Foreign-born TESOL Instructors Assisting Adult Immigrant Learners to Develop Civic Literacy Skills: A Pen Pal Project

Clarena Larrotta, HeeJae Chung


This article discusses the contributions of foreign-born TESOL instructors helping adult language learners develop literacy skills through a pen pal project, which lasted 10 weeks and consisted of writing letters back and forth weekly. The project provided adult immigrant learners with an opportunity to practice meaningful writing to support their English literacy development.  The research questions include how do foreign-born TESOL instructors support adult immigrant learners develop literacy through a pen pal project? and what components of the pen pal project promote the development of civic literacy skills? Data for this article come from 159 letters product of the writing exchange between instructors and learners, and individual conversational interviews with the instructors. Study findings are presented through four themes: teachers as cultural informants, emotional connection, life and learning advice, and adult ESL learners’ linguistic competence. Study findings add to the body of literature focusing on the powerful contributions of foreign-born TESOL instructors to the education and language-culture acquisition of adult immigrant English learners.


Foreign-born Instructors, English as Second Language, Civic Literacy Development, Adult Immigrant Learners, Non-native English-speaking Instructors, TESOL Instructors, Pen Pal Letter Exchange

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