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Developing Educator Expertise to Work with Adolescent English Learners

Module 3 – Shifts in Our Understanding of Second Language Learning: From the Teaching of Oral Skills to the Development of Oracy: A Focus on the Conversation with Alice Stott

By Aída Walqui

OVERVIEW    |    INTRODUCTION    |    PART 1    |     PART 2    |    REFERENCES



Think about the complexity of contemporary times. With the widespread use of information technology, we are now able to send messages — oral, written, and multimodal — to many people at the same time, making it possible to amplify our intended impact. However, not all message transmission improves communication. The need to reconsider schools’ role in developing students’ ability to effectively and responsibly communicate with multiple others, listen critically, respond appropriately, and be mindful of how to enhance understanding by all has become increasingly necessary in the 21st century.


As we endeavor to fulfill this role of fostering students’ communication skills, it is important to be reminded that as originally conceived in this country, schools were to be the places where our students apprenticed into the habits of successful, socially responsible communication. As expressed by Thomas Jefferson in August 1818 in his Report of the Commissioners to the University of Virginia: “[Education’s mission for each citizen is] to understand his duties to his neighbors and country and to discharge with competence the functions confided to him by either; To know his rights, … and in general, to observe with intelligence and faithfulness all the social relations under which he shall be placed.”


This module is based on Aída Walqui’s July 30, 2020, webinar conversation with Alice Stott, which centered on a renewed effort in British schools to focus on the development of oracy. Alice Stott is the Director of Innovation and Impact at Voice 21, a British charity focused on developing in every learner the ability to participate in substantive conversations, develop their voice, and contribute to a more equitable society.


In this module, we explore how the effort to develop students’ oracy needs to be a central part of all coursework. This is true for all students, but it becomes especially important for English Learners in a constantly changing world. Specifically, the module will:


  1. Unpack the idea of “deeper learning” (or as it used to be called only a few years ago, “twenty-first century skills”)

  2. Explore the role that oracy plays in deeper learning

  3. Take a brief historical tour of how educators’ expertise around oral aspects of students’ target repertoire has changed over the years (see Module 1 for detailed information on the concept of educator expertise)

  4. Consider pedagogical guidelines for developing oracy with adolescent English Learners

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