum that will meet these goals.
An ESL program may include both an intensive and a non-intensive component.
Intensive Component. This component should have at least three levels:
beginning, intermediate 1, and intermediate 2. As the program grows, the
administrator may need to create additional levels to place more advanced
students. This component may be structured to follow either an integrated skills
format or a separate skills format. An intensive session normally lasts from
7-14 weeks with approximately 20 class hours and 5-10 lab hours per week.
"Integrated Skills Format." In this format, students are placed at a given
level (e.g., intermediate 1) based on their overall placement test scores and
possibly also on the results of an oral interview. The students are taught all
skills (reading, writing, grammar, and listening/speaking) at this level and
remain at the same level for the duration of the course.
"Separate Skills Format." In this format, students are placed in separate
classes (grammar, reading, writing, and listening/speaking) based on individual
placement test section scores (e.g., beginning in listening/speaking,
intermediate 1 in grammar and writing, and intermediate 2 in reading.) This
system permits students to be placed according to their proficiency in specific
areas and helps them to advance through the system more rapidly. At the end of
each session, either a standard or a teacher-generated exit test determines if
the student is ready for the next level.
Non-Intensive Component. This component should include: (1) an advanced level
(may also be part of the intensive program); (2) a pre-university-level writing
course for students beyond the advanced level but not yet ready for required
university English composition courses; and (3) the required university English
composition courses. In addition to general sections of English, the
administrator might develop sections of English for special purposes (ESP) for
students in business, economics, or computer science.
In both the intensive and non-intensive components, the administrator is
responsible for the selection of the placement test, for the establishment of
the placement system (e.g., determining cut off scores), and for placing
students at the appropriate level. If placement is accurate, and if the program
is structured and monitored carefully, the average student should complete the
requirements of a given level in the allotted time. If the failure rate is above
10-15%, then either the placement system has been insufficiently fine-tuned, or
the curriculum needs to be reexamined and modified.
The administrator is also responsible for ordering the textbooks and for
selecting initial texts in a new program. After the initial selection, however,
texts should be ordered only after consultation with the faculty. To facilitate
the selection of texts, the administrator should maintain a library of currently
available texts for teacher review and should encourage the development and
publication of teacher-generated materials.
Overall, the ESL administrator's best guides to the effectiveness of the
curriculum, materials, and placement system are teacher feedback and the success
of students once they have entered degree programs. Moreover, the administrator
should not hesitate to make changes in the program based on teacher feedback.
Other areas of primary concern to the ESL
administrator are the recruitment and retention of students, and the provision
of student services. The administrator must develop the contacts necessary to
promote the program and to make it attractive to potential students, and must
provide incoming students with essential information. Students applying directly
to the intensive program to study English only normally do not correspond with
the university admissions office and do not receive the general information sent
to incoming degree candidates. The ESL administrator must, therefore, provide
prospective English only students with information about the location of the
program; weather conditions; the availability and cost of housing; the cost of
tuition, fees, books, and miscellaneous expenses; health care and insurance; and
Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) regulations and procedures for
obtaining a student visa (F-1). Students who have been admitted to degree
programs and referred to the ESL program by the university will be given the
above information, as well as detailed information about the university's
English language proficiency requirements, by the general admissions office.
An initial English proficiency test should be required before any
international student's application to a degree program is processed. After the
ESL administrator has evaluated these test scores, the university can advise
applicants as to how much English they may be required to take before they can
begin full-time university study. Unless the ESL administrator has already
determined that a student is proficient and need not be tested again, all
international students should be tested by the ESL program upon arrival to the
university. The English requirement established by the ESL administrator should
be binding. If a student is deemed to need a semester of intensive English
before beginning university studies, this requirement cannot be waived by
For all students enrolled in the ESL program, the administrator must assure
the availability of support services. Although the library, language lab, and
computer lab are normally provided by the university, the ESL administrator must
arrange for those services specific to the needs of the ESL program. Among these
services may be a reading lab for intensive reading practice to help students
become more efficient readers, a small library of selected reading materials for
extensive reading practice, and a writing lab to help those students who have
specific and persistent problems.
The ESL administrator should also provide an academic counselor to help
students with registration procedures, to advise them about universities and
programs, to help them with personal problems or refer them to someone who can
help, and to serve as an international student advisor to handle INS problems
and process I-20 immigration forms for students, if the university's
international student office does not have sufficient staff.
Opportunities for ESL program students to meet American students should be an
integral part of the ESL program. Conversation partners programs pairing foreign
students with American students having similar interests, and international
potluck dinners provide international students the opportunity to meet American
students in a social setting.
Because the ESL profession has not yet
attained the stature of the more widely recognized fields in teaching, and
because many university administrators still feel that anyone who speaks English
can teach ESL, the ESL administrator must be careful to hire only those faculty
whose qualifications meet those established by the profession, and ensure that
the faculty are paid a salary equivalent to that of their colleagues in other
departments. Since the morale of the faculty is important to the success of the
program, the administrator must make sure that the ESL faculty are treated not
as second class citizens, as they are in some institutions, but as
professionals. Job security is important to any professional; therefore, the
faculty should be composed of a core of full-time teachers supplemented by
part-time teachers as the need arises; however, no more than 10-15% of the ESL
faculty should be part-time.
Since the faculty are the ESL administrator's most valuable resource, the
administrator should provide for their development through in-service workshops,
guest lectures, and staff meetings, all of which should be held during normal
working hours. This training can be arranged by carefully scheduling classes so
that a block of time is available for meetings during the week. The faculty
should also be encouraged to attend professional meetings and conferences (some
financial assistance should be made available for out-of-town travel) and to
become actively involved in the profession. When making salary adjustments, the
administrator should take into consideration both scholarship and service, as
well as teaching, if the opportunity for involvement has been provided and the
expectation of involvement in the profession has been made clear.
New faculty should receive an orientation to the program and be given a
faculty handbook explaining the structure of the program and curriculum, and the
responsibilities and duties of the faculty. The handbook should also specify
evaluation procedures (peer evaluation, student evaluation, or administrative
evaluation), grievance procedures, and the dismissal policy. The entire ESL
faculty should be involved in the operation of the program by regularly meeting
with the administrator as a faculty advisory council and by serving as level or
The ESL administrator is necessarily
concerned with a number of other issues. Among the more important concerns is
financing, which includes the income-expenditure ratio to be maintained and the
allocation of funds for salary, benefits, supplies, etc. A reasonable balance
must be maintained to ensure that the program is not over budget. Other
administrative concerns include how to attract future students and how to
maintain a cultural and linguistic balance so that the student body will not be
dominated by any single group. Another concern is the location of the program
within the institution. Will the administrator report directly to a
vice-president, a dean, or to a department head? The most viable relationship
must be determined on an individual basis. Related to the status of the program
is how the program can best relate to other units on campus and how it can best
serve as an academic unit responsible for all international students.
In general, the overriding goal of the ESL program administrator is to ensure
that international students learn English as efficiently and economically as
possible; it is the ESL administrator's job to facilitate this process by
actively monitoring all aspects of the ESL program.
FOR FURTHER READING
Alderson, J.C., Krahnke, K.J. and
Stansfield, C.W., (Eds.) (1987). "Reviews of English language proficiency tests." Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages: Washington, DC.
Barrett, R.P. (Ed.). (1982). "The administration of intensive English language programs."
National Association of Foreign Student Affairs:Washington, DC. "English as a second language/dialect (ESL/D)."
Guidelines and suggestions for the administration and organization of programs. Interim addition. (1982). Alberta Department of Education. Language Services Branch. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 245 543)
Pennington, M.C. (1984) Effective administration of an ESL program. In Larson, Penny (Ed.), "On TESOL '84: A Brave New World of Other Languages. Selected Papers from the Annual Convention of Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages." (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. 274 188).
"Study guide for teaching English to adult speakers of other languages." (1985).
Maryland Department of Education, Montgomery County Public School Rockville, MD. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 263 789). --