Category Archives: PBLA

Cereal Box Book Report

Cereal box book reports produced by Mandy’s students
Source: Mandeep Somal

In post-secondary, students are often required to work on culminating projects comprised of various assignments submitted at different deadlines throughout the term. My teaching partner and I wanted to bring the experience of a post-secondary culminating project into our classroom, but in a way that was both manageable and meaningful to our LINC students.

When doing major projects, my teaching partner and I are always looking for ways to optimize Portfolio-Based Language Assessment (PBLA) for all four skills (listening, speaking, reading, and writing). As we focus on teaching our students English to prepare them for post-secondary education and the workplace, we find ourselves utilizing creative ways to incorporate PBLA with scaffolded learning. Thus, we came up with the idea of a cereal box book report.

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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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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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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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Encouraging Learner Autonomy

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One of the best things teachers can do for their students is to help them learn to help themselves.  To promote learner autonomy, we need to build students’ self-confidence and give them strategies for teaching themselves.  Some of the ways we can do this include the following. Continue reading

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