Portfolio Based Language Assessment (PBLA) has created a new world, where the doing of tasks is a must, with no exceptions whatsoever. The first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word task is the notion that you have something to do, most likely something you are not too keen on doing. A task by any definition is a piece of work you must do or undertake. The Merriam-Webster dictionary goes further to add: “Something hard or unpleasant that has to be done.” Some common synonyms for the word task are chore, job, duty, labour, toil, and burden. Both as a noun and a verb, the word task does not evoke anything pleasant someone has to do. How the word task came into adult ESL teaching methodology now troubles me. There has to be a better Continue reading
Portfolio Based Language Assessment (PBLA) is here to stay. “Teachers cannot opt out” (p. 58) and it is “an expectation of employment” (p. 71). Once implemented the way it was meant to be, the evidence suggests, it is an academically sound approach to teaching and learning. The PBLA programme, now being implemented in all ESL non-credit classes that are funded by Citizenship and Immigration, has two critical shortcomings which I have encountered Continue reading
The age of technology has arrived. It can be integrated, according to its pundits, into every stage of teaching the four basic skills: Speaking, Listening, Reading, and Writing. Better yet, nothing beats technology for enhancing both teaching and learning, the pundits add. It’s the new transformative tool and game changer in the domain of education.
Selected studies on specific target audiences suggest that one particular app or another has indeed enhanced reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills. On the whole, however, years have passed, and test scores and outcomes have not gotten any better with most technology assisted learning and its various applications. No one, especially me, seems to know which technology is best suited to a teacher’s goals and outcomes. There are, and I think everyone would agree, too many apps purporting to enhance both teaching and student learning. At the same time, studies on the efficacy of technology and second language learning are Continue reading
For some time now, I have been having some reservations about the effectiveness and value of the competency based form of assessment that my paymasters have asked that I use in my class of older English as a second language (ESL) learners.
For starters, I don’t think that I am that competent to give what is generally called an objective “competency standard.” A number of items in a portfolio, including can-do lists, which by themselves seem to put too much pressure on older learners, still leave me questioning myself: What is my standard of competence? And am I assessing my students against my standard of competence? And not what I think they can do? Is the notion of competency superseding everything else in class? The questions keep popping up. And the more they do, the less competent I feel. Continue reading
Of recent, it is becoming increasingly clear that more and more ESL students entering our classrooms are expecting a rapid transmission of information, structured presentations, concrete outcomes, a course syllabus, and direction from teachers. Such expectations are not new; they come with most formal classes. Such expectations, common in traditional classroom settings, coming from Adult ESL learners, necessitate a rethinking of our present learner-centered or constructivist approach. It raises a question: Is there a place for direct instruction in today’s adult classes? Or, is there not a place for the traditional approach? By that, I don’t mean the uncreative and non-liberating approach to education so well described by Paulo Freire. I mean a Continue reading