Browse more profiles
Portland site of the Literacy Education and Second Language Learning for Adults’ 13th International Symposium (LESLLA).
Portland site of the Literacy Education and Second Language Learning for Adults’ 13th International Symposium (LESLLA).

For three days in August, Portland was the site of the Literacy Education and Second Language Learning for Adults’ 13th International Symposium (LESLLA).

The symposium, with its theme “The Changing Context of Migration and LESLLA,” drew on approaches from pedagogy, applied linguistics, policy, and more in order to understand the unique challenges and opportunities that are faced by millions of displaced adults around the world, especially those with limited formal education who face learning basic literacy skills in a new language.

The event brought 170 teachers, researchers, and teacher trainers, including 24 international scholars, to Portland State University. The chance to come enjoy Portland built a lot of excitement among attendees, and was made possible thanks to the support of PSU’s Department of Applied Linguistics. Furthermore, 57 local practitioners from Oregon were able to engage in the symposium’s 82 paper presentations, workshops, and intensive training institutes. This combination led to many chances to share information, understand the big picture of adult literacy, and imagine new possibilities in adult education for Oregon and around the world.

In addition to the conference sessions and lively coffee breaks, plenary sessions were led by leading scholars in their respective fields. Dr. Terrence Wiley, past president of the Center for Applied Linguistics and Professor Emeritus at Arizona State University delivered an address on “The Changing Scene of Immigration: Implications for Policy and Practice Affecting LESLLA Learners“ Dr. Fernanda Minuz, Professor Emeritus at Johns Hopkins University SAIS Europe led another plenary, “Changing routes, changing needs: Perspectives on migration and language teaching in Europe.“ Finally, Dr. Heide Spruck Wrigley, LiteracyWork International and the Nonresident Fellow at the Migration Policy Institute led a session “Sparks of hope: Resistance and teaching in times of uncertainty”. These plenaries helped elucidate current trends in refugee education and resettlement policies, and created a context for participants to understand what may happen in the future and how educators can best respond.

The event was completely planned and led by a local group of educators made up of Portland State University MA TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) alumni, faculty, and associates. The group included former students Jen Sacklin, Margi Felix-Lund, Eric Dodson, and Domminick McParland and faculty Assistant Professor Kathy Harris, Associate Professor John Hellermann, and Professor Emeritus Stephen Reder, as well as Portland Literacy Council’s president Peggy Murphy.

The local team initially started planning for the event in 2014, at an Oregon TESOL conference that featured Professor Reder as a plenary. From that initial seed, the shared effort that brought this international symposium to Portland was joined and supported by conference sponsors PSU’s Department of Applied Linguistics, Oregon TESOL, the Portland Literacy Council, the University of Michigan Press, Grass Roots Press, and Language Matters Education Consultants.

In this time of upheaval and further challenges for immigrants and refugees engaging in schools and literacy skill development, these communities of teachers and researchers from Oregon and across the world were able to meet together in Portland to share their successes and help plot the future of literacy education for adults.