Research Methods for Studying ABE/ESOL Populations

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This paper addresses questions of methodological and practical importance: What methodological challenges might be encountered when conducting research that relies heavily on language (to understand the content of learners’ thoughts and assess the structure of their thinking) with adult ESOL learners? How might we adapt measures and develop strategies to better understand ESOL learners’ perspectives on their program experiences and meaning making? What are the lessons learned from adapting measures to better suit this population?

To address these questions, this paper discusses the team’s research methods and interpretive techniques. It focuses on the challenges encountered and strategies used to overcome them. The research methods enabled us to listen carefully to participants’ experiences and attend to their meaning making, allowing us to trace their learning processes and, in some cases, their transformation into being better able to handle the complexities of work and life (i.e., development).


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