A few months ago I stumbled upon EFL Magazine – an online EFL magazine written by practicing teachers. To be honest I have not been overly engaged by the articles thus far, however, the link shared here is to a very useful summary by Allistair Elliot of views on teaching listening from some of the big beasts of TEFL (Harmer, Thornbury, Krashen) and questions the TEFL orthodoxy that Teacher Talking Time is always to be kept to a bare minimum.
Let’s put ourselves in our student’s shoes and imagine we are sitting an IELTS exam and are presented with the graph below. How would you interpret and explain it?
You would need to know that the vertical axis is the probability of a person answering an assessment question correctly and the horizontal axis is the true ability/knowledge/understanding/competence/mastery of the person. (This is known as an ‘Item Characteristic Curve’ apparently).
To get that IELTS score of 6.5 or 7 you need for University you would need to explain that even someone with perfect knowledge will not get an assessment question right every time. Or that the difference in the probability of getting a correct answer between a 1 student and a 5 student is only about 20 odd per cent.
Interesting stuff – and quite significant for how much faith we put in assessments.
As Rob Coe explains in this blog post: CEM Blog Post
'In a naïve understanding of assessment, students either know it or they don’t: if they do then they should get the question right, if they don’t then they shouldn’t. But the reality is captured by this smooth curve, the ICC, that shows how the probability gradually increases with ‘ability’. If your knowledge is such that you have an 80% chance of a correct answer, then one time in five you will get that question wrong.' So has that person ‘got it’ or not? The probability approaches one as your ability increases, but never actually reaches it, so no one is certain to get any question right. A more difficult question will have the same shaped curve, but shifted to the right. Assessment is the process of capturing and scoring aspects of task performance in order to support inferences. Inferences are usually about a person and are time-bound. For example: ‘She doesn’t currently understand this’. Decisions may be informed by those inferences; ‘I need to re-teach it’. Given the multiplicity of the kinds of decisions or inferences an assessment may support over different time scales, I remain to be convinced that a binary distinction between ‘formative’ and ‘summative’ assessment is ever really helpful.'
Roc Coe goes on to explain the difference between commonly held views of assessment and what assessment data actually shows:
I find that right hand ‘reality’ box very interesting and it has real implications for teaching – most of which I haven’t yet thought through. As a language learner and a language teacher, I’ve experienced and observed ‘bad days’ – the curious phenomenon when you just don’t seem to be able to speak the language you’re learning well, try as you might. Words don’t come to mind and you keep messing up grammar that last week you were nailing every time. It can be discouraging and you hope that you don’t have ‘bad day’ when you have an exam or assessment – whereas in reality, the stress of an exam can actually make a bad day far more likely!
It can also be discouraging as a teacher when learners make mistakes with things they ‘should have known’ or seem to have forgotten the language points that they were all doing so well with at the end of the lesson in which you covered it.
I’ll certainly bear in mind that there is no threshold at which someone ‘gets it’ and never goes back. It will certainly help me cope with my advanced level students frequent slips with subject-verb agreement and 1st, 2nd and 3rd person cases 😉
I had the pleasure of attending NATECLA Scotland‘s conference on Saturday 3rd November. As usual with these events, I left brimming with ideas. Here’s my (somewhat belated) rundown of the day!
Amanda Avison – I say, you say
Amanda Avison was my first port of call and I don’t say this lightly when I say that her talk was revelatory. I wish I’d attended her talk way back at the start of my teaching career, or at least during my Diploma.
I’ve always known that my west coast of Scotland accent just didn’t cut the mustard on the Received Pronunciation IPA chart. Myself (and most of my colleagues) were the black sheep, avoiding /u:/ and /ʊ/ when they came up in the book (food and full are absolutely the same sound) but over-dramatising the long ‘a’ in /cɑ:/ (car) before drilling students to roll their /r/s!
Amanda’s talk was…
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I’m yet to listen to this IATEFL Webinar – so I’m rather glad that Lizzie Pinard has summarised it so well here!
On the 22nd November 2018, I managed to watch a grand total of one of the sessions from the IATEFL Web Conference. No time to watch them all, and the title of this one really intrigued me!
Diana England works at IH – Torres Vedras/Lisbon. She starts by saying it, as in the title, sounds a bit strange but that it is about taking fun out and putting in something much more valuable. Again, intriguing!
- What fun and enjoyment mean
- How these words are used in everyday English
- The lures and dangers of fun
- The science of enjoyment
- The psychology of enjoyment
- The connection between learning and enjoyment
- Ideas for going beyond fun
She hopes to give us some interesting perspectives on we teach, how students learn and offer a different way forward.
What fun and enjoyment mean
Diana’s hunch was that fun and enjoyment are not the…
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The University of Kent have created a resource site for practitioners providing English Language Support for Refugees – click the ‘resources’ link to get there.