Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Big Bad Monster of Assessment and How to Tame It by Maria Sachpazian - Report

In this workshop we examined the principles of well-rounded assessment and Ms Sachpazian gave us tips on how to design original tests.

First question: Can somebody learn without any kind of assessment?
The answer is that everything in life (not only at school) is somehow being assessed.

What is the difference between assessment and testing?
Assessment is much wider than testing.

Testing is associated with: exams, anxiety and… parents.
Unfortunately, tests don’t stick to the general abilities of our students. 
Ms Sachpazian compared tests to X-rays or blood tests. Tests show part of what the student can do.

So, what kinds of tests are there?
  • Placement tests
  • Progress tests
  • Achievement tests
  • Public examinations
  • Continuous Assessment.

When creating a test, we have to think about…
  • Is the test planned?
  • What do we test?
  • Are tests balanced?
  • Should teaching resemble testing or should testing imitate teaching?
  • Who designs the test?

Then we talked about validity.
Does the test test what it sets out to test?
There are different kinds of validity:
  • Face validity (does the test look valid?)
  • Content validity
  • Results Validity (i.g. AΣΕΠ exams)
  • Productive validity (mock tests)

Reliability is also important. There have to be consistent results whenever a test is administered.
Marker reliability is also essential. What affects the marker most is knowing the person who is being examined.
So, it is crucial to weigh the test before marking it, to create a marking scheme and to create a key in order to limit ambiguity.

Ambiguity has to do with unclear instructions and it is open to interpretation. Allowing too much freedom means less reliability and less standardization

A test should also be practical. We have to think:
How cost effective is the test? How much time will the students spend taking the test and how long does a teacher need to mark them?
How much data does the test reveal?
Does it contain discreet items or integrative language? Direct or indirect items?

To what extent does the language tested reflect authentic language?

We were then given suggestions about how to create a “good test”, such as collaborate with other teachers for new ideas or re-use materials from the book to make the test more familiar to the students.

All in all, it was a very thought provoking workshop which left us with a lot of material to work on.

By Theodora Papapanagiotou

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Inspired Teaching: Inspired Lesson by Mike Hughes - Report

Mike kicked off his presentation by defining a few words:
  • Imagine (v.)
  • Dream (v.)
  • Inspire (v.)

and reminded us that, together with the parents, we have a huge influence on our students' lives. Our role as educators is not only to teach the content of the lesson, but we should be getting our students to develop both, academically, but also as people.

The personal element of liking and caring is very important in the process of teaching and learning. Students want to please, especially when a teacher obviously likes them and cares about them. Makes sense. Mike mentioned the example of the late Rita Pierson, an excellent educator and speaker who believed that teachers should believe in their students and actually connect with them. In her talks, she often spoke of the value and importance of human connection. Simple things such as saying that you are sorry, apologizing, etc. help create a genuine relationship, which in turn nurtures better conditions for learning. The teacher plays a critical role in creating these relationships.

The key word is "passion". Some teachers are only good at conveying messages. Others light fires and inspire students to create new ideas. Giving the students a fish and feeding them for a day is not enough. An inspiring educator will give them a rod instead, and teach them how to fish, awaken in them the ability to create new ideas.

As we know, self-actualization, esteem, but also love/belonging are among the needs included in Maslow's hierarchy. All these needs should be catered for in a classroom environment. In terms of self-actualization, students should be encouraged to always try to reach their full potential. We are not just English teachers, but educators, and as such we should be the force that enables our students to set goals when they still don't know what they want to aim at in their lives. Our role has wider implications than simply teaching language skills. By maintaining healthy relationships in the classroom we cater for the need of esteem. Finally, the classroom is like a community, like a microcosm. Belonging to this kind of community caters for another basic need, the need of love and belonging.

So, what is the purpose of education? According to Bloom's Taxonomy, knowledge is at the bottom of the whole classification of learning objectives. Unfortunately, that is where much learning stops and many lessons do not get beyond the first stages of Bloom's taxonomy. Our role is to inspire our students to create.

Knowing the 21st century competencies: innovative and practical problem solver; effective communicator; collaborative team member; flexible and self-directed learner; globally aware, active and responsible student/citizen; and information literate researcher, we should create inspiring teaching/learning content which will appeal to the intelligence, senses and emotions of our students. As a result, they will be able to examine higher ideas and their own place in the world. How can it be done? Mike presented a number of useful ideas:
  • Maintain a regular "flexible zone" in your lesson – the time when you can engage in a variety of activities with your students;
  • Get your students involved in project work;
  • Ask them to create a video;
  • Have them deliver presentations with stories and pictures;
  • Acting things out – re-enacting scenes from previously read stories; or
  • Telling stories from a different perspective.

With our guidance, our students will develop self-confidence, pride in what they do and joy of their achievements. Let's make them realize that they are wonderful people and it is not a shame to scream out: "I love myself".  The more self-love increases, the more self-expression increases.

By Margarita Kosior

From Role-Play to Real Action: Critical Pedagogy in Hard Times by Luke Prodromou - Report

She calls out to the man on the street
"Sir, can you help me?
It's cold and I've nowhere to sleep,
Is there somewhere you can tell me?"

He walks on, doesn't look back
He pretends he can't hear her
Starts to whistle as he crosses the street
Seems embarrassed to be there

Oh think twice
'Cause it's another day for
You and me in paradise...

Another Day In Paradise - Phil Collins

Luke started his presentation with pair work and encouraged us to look at role-play in the context of the present hard times. What is our role as teachers? Should we constrain our teaching to mere language instruction or should we move to the world outside the classroom and prepare our students for all kinds of difficulties they may encounter or observe out there?

The answer is not as simple as it may seem. It turns out that the degree to which we should involve ourselves with social or political issues can be controversial. The springboard for this part of the discussion was a video projection of a performance by the NO Project that closed the 35th TESOL Greece convention. The NO Project is an initiative that combats modern-day slavery, focusing mainly on human trafficking. Through dance, arts, music, social media and EDUCATION, the campaign raises public awareness and empowers young people to make just choices. This is a noble cause, and TESOL Greece is a strong supporter of this initiative, but still voices can be heard claiming that this kind of effort should be left to social workers and activists, whereas teachers should remain… teachers. During his presentation, Luke argued that ELT is connected with the real world and our role as educators is to raise awareness of the issues that may concern the society as a whole.

In this context, is there room for role-play? Role-play is an activity based on communication. Group work, exchanging information, use of authentic material and realia, or jigsaw reading can be listed among the activities associated with the Communicative Approach. Students like role-play and their positive responses to role-play range from "Role-play offered us nice moments", "We learnt a lot about our fellow students", "The tasks made us cooperate", "It was fun" to "I felt free". What more natural than taking advantage of this positive reaction and incorporating role-play into a social context, or social context into communicative activities?

The times are hard and the opportunity to take real action is out there. Education can bring change and our role is not only to teach a foreign language, but to raise awareness of global issues. Once we, teachers, believe in this power of education, we can help our students change the world. It is the domino effect: kids with positive educational experience influence others and eventually make an immense difference. With our empowering practices, we can help our students make sense of the world and believe in the principles of justice.

By Margarita Kosior

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Think Outside the… Book by Eleni-Maria Parissi - Report

  • Why do people learn languages?
  • Is there a point in learning a language if you aren’t given a chance to express yourself through it and even create something with its help?

Ms Eleni-Maria Parissi, an English teacher at Anatolia College demonstrated how the two questions could be answered by presenting the two projects she did with two different classes of hers. Having already admitted that “going by the book” was safer and more convenient, she tried to encourage the many teachers who were attending her talk to deviate from the assigned curriculum occasionally and help their students produce effective language even when they leave their books aside!

First project-The Peaceboat Project

Ms Parissi and her 2nd form gymnasium intermediate level class met an activity in their coursebook about the Peaceboat. She explained to them that it’s a real boat and they asked if they could write a letter to invite the ship to Thessaloniki as Athens is regularly visited by it. She told them they could try and so did they. That was the start of correspondence of the class with the representative of the organisation whose headquarters are in Japan who gave them a lot of information about the crew’s activities and their noble causes. The children were so excited that they wanted to arrange a visit on the boat. Although this was not realized in the end, they must have been more attracted to their coursebook because their teacher brought it to life.

Second project-The 30 Days Project

A lawsuit against McDonald’s, a short film by Morgan Spurlock and a TED Talk initiated Ms Parissi’s two 3rd form gymnasium advanced level classes into attempting something they had always meant to do but had never done it before.

They chose an activity or the abandonment of one which did not put their physical, chychological or mental health at risk and they kept their promise! They recorded in a 30-page notebook their experiences, feelings and thoughts as well as other people’s reactions to their experiment. When the project was completed they presented the findings of their research orally to their classmates and they handed in their notebooks. Reading, writing, speaking, listening, spelling skills. They were all practiced through that activity. And there was a bonus out of it! Students more determined to pursue their goals!

I think the best way to round off this report is by answering the questions at its start.
  • In order to communicate!
  • Yes, there is. Actually, the second project gave the students more than one!

TESOL Macedonia Thrace Northern Greece would like to thank Ms Eleni-Maria Parissi for the enlightening talk she gave at our convention.

By Elsa Tsiakiri

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Let's Talk by Chrissie Taylor - Report

Chrissie spoke to us about using debate, group discussion and oral interpretation to help learners develop their speaking skills.

She informed  us of research results concerning debate. According to the research, it improves formal functional language, develops critical thinking, prioritizing, listening, summarizing, expressing disagreement and extended discourse, expressing opinion and justifying. Group discussion in turn improves interactive communication, extended discourse, listening, expressing polite disagreement, facilitating discussion, summarizing, interrupting, research ,critical thinking. Oral interpretation (reading aloud) requires good phonology, body language, manner of expression and interpretation of text.

Then she took us to the children who participated .They were given, before they took part in debates and group discussions, useful language which they were to use.  It gave us encouragement to see 11 year olds debating, very politely and using precise language to present and argue their points, to present their arguments logically and coherently and then   participating   in a group discussion,   presenting   results of research they had undertaken, asking for further defining…  and all in excellent English.

By George Raptopoulos