Critical service-learning in adult ESOL teacher preparation: Reflections from the field


  • Nicole Pettitt Georgia State University
  • Ashley Ekers Tennessee Foreign Language Institute
  • Chanelle Campbell International Rescue Committee of Atlanta
  • Marwok Gure Minneapolis Public Schools



TESOL, teacher education, service learning


In the United States, few universities offer pre-service training for new teachers entering adult ESOL teaching and learning contexts.  This paper reports on a pilot service-learning course offered during spring 2015 at (name of university in Georgia removed), “Teaching adult ESOL in community settings” -- one of only four courses of its kind in the country (of which we are aware).  We begin by introducing the course and its philosophy, then share reflections on our experiences in the course and lessons learned.  We conclude with a call for others to take up this work at universities and communities in Georgia.

Author Biography

Nicole Pettitt, Georgia State University

PhD Candidate, Applied Linguistics

Language & Literacy Research Fellow

Georgia State University


Crandall, J. (1993). Professionalism and Professionalization of Adult ESL Literacy. TESOL Quarterly, 27, 497–515. doi:10.2307/3587479

Cummins, J. (2001). Bilingual children’s mother tongue: Why is it important for education. Sprogforum, 19, 15-20.

Hatcher, J. a., & Bringle, R. G. (1997). Reflection: Bridging the gap between service and learning. College Teaching, 45, 153–158.

Howard, J. (2001). Service-learning course design workbook. (J. Howard, Ed.). Ann Arbor, MI: Edward Ginsberg Center for Community Service and Learning at the University of Michigan.

Howard, J. (1998). Academic service learning: A counternormative pedagogy. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 1998(73), 21–29. doi:10.1002/tl.7303

Huerta-Macías, A. (2003). Meeting the challenge of adult education: A bilingual approach to literacy and career development. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 47(3), 218–226.

Levinson, L. M. (1990). Choose engagement over exposure. In J. C. Kendall (Ed.), Combining service and learning: A resource book for community and public service (pp. 68–75). Raleigh, NC: National Society for Internships and Experiential Education.

Mitchell, T. D. (2008). Traditional vs. critical service-learning: Engaging the literature to differentiate two models. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 14(2), 50–65.

Perin, D. (1999). Professionalizing adult literacy: Would a credential help? Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 42(8), 610–619. doi:10.1086/250095

Perry, K. H., & Hart, S. J. (2012). “I’m just kind of winging it”: Preparing and supporting educators of adult refugee learners. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 56(2), 110–122.

Peyton, J. K., Burt, M., McKay, S., Schaetzel, K., Terrill, L., Young, S., … Nash, A. (2007). Professional development for practitioners working with adult English language learners with limited literacy. In N. Faux (Ed.), Low-educated second language and literacy acquisition: Proceedings of the 2nd symposium (pp. 213-226). Richmond, VA: The Literacy Institute at
Virginia Commonwealth University.

Robinson, T. (2000). Service learning as justice advocacy: Can political scientists do politics? Political Science and Politics, 33(3), 605–612.

Wade , R. (2001). And justice for all: Community service-learning for social justice Issue paper for the Education Commission of the States.




How to Cite

Pettitt, N., Ekers, A., Campbell, C., & Gure, M. (2017). Critical service-learning in adult ESOL teacher preparation: Reflections from the field. GATESOL Journal, 27(1).



Classroom Praxis Report