All posts by Stacey Vandenberg

Who has the Final Say about Student Marks?

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Recently, we had a lively discussion at our school regarding who has the final say regarding student benchmarks at the end of the term – is it the teacher or the program administrator? 

When we look at the PBLA 2019 guidelines, it makes a number of statements like the following:“In all PBLA assessment practices, teachers’ professional judgments are central. From selecting or developing appropriate tasks, choosing or developing assessment tools, giving feedback on writing and speaking performance, to deciding when a learner is ready to progress to the next level, teachers make decisions based on professional interpretation and judgment” (PBLA Reporting, 2019, p. 31, emphasis added).

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Is your Time Being Fully Compensated as an ESL/LINC Teacher?

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How much work are you doing for free? Five minutes here and there, hours of PBLA prep time? The employees at our settlement company decided by a vote of 70% that we were going to unionize. I joined the collective bargaining team and found the experience quite an eye opener.

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PBLA: Can I See the Curriculum Please?

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I get asked this question a few times every year. My answer is always the same, “We don’t have one”. It’s true, we don’t have one. We have the Curriculum Guidelines, a badly named book that provides class activities of varying quality for different CLB levels. We also have CLB criteria for assessments, and, of course, PBLA, another assessment tool, but nothing to tell us how to achieve these outcomes such as what grammar to teach or what pronunciation to focus on at specific levels. That would be really helpful, especially if you are a new teacher or switching levels.

Even more annoying is that the Center for Canadian Language Benchmarks says, “Portfolio-Based Language Assessment (PBLA) is a teaching and assessment model designed to enhance nationwide consistency and standards of quality in English as a Second Language…” How can a series of tests that we are all creating individually standardize the material being taught? It is the role of a curriculum to provide a systematic structure. It would mean that Susan in BC is introducing gerunds in Level 3 and so is Mahdi in Ontario. Talk about the tail wagging the dog.

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What about those Unexpected Fights?

A few years ago, I asked my students to do oral presentations about the geography of their native countries as a speaking test for LINC level 6-7. It seemed like a good idea, one that was more focused on English rather than research. The students prepared their PowerPoint presentations and when the presentation day finally arrived, the first up was Aisha from Pakistan.

She showed us several slides of Pakistan, pausing on the last one that clearly outlined the territory of the country. As Aisha explained the boundaries and its position relative to other countries, another student, Aryo, who was in the back row, jumped to his feet and pointed at the bottom border and said, “That’s wrong, that’s in Afghanistan!” I was still looking at the slide when he rushed up to the slide and traced the boundary he was referring to with his finger. “This is in Afghanistan, not Pakistan!” He kept repeating ever more loudly and stabbing his finger on the slide. I didn’t know it then, but there was a disputed border between the two countries where both were claiming the same land.

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