Discussion: Testing and Assessment

This Friday Springboard will be bringing teachers together to chat and discuss testing and assessment. I’ve read an article by Dave Allan, which got me thinking about some questions that might be good discussion starters. What do you think? Post your comment below, and we’ll bring them to the discussion!

 

Discussion Questions: Testing and Assessment in Language Training

What’s the difference between testing and assessment?

Which is a better evaluation of a learner’s English capabilities: an objective test or a teacher’s assessment?  Why?

Do learners want to be tested? Why? Why not?

For assessment that involves various processes which go on over time, and measure more abstract traits such as discourse skills, fluency, flexibility and range, how can we give learners clear, formalised reporting on their language competence?

What are some best practices for teachers to integrate testing into a task based, communicative learning environment?

Eight myths of learning/ teaching vocabulary

Do you have a go-to vocabulary activity that you use in class?

Do you ever have vocabulary that needs to be reviewed, and you’re not sure exactly what the best way to do it is?

Is vocabulary study best done as a homework task? How often do students study vocabulary on their own?

What exactly is the best way to learn vocabulary?

At our last get together, we debunked eight myths to vocabulary teaching. We shared experiences and best practices, and had a productive discussion about practical ways to do what sometimes seems almost impossible– get learners to expand their active vocabulary.

Click here for what the research says, and what you can do to teach vocabulary effectively.

One conclusion from our discussion was that what works depends on the learner. Now it’s your turn. Share your comments! What do you use that works?

Subjunctive in English

Have any of your students ever stumped you with a question about grammar?

In a recent class, a student asked me why the verb could be either “was” or “were” and I couldn’t give a straightforward answer! Her questions caught me off guard. I knew both were correct, but couldn’t say why.

If I were to hypothesize, I’d say this has happened to all of us. Why? Because we learn grammar inductively in our native language. As we grow up it is necessary that we understand grammar from context without explicit rules. (Whether or not we demand that second language learners learn grammar like this is a topic for another discussion!)

But back to the subjunctive. For whatever reason, I never learned the rules. I even managed to avoid it in my teacher training.

But I can and do use the subjunctive! I was familiar with it despite not knowing the rules. In fact, I’ve used it three times already in this post. Can you find the subjunctives?

It was a joyous “aha” moment when I figured out, thanks to my ELT Springboard colleagues at our last get together, that “were” is used because it’s subjunctive! After some research and study, I now feel confident that I can answer my students’ questions, if they were to come up.   😉

I found this website to be helpful:

http://grammarist.com/grammar/subjunctive-mood/

This quote is from that site. And doesn’t it ring true?

“If you’re confused by the subjunctive mood, don’t worry too much. As with all grammar and usage matters, the rules for subjunctive mood are based on centuries of convention. There’s no deeper reason; it just is what it is. But the subjunctive mood is useful, and it would be a shame if it were to go away.”

If you know something more about subjunctive in English or know of good resources, comment below!

Double negatives equal a positive, but does it work the other way round?

An MIT linguistics professor was lecturing his class the other day. “In English,” he said, “a double negative forms a positive. However, in some languages, such as Russian, a double negative remains a negative. But there isn’t a single language, not one, in which a double positive can express a negative.”

A voice from the back of the room piped up, “Yeah, right.”

It’s not my joke, I only remembered it! However, I can’t remember where I heard it so I’ll post this source here so as not to be accused of plagiarism later. 🙂

http://www.ling.upenn.edu/~beatrice/humor/double-positive.html

Source: Christine Santorini Biser and Bob Julia

Does language shape how we think?

Does it ever seem to you that no matter how much homework a student does, how much vocabulary they study, and no matter how good their attendance is, they still don’t make notable progress?

Could it be because they don’t have the competence required to understand linguistic relativity? Do you think some words or concepts are simply un-translate-able?

Culture, language, and cognition seem to be closely intertwined. Here’s a quick intro:

Does language shape how we think? – Linguistics 101