Category Archives: Assessment

From Day One to Year Ten

TEACHER Think Bubble word cloud education concept on blackboard
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When I first started out as a teacher, I was terrified, as I’m sure anyone would be. I had always wanted to be a teacher, but the way I’d imagined the experience wasn’t exactly how it turned out to be. 

I’ve worked in after-school programs teaching English as a Second Language and I’ve been a substitute teacher, but when I got my first college teaching job, it was intimidating to say the least. I was going to teach adults in a more formal environment, and that word, “adults,” had always scared me because although I was a 22-year-old adult at the time, most of my students were older than I was! 

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EAP Speaking Rubrics: A Student-Centred Approach

A Brief Introduction

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In this blog entry, I will attempt to briefly describe the contents of a presentation my colleague Glenn Ewing and I shared at TESL Niagara on February 8, 2020.

Glenn and I have been interested in EAP Speaking rubrics for many years. Information shared here and during the presentation is based on our personal reflection, professional experience, education, and research. Our focus is mainly on EAP speaking rubrics for midterm assessment. We maintain that typical EAP speaking rubrics often present some flaws which make them ineffective for the learner. We attempt to explain some of the problems, propose some principles of rubric design, and finally, promote, as an alternative, student-centred, formative speaking rubrics.

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Rubric Reflection

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Do you use rubrics to support self-assessment, peer-assessment, and skill assessment? Do you create a separate rubric for each assignment? Do your rubrics look more like checklists? Are your rubrics really assessing skills or simply the ability to follow assignment instructions? Have you ever thought of using one common skill-specific rubric for all related assignments?

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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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Spring Reflections

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The cherry blossoms are out! It’s spring and finally warm enough to ride my bike to work.  I do my best thinking on that bike. With a new semester starting, I find myself reflecting on the semester gone by.  Peddling on cold, rainy days tends to cause me to remember my failures, but on warm, sunny mornings, I recall my successes.  For 16 years I have been teaching university prep writing, grammar, reading, speaking, and listening to students from around the world. 

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Storybird

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Do you ever teach CLB 5 narrative paragraph writing? Do your students usually write something with pencil on paper that they later discard? Have you ever thought of using Storybird to engage and enhance writing skills or create a class anthology of stories?

Publish it

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Reflections on the implementation of PBLA

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“You have to get your SBA’s, SUA’s, T’s and A’s in order to have an organized portfolio, Sridatt,” said the Lead Instructor of Portfolio Based Language Assessment (PBLA) implementation. “You also have to get,” continued the official, “peer evaluations [PE’s], learner reflections [LR’s], and inventory checklists [IC’s], all in order to have a good, organised portfolio.”  The order and presentation of the portfolio, not the teaching of the language itself, seems paramount. I welcome myself to the new world of English as a second language teaching, even though my new teaching practices are not aligned with my educational philosophy.

By the time the individual was finished, I was beginning to see a sort of preoccupation over skill building activities (SBA’s), skill using activities (SUA’s)  tasks (T’s) and assessments (A’s). When the individual was gone, it didn’t take much reflection to conclude that Portfolio Based Language Assessment (PBLA) seems to be a faulty assembly line approach to education.   Continue reading

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Tasking the Adult Language Learner To Do Tasks

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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

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How A Rubric Changed My Classroom

Proofread checklist and checked boxes next to the words spelling, grammar and accuracy
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I always attend conferences to try to improve myself as a teacher, and sometimes I come away exceptionally motivated.  This was the case a few years ago when I attended a great session on rubric creation.  At the time I was working in a private language school and also doing some part-time LINC teaching.  I kept wondering how I could mark student writing in a way that was useful to the students but also less time-consuming for me.  This session seemed to be the answer to my prayers. Continue reading

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The Translingual Approach – Agree but…

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I am trying to fully understand the translingual approach – specifically how it aligns with English for academic purposes (EAP) or the much needed skill of clear, concise written communication. The idea is great, but how do we go about it?

Horner, Lu, Royster, and Trimbur (2011) propose a translingual approach for dealing with student writing in academia.
Although I agree with most of the underpinnings behind the new approach, I am not so sure how they envision it. I agree with many of their ideas, but…

Agree

I agree that students’ right to use their language (English and otherwise) should be respected.  I also agree with the authors’ opposition to the monolingual “view that varieties of English other than those recognized as ‘standards’ are defective” (305). Varieties of English, they explain, include what monolinguals Continue reading

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