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?

Teachers wanted:

Hi everyone,

I’ve just received an email from Margrit Balmer, from Flying Teachers, who’s looking for a teacher in Graubünden. If you’re interested, get in touch and I’ll be happy to forward you her contact info, or follow this link for the application form: https://flyingteachers.recruiterbox.com/jobs/fk068ef.

And keep an eye out for the next Springboard get-together, coming soon!



The grass is always greener on the other side

Today I ran into a teacher I met once at an ETAS workshop and we got to talking about work. He asked me if I had enough work and I said, at the moment, I do, but that with January coming up, I can never be sure. Teaching freelance for private language schools always involves uncertainty and there’s always a shuffling of the deck as some courses end and others may or may not start. I thought about how I’d like to work for a school like the one where he works. Teaching at a “Berufschule” means there is a steady course load. Curriculum is designed with longer term goals in mind, not one-off lessons created to keep students signing up for another six months.

married_greener_grass_750Meanwhile, however, he complained that he misses the days when he taught at a private language school, working in companies and learning so much from the various groups that he taught. It can be so stimulating to go into varied contexts and we as teachers learn almost more from the students than they do from us. It also constantly challenges us to customize our course objectives and this creates intrinsic motivation for ongoing professional development. For him, teaching twelve courses, each with 24 students, is gruelling. Teachers are faced with designing and grading three tests per semester, strict fixed course objectives, and lots of pressure to get their students to pass.

So I realized that although I loathe the inconsistent paycheck, the pressure to keep clients happy, and the uncertainty that I face every six months, I shouldn’t take for granted the advantages that I have. Every job has it’s perks.

We all have our complaints. What are the good sides of your job?

And if you work at a “Berufschule” or state school, do you know of a job opening? … 😉

Share your comments below!

Teachers as workers

I recently joined a Google+ community on this very topic. The founder of the community page, Paul Walsh, wrote this about his and Nicola Prentis’ rejected proposal to set up a Teachers as Workers IATEFL SIG. One thing he said particularly resonated with me:

A lot of us are fully-paid up members of The Precariat, a term first coined in a book by Guy Standing in 2011 to describe a new class that has little social protection, low or unsecured wages and no trade union representation. This precarious work  leads to precarious life, with individuals unable to form stable occupational identities.

If you also feel that we need to do more to make ELT teaching a sustainable career path, I recommend signing up for their newsletter, following them on Twitter or joining the Google+ group.

What do I look for in a school?

This is related to Fabienne’s “What do I look for in a teacher” post, but it’s in no way intended as any kind of reply. Hopefully just starting a new conversation or continuing it from a new angle. 🙂

If we’re honest, there are two stages in school-choosing. In the first stage, the main consideration is really, “Do they have hours?” “Do the hours fit in my existing schedule?” If the answer to either of those questions is “no”, then that’s the end of the consideration. The more complicated part of school-choosing is after the end of the first year when we have to decide whether we want to keep working at this school or start looking for new hours at a new place. Here’s what matters most to me (and I’m interested to hear what matters most for you in the comments): consistency, professionalism, and good atmosphere/colleagues.

By consistency, I mean how far in advance can I know my schedule? When a course is booked, how certain am I that it will run? By professionalism, I mean two things: am I treated as a professional (ie, do I have an appropriate amount of freedom in my lessons) and is the office run professionally (is the admin work completed efficiently, is the communication handled well, are the wages paid reliably without undue effort on my part)? The atmosphere and colleagues are also important, but I find it easier to work with someone who’s good at their job but I don’t get along with rather than the other way around. Ideally my colleagues will be both professional and nice, although I have been in situations where they were neither.

What about the money? Money is important too, of course. But typically I’m working in 2-3 schools and I don’t get a lot of offers for a 100% position. So if I did get a new offer, I’d be using the above criteria to decide which school to cut, rather than whichever one pays the least. Simple things like being able to plan my schedule and not having to deal with a bunch of repetitive paperwork add up for me and these are the kind of places I want to stick around. The grind of doing work I don’t like takes time out of my life that I’m not paid for anyway, and these kind of factors motivate me to look for something new anyway so I may as well get rid of those jobs first.

New Authentic Listening Resource

Within EarshotAt the get together in September, I asked the question, “Are you and your students tired of contrived, scripted dialogues in dry textbooks meant to improve spontaneous interactions in English?” Everyone knew what I was talking about. Well, I was too. That’s why I decided to compile an engaging, colorful, clean and authentic resource with audio and visual material that both teachers and students could appreciate. The concept of this resource is based on my experiences teaching English to all age groups from a variety of cultures. Young students, especially, want to know more about American culture and how they can understand native speakers with more confidence. The pages include colorful photos to elicit vocabulary and discussion along side white spaces to encourage students to take notes directly next to those associations. Each interview was conducted spontaneously. Each exercise was created post-interview to describe and frame the language used naturally by the interviewees. Teacher tips, study tools, answer key and transcript are all included in one coursebook. Each chapter consists of two short stories, six interviews with exercises, a page of further suggested projects and a chapter test. More information about this resource, Within Earshot, can be found on the website (www.withinearshot.com). You can also try any of the six interviews and exercises on the website. There is one to try from each theme.