Promoting Learner Engagement when Working with Adult English Language Learners

This brief highlights three instructional approaches—task-based learning, problem-based learning, and project based learning—and a classroom-based assessment.

S. Finn Miller
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation
Lancaster Lebanon Intermediate Unit 13, PA
Publication Year
Resource Type
Informational Material
Number of Pages
Product Type

This brief highlights three instructional approaches—task-based learning, problem-based learning, and project based learning—and a classroom-based assessment. The author provides background, rationale, descriptions, and a concrete application for these ways of engaging learners. Each of the suggestions (i.e., instructional approaches and assessment) allows learners to participate and have a say in their learning; thereby, supporting long-term learning, transfer of knowledge beyond the classroom, and active interest in the content and target language. Furthermore, these three learning approaches and assessments can be tailored to classroom content and learner goals.

This brief should be read in conjunction with Evidence-based, Student-centered Instructional Practices.

Required Training

None; however, further information would be useful in implementing author’s suggestions.

What the experts say

Learner engagement is an extremely important topic in adult education because it may relate to retention in programs. As the field matures and as transition remains a major focus, it seems an under-explored area.

The author brings together the foundational precepts of adult education with the pedagogy of language teaching. For example, the importance of authentic content is brought together with the concept of scaffolding—a method of building and supporting knowledge. Adult education has always stressed collaborative learning that is not just top-down; the teacher acts as a facilitator. The author, fortunately, stresses this idea.

The project-based suggestions are excellent and although the book club suggestions may only be appropriate to the highest group of learners (not exactly problem based and real life!), this is an extremely useful brief that will benefit ESL teachers who are not as familiar with adult education principles.


  • The purpose of the article is stated clearly. The reader is guided through the recommended approaches: task-based learning, problem-based learning, project-based learning, literature circles and classroom-based assessment. The features of each approach are described in bullet form and are easy to understand. A lot of information is delivered efficiently.
  • Numerous respected references are embedded in the text as they are cited. A long list of those references is arrayed at the end. This makes it easier for readers to follow up on specific ideas of interest to them.
  • Up front, a strong attempt is made to define and classify the meaning of learner engagement in adult education so teachers can understand goals in this area and how to achieve them
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