Supporting English Language Learners in Your Courses

Who are ELLs?

ELL is an abbreviation for English language learner. While many of our international students come from countries that speak languages other than English, it is important to remember that not all international students are ELLs. Likewise, not all ELLs are international students.


Universal Design for Learning and ELLs

In Universal Design, Roberta Null (2014) points out the "focus is not specifically on people with disabilities, but all people" (3). As educators, we should be concerned about how we can ensure our materials are accessible to everyone. We would like to emphasize we are not equating ELLs with disability. On the contrary, we feel this is a misguided assumption that many of us may unconsciously harbor. We do, however, think that approaching the issue of teaching ELLs from the wider context of Universal Design for Learning is useful. We would like to consider Universal Design for Learning not only with respect to our materials, that is, the way information is presented to students, but also in the way we design our courses and how we conduct student-teacher interactions. You are likely to discover that your efforts to make your courses more accessible to ELLs result in greater accessibility for many other students as well.