Category Archives: Feedback

Daily Small Talk

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As a person and as a language instructor, I hear the words ‘small talk’ and I shudder. However, I have learned – after teaching online for nearly three years now – not to underestimate the opportunities and utility of focusing specifically on Small Talk in class. Focusing on Small Talk has always been successful. When surveyed, learners consistently report that they want more Small Talk rather than less. 

I started teaching virtually with a fairly small class (CLB 7) who really responded to Small Talk. For one thing, I found the class needed to deal with mental health issues – near the beginning of COVID – and needed to feel as social as possible in a virtual environment. That’s when I started to develop Small Talk as an integral activity. Most recently, I had a much larger class that also responded very well to the Small Talk activities. This activity is not a one-off lesson but rather focuses on best practices, routine, feedback, and refinement.

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Tools and Resources for Online Teaching (Part 2)

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Many of us have been teaching from home for more than a year. What a crazy milestone! While at home, we have all been trying our best to support our students by using various online and offline tools. It has been a tremendous learning journey for both teachers and students. However, often meaningful interaction is missing in our online class. Additionally, with lower-level students, introducing a new tool or online source can be challenging because of a lack of technological knowledge. This is where WhatsApp comes in handy.

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In Praise of English Language Learners

A chalkboard sign saying, "Well done!"
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

As an English as an Additional Language (EAL) teacher, I think I have a responsibility to remind my students of the incredible job they have done as additional/foreign language learners. I think as teachers we sometimes forget the challenges our students are going through! This letter is to all additional language learners, wherever they are.

Dear EAL learners,

I acknowledge you. I admire you. I celebrate you! You’ve already done an incredible job. Whether you are at the beginning level, where your journey has just started, or you have been in this for quite a while, you are amazing and here is why.

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VoiceThread in the language classroom

With the new trend in education due to COVID-19, many language classrooms have been moved to hybrid, synchronous, or asynchronous modes of delivery online. This change has certainly impacted the socio-cultural aspects of our classroom dynamics in many different ways. 

Approaches to building community and the related language interaction have been impacted by the move to online delivery, and educators have sought assistance by looking into various EdTech tools to make up for this gap. One of these tools that I have found helpful in my language classrooms is VoiceThread.  

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Accelerate the Feedback Process

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How do you provide feedback to your students? Do you send them emails with feedback? Do you fill out a report card with descriptive feedback? Here’s a final question and I’ll get to my point! How fast is your typing? 

Typing down all the comments in any application can be time consuming for teachers and perhaps frustrating if your typing speed is below average. According to a study done at Cambridge University, the average typing speed is 52 words per minute (Dhakal, 2018). If our speed falls below this number, why not use a shortcut?

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Peer Feedback: Not the Sandwich, but Sunny-Side-Up, Please

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Peer feedback (otherwise known as peer assessment) can be useful to both the receiver and the giver of the feedback as long as the feedback is meaningful. For this to happen, peer feedback needs to be constructive; it should start with a positive observation before pointing to an area or areas for improvement; and it should include a suggestion on how to improve, which means that the focus needs to be procedural. This is not the case in the sandwich feedback approach.

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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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Meaningless Grammarisms

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When you hear a newscaster say, “The hurricane has WENT from Hawaii to Osaka overnight,” perhaps, like me, you yell, “That’s GONE from Hawaii, you knucklehead!” Nevertheless, you have understood that knucklehead perfectly despite the grammatical error.  There is no ambiguity in his meaning.

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Effective Feedback in Higher Education

What are some ways you choose to provide feedback to students in higher education? How do you think students perceive and react to our feedback? How effective do you think written feedback comments can be? Nicole and Milligan (2006) have identified seven main principles that effective feedback should entail.

1.     Effective feedback helps students identify what good performance is and assists students in grasping a clear understanding of the goals and standards set for their level. Research suggests that there is often a gap between the expected standards set by educators and students’ perception of these standards. Unless students clearly understand the goals and standards set for them, they cannot succeed in self-regulating their learning process.

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Positive Reinforcement in the College Classroom

Why is it important for our higher education learners to receive positive reinforcement? Do adult learners have this need? In what ways can instructors provide their adult learners with positive reinforcement?

Sharp (2011) lays it down beautifully, explaining that as we grow up we receive incentives, prices, stickers, and encouragement for the most mundane actions such as making our beds. However, as we grow and become more self-motivated, the amount of positive reinforcement declines exponentially by the time we pursue higher education.

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