jueves, 30 de mayo de 2013

My life on Flickr!

Éste es un módulo Flickr que muestra fotos o videos públicos de Maria Colussa. Crea tu propio módulo aquí.

sábado, 11 de mayo de 2013

On how assessment has evolved

Assesment has evolved from the old times when we got a test back with a grade which we would never know where it came from.
I will concentrate on a particular assesment I did to evaluate my latest student´s ability to communicate with a native speaker.  Pressed for time since I only had two months to get her ready to establish meaningful interactions with strangers in English, I came up with the idea to set up a virtual meeting via Skype with my good friend David Karnorcak. (I blogged about this meeting in my last entry)
In my teacher training college years I would not have dreamed of having a student assesed in the way I will describe below.  I am happy to be a teacher today because technology enables us to strech our brains as to how to make assessment more meaningful and less stressful for our students.
The following is part of an assignment for the LTMOOC I´m doing these days.

     What are the outcomes to be assessed?
I wanted to check if she was able to communicate in English, given the fact that she said she didn´t know a word in English.  I knew this was not true.  

      What are the capabilities/skills (implicit or explicit) in the outcomes?
The skill was oral communication

      Is the method of assessment chosen consonant with the outcomes and skills?
The method was chosen because the social interactions that she wanted to do would share the same nature.

      Is the method relatively efficient in terms of student time and staff time?
The method was efficient in that it gave the student the chance to experience what social interactions during her trip would imply. 

     What alternatives are there? What are their advantages and disadvantages?
The "safe" alternative would have been to play a CD with a listening activity for her to do a given excersise from a book, in a highly artificial environment, and with vocabulary which she would probably not encounter later on.  The disadvantage was that she was angry with me for putting her in the position to talk to a stranger , which implied taking her out of her comfort zone. (This lasted just a few minutes) 
      Does the specific assessment task match the outcomes and skills?
The assessment was not only a sample of what she would encounter, it was useful in order to determine the weaker points to be dealt with in future classes.

     Are the marking schemes or criteria appropriate?
There was no marking scheme.  After the chat the class was based on how to improve the communicative skills providing vocabulary and structures.

    Who should make judgements about student learning – the teacher, the student, the student’s peers or others?
In this case we received the feedback of the interlocutor who provided ideas as to what she could say and how and also praised her on her performance.  This made a major positive impact on my student´s self esteem. The re-listening of the recorded version of the interview from the part of the student allowed her to focus on what she would like to be able to say better. The teacher highlighted language for later practice.

miércoles, 1 de mayo de 2013

On "I want to learn English asap!"

      I sometimes come across this individual: the middle aged adult who for several reasons wants to enroll on an English course and wants to acquire the language the fast way. They approach us as if we, teachers, were the guardians of the Holy Grail of language learning. They say: "I want to learn English, I don´t have time for homework, I need it because I realized that it is important during my last trip abroad. Oh, and I don´t want to write, after all I just want to be able to talk." Fine, I take the challenge. I start building from what they bring to class I find it fascinating when they start remembering vocabulary and structures. Eventually, they have the chance to try their knowledge out in their next trip and they come to class with renewed energy after being able to successfully interact in English.
     Nevertheless I found myself questioning my own teaching lately. I have this student who goes on a trip next month. Ok, let´s put her knowledge at work. I asked my good friends of Hello Little World Teachers Skypers if anyone would be available for a short chat with one of my students. The great David Karnoscak accepted the invitation and there was Monica in front of the computer screen face to face with a native speaker! Of course I did the arrangements without her knowing about the interview, because had I asked if she would like to do it, guess what? She would refuse and ask to do it later when she´s better prepared. When the time came, she would be too nervous to do it. The conversation started and David was friendly, chose the correct words and reformulated the sentences to make things easier for Monica to understand, I often translated.  Sometimes I remained silent. I wrote down all the sentences my student didn´t know how to say and all the vocabulary she couldn´t produce. I filled two pages. We thanked Mr David for the wonderful chat and then the class started. I gave my student the English version of all the things she wanted to ask or was unsure about. She was reassured by the fact that she understood most of what David said.
      However the most important achievement was in a level you can´t see. The renewed confidence. The magic of communication took place and I felt proud to have facilitated it. That´s after all why I became a teacher twenty years ago.