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Center for Teaching and Learning

Focused Inquiry Groups (FIGs) - BSI

ESL Program Development

Area of Inquiry

Our project is centered around a few fundamental inquiries:

  • What are the needs of the English learners in our area?

  • How well are we meeting those needs?

  • How can we best restructure our program to meet the needs that we aren’t completely addressing?

  • In restructuring our program, what can we learn from the ESL programs in our surrounding communities?

We approached these questions from a few different directions, one of which was working with a consultant to perform a community needs assessment. This assessment gathered information from English learners in our community, local organizations that serve immigrant communities, and members of our ESL program at Chabot. We then distributed surveys to English language learners in our community through Hayward School District’s parent network and through our own classes at Chabot.


The needs assessment was performed by Juan Carlos Bojorquez of WestEd. After interviewing several of Chabot’s ESL instructors as well as leaders of immigrant community organizations, Mr. Bojorquez created an ESL needs survey with suggestions and feedback from ESL Faculty Inquiry Group. We surveyed two groups: current Chabot students and parents of ESL students in the Hayward Unified School District.

Significant Findings

  • Over 60% of the respondents said that they learned about Chabot’s ESL program through family and friends.
  • 65% had taken only one or two ESL classes of any kind.
  • Overall, the most common reason all respondents gave for wanting to learn English was “prepare for academic classes”.
  • Among HUSD parents, “family literacy” was the most important reason to learn English. This was followed by “participate more in my community” and “prepare to look for work.” Preparation for academic classes came in fourth among this group of respondents.
  • A majority of all respondents cited grammar, writing, and speaking classes as the ones they were most likely to take, each one getting a positive response from 90-93% of the respondents. 89% indicated that they would take a reading class. 86% indicated that they would take a class focused on job-related English. The report went on to say, “One noteworthy observation was the consistency with which classes focused on job-related English seemed the least popular class. This should be considered when determining the role of vocational study in Chabot’s ESL program.” However, 86% is still a sizeable majority of respondents, and, despite Mr. Bojorquez’s caution, the numbers still suggest a desire in the community for vocational ESL courses, especially since “prepare to look for work” was the third most common reason for non-Chabot respondents to take an ESL class.
  • When asked which type of ESL class they felt was most important, 330 respondents listed speaking as one of their top four choices. This was by the far the most popular response. Combined reading/writing/grammar classes were a distant second at 216.
  • Interviews with community leaders identified a need for basic and beginning level English speaking and literacy classes because “...their constituents had low literacy skills in both English and their primary language, and thus needed very basic ESL courses”.
  • Mornings and evenings seem to be far and away the best times for prospective students to take classes.
  • The largest plurality of Chabot students (49%) indicated that classes meeting twice a week best fit their schedule. The largest plurality on non-Chabot respondents (43%) said that meeting four days a week was best for them. Both groups also indicated that significantly less homework than we currently offer would be best for them. Chabot students indicated that 6.66 hours per week would be best, while non-Chabot respondents indicated that 4.38 hours a week was best.
  • Overall, work schedules were by far the most commonly cited challenge that might make it difficult for respondents to take an ESL class, followed by childcare. For HUSD parents, childcare was the greatest challenge.
  • Cost seems to be an important consideration for prospective students. While a huge majority (82-96%, depending on how the numbers were broken down) indicated they would definitely take ESL classes if they were free, this number dropped dramatically when students were asked if they would pay for classes at $26 per unit. Generally, the more units per class (and hence the greater the tuition), the fewer students said they would definitely take it.

Preliminary Ideas

  • We are currently offering preparation for academic classes, primarily through integrated reading/writing/grammar classes. When we have sufficient FTEF to offer them, there seems to be a need (86% positive response) for vocational ESL classes.
  • We should be offering more speaking classes. We may want to pilot a variety of smaller unit speaking classes with an academic focus, e.g.—pronunciation, conversation, or perhaps presentation skills. Speaking courses with a less academic focus could be considered supplemental and might be discussed as an offering through Community Education.
  • We might explore ways to offer more morning or evening classes since these are by far the best times for our students. We have offered courses at the San Leandro Center in the past, and we may want to explore other off-campus possibilities at those times.
  • We could offer more classes with fewer than 6 units. Since cost is issue for our students, offering classes with fewer units may make them more accessible.
  • When resources become available to offer additional classes, we might try offering classes below the high-beginning/low intermediate level.
  • Because of the recent cutbacks in our ESL classes, we cannot accommodate more students at this time, but when we are in a position to expand the program, it might be useful to advertise our program in the community. This advertising could be relatively inexpensive, such as ads in foreign language newspapers. Other options could include outreach or partnerships with organizations that serve our students’ language communities. Since people who know about the program heard of it through word of mouth, it may be that we’re not fully utilizing other means of getting the word out.
  • Most respondents had only taken one or two ESL classes, not nearly enough to become proficient in English. This suggests that there may be a large untapped market in our community if we can create new classes that address some of the other needs of our potential students.
  • To help students move into a career or transfer, ESL faculty could work with counseling to add a counseling component to the curriculum to assure that all our ESL students have easy access to a counselor, especially prior to registration periods so that they can receive help with their college plans.

Overall, “prepare for academic classes” was the most common reason for wanting to learn English. This indicates that our current program is meeting a very real need in our community (and doing it quite well, according to our graduates’ success rates in English 101a and 102). However, non-Chabot respondents indicated that “family literacy,” “participate more in my community,” and “prepare to look for work” were their top priorities. It seems that there is a need in our community for general ESL classes whose primary goal is to help our students and their families adjust to school, work, and community in the U.S.A. In light of the additional findings regarding homework and tuition, it might be best if these classes had fewer units and less homework than our present core classes. There was some discussion within the committee about whether such classes fall within Chabot’s mission. Undoubtedly, we can fulfill many, perhaps all, of the above needs with classes geared towards Chabot’s mission of academic and career preparation. However, we might explore other venues that could also meet this need, such as community education or adult school. Service learning and CTE partnerships may partially address this need.

The ESL faculty are committed to serving the ESL population in the community in order to create new pathways and opportunities for ESL learners. To this end, we have already partnered with counseling and Career Technical Education (CTE) on a federal TRIO Grant that will help funded some innovative programs. Reflecting on these survey results and preliminary ideas, and working with the grant advisory team, we have started developing new ESL curriculum that are embedded within current Chabot Automotive Technology courses. This pilot course began in Spring 2011. Program expansion is planned for Machine Tool Technology and Welding.


  • Sandra Genera - counseling
  • Ramon Parada - counseling
  • Kent Uchiyama - ESL
  • Linnea Wahamaki - ESL


FIG Proposal

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