As I watched my literacy students doing, or, in several cases, trying to do, a formal assessment task recently, I thought of that old joke: schools are places where students go to watch teachers work. I questioned my competence. We’d spent over a week doing skill building activities, spiralling back to skills and activities, reviewing, repeating, repeating, and repeating. Oh, the repetition. I checked comprehension. Checked again. The students nodded. They did well in the lessons. Then the task. Back to square one.
The stronger students finished first, of course. However, instead of sitting quietly waiting for the others to finish, some of them did what they’ve been doing in class: helping their weaker peers. This being a formal assessment, my first impulse was to stop this helping, or as the academic term has it, cheating.
I set the timer and focus on my new goal: to grade a paper in twenty minutes. Everything starts smoothly; checkmark after checkmark, praise after praise. A quick glance at the rest of the paper reveals more of the same error-free, polished style. Hmm. I pull up the student’s writing diagnostic, previous assignments, and emails. All are riddled with errors and awkward phrasing. The plagiarism report, though, comes up clean.
It is clear that one of the goals of ESL students is to improve their listening comprehension skills. This goal might turn into a concern however, when they are preparing for an English proficiency test like IELTS, where achieving a certain score could be life-changing. This has led IELTS instructors and tutors to come up with multiple techniques and tips to help their students. In this blog post, I am going to share a technique that I personally developed and applied in my IELTS class, and discuss how it was viewed by my students.
I call this technique “moving backwards,” and my hope is that it will help my students to improve their listening skills while doing an IELTS listening practice test.
Learning never stops; this now includes both humans and Artificial Intelligence. As I type this blog post, I find myself either tabbing to accept the suggested word or ignoring the suggestion. Being prompted to type what auto-text thinks I should be writing can be annoying and, if I am not careful, I end up writing a word that I did not mean to write or, worse yet, pressing ‘send’ on a message or email with one or two unintended words. Although I appreciate its usefulness on some occasions, it irks me when I am given the wrong suggestion, as in the case of Grammarly’s use of double commas on a salutation (since when did adding a comma after ‘Hello’ or ‘Hi’ and before someone’s name become the grammar norm?)
Instructors in the LINC program have been teaching within the framework of PBLA (portfolio-based language assessment) for a few years now with the most recent guidelines having been published in 2019. The 2019 PBLA Guidelines outline the history and rationale, address practical implementation, and conclude with a resource section. While some instructors have embraced its use and see its benefits, others continue to find that it impedes effective teaching and learning, consuming a lot of time both in and out of the classroom. Program costs, its impact on teachers’ time, and its accuracy in measuring student language proficiency are important elements when considering its effectiveness. In this blog, I consider “the good, the bad, and the ugly” in PBLA theory and practice. Continue reading →
On June 29, 2021 we gathered on twitter to discuss alternative assessments and interactive activities for ELT. The guest moderator of the evening was Marlaina Riggio (@MarlainaTweets). You can also connect with Marlaina through LinkedIn.
Observing a student’s progress is an exhilarating moment in a teacher’s life. Creating, executing, and grading assignments however, constitutes the part of teaching that I enjoy the least. I invest a lot of time and effort in a fair and thorough examination of my students’ progress. Online English teaching has imposed new challenges, and opened new opportunities in assessing student progress.
Based on my experience, how you apply PBLA assessments depends on whether you are using synchronous or asynchronous online teaching. PBLA assessments can be conducted with some modifications in both formats.
Over the past two years, I have been attending a lot of webinars, presentations, conferences, dialogues and online courses. I’ve also been reading blogs and articles as well as doing presentations and writing blogposts. I’ve gained knowledge and collected remarkable resources. Tools like the ones below can help us design tasks that will engage and motivate our learners.
No matter how trivial it sounds, in an online class the organization of course content is absolutely essential. Let me share a few practical observations.
1. Materials and Assessments
The most basic organizational tenet of an online classroom stems from the platform itself: in my case it was Google Classroom which gives an opportunity to divide learning content into assignments, quiz assignments, questions, and materials within a section called Classwork. It is a slight deviation from the terminology usually employed in the LINC/ESL world, but one easy for learners to accept. Understanding the distinction between materials and the other options is primarily important for students.
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!