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Mark Johnstone: My Dream: Competency-based assessment in second language learning and teaching

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Mark Johnstone
12 January 2013

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Mark Johnstone: Competency-based assessment in second language learning and teaching

Mark Johnstone: Competency-based assessment in second language learning and teaching

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Marie Arndt
7:10pm 12 January 2013 (Edited 7:10pm 12 January 2013)


Hi Mark,

 

Take a look at my attempt of a Cloudscape and tell me what you think. I'm going to bed soon and have marking to do tomorrow, so I won't have time to check until tomorrow evening.

 

Marie

Denise Ozdeniz
2:36pm 13 January 2013


Hi, I work at a college in Abu Dhabi. We have recently started teaching and learning with iPads, but at present are locked into a discrete item testing approach which measures grammatical accuracy, lexical knowledge and the ability to read for specific information and write accurately. At present, average class scores appear to be lower than in previous years as teachers have been encouraged to use mlearning creatively and be transformative, which means that students have been focusing on communicative success and creativity, rather than grammatical awareness and the ability to chose between discrete item options. Though the first two weeks of the course were largely given to iPad training and the development of digital literacies, technological competence or the end products produced using Web 2.0 tools or apps, are not taken into account at all. As you say, formative assessment and holistic assessment are viewed as ways of inflating grades and there is difficulty in assuring grader congruence and standardization across colleges in the region. I am going to look at the competencies involved in spoken communication and how it can be supported via iPad tools. I look forward to following your work. Denise Ozdeniz

Marie Arndt
2:55pm 13 January 2013


Hi Denise,

Interesting to hear what's going on in other parts of the region. I worked in a college in Al Ain for a year, but there was nothing like this going on there. Your account brings up the problem that learning the technology can take over, and leave the subject matter learning behind. 

 

Marie

Mark Johnstone
3:18pm 13 January 2013


Hi Denise,

I have a friend at HCT and she reports a similar experience with iPads this year. We have a formal committment to formative assessment in my institution: summative examinations account for a maximum of 20% of their marks, so "formative" assessment is very important.  I am certain that it is impossible to develop deep literacy and composition skills through discrete point testing, whether that testing delivered on an iPad or not makes not an ounce of difference.

I'm not sure what Marie has in mind but from what she's said so far, I think we may be able to put somethig together that can support the development of the higher level thinking and analytical skiils that kinds of competencies you're talking about may require. If you're interested in working with us on this then welcome. It makes sense to me, especially since we're all three in similar environments and simlar cultures.

Marie's set up a Cloudscape for us called English language enhancement for academic purposes

Link your cloud to that and keep in touch.

Mark

Marie Arndt
3:23pm 13 January 2013


Hi Mark and Denise,

At this point I'm throwing out feelers to see what we can come up with that can be beneficial to all involved one way or another. Denise, I hope you would like to join, not least, as Mark pointed out, as we are working in the same region.

 

Marie

Mark Johnstone
3:27pm 13 January 2013


Hi Marie,

I hear Al Ain is a lovely place. I think I'd like it there - I much prefer desert climates to the muggy coast. I was surprised by Denise's comment that their focus is on grammatical minutae. She implied that lower scores might have been because of the initial lerning curve for the new devices. That may be so, but it might also be because discrete point testing is easy to do on the iPad. It would be interesting to know if they are doing more of that kind of thing now. We had some teachers here who loved Moodle quiz module and were always giving their students "quizzes" - "It marks itself!" they'd say. Well, they've all gone now.

To link this into your mobile learning needs, I think we could probably consider the iPad to be a mobile device, rather like a Texas sized telephone. Are you using Moodle?

Maybe we need a discussion space soon? What are the OLDSMOOC recommendations for this?

Mark

Yibin Zhang
2:19pm 14 January 2013


Hi,Mark

I teach English in China, currently I am a visiting academic in London. You proposal seems interesting to me, and I think there will be some common areas in the TESOL.

Hope can join the discussion together.

Yibin

Charles Voth
3:13pm 14 January 2013


Your competence based assessment dream is also interesting to me. I don't know what it's called, but I like the approach where learners are shown their errors and then shown how to learn from them and improve till "mastery" is achieved and they aren't graded in the traditional summative model. Basically they get 100% because they've learned the material till they get it right on final assessments. This is challenging though in the traditional semestred and leveled systems of Intensive English programs/courses where there isn't room for the students to master anything because of the curricular timelines. I find that the traditional marking philosophy still dominates higher-ed ESL/EAP environments even in English as L1 countries.

Mark Johnstone
3:32pm 14 January 2013


Hi Charles,

See Dan Meyer's blog post, How Math Must Assess which links to a PDF of his "mini thesis" on competency based assessment.  This gives a very good description of a working competency based assessment model.

For ESL / EFF, the Focal Skills approach presents a competency based curiculum that can easily be scaled to Meyer's model. 

We have a recurring problem here of "social passing." Much of this is because of the stigma attached to failing a course and the perception that if you pay for education, then you should move throught a system at a normal pace. By adopting a competency based assessment model, we never need to say that anyone has "failed." They have just not finished yet, and they can certainly move on AFTER they do X, Y, and Z.

Mark

Mark Johnstone
3:44pm 14 January 2013


Hi Yibin,

I'm interested to know about teaching and learning in China. From my understanding, Chinese students may be resistant constructivist teaching and learning paradigms as these redefine teacher and student roles to focus more on collaboration and knowldge co-construction and less on expert dissemination of content. Is this correct?

How do you think Chinese students and teachers would view competency based assessment? Do you think students would be willing to share in the assessment process?

Mark

Joshua Underwood
11:09pm 14 January 2013


Hi Mark, Marie, others,

Have you formed a group. If so can I join? Also, have you had ideas about how to co-ordinate the group? Having a group cloudscape might help, if you don't already have one, then all the related clouds can be added to that. Or maybe other tools would work better?

Josh

Mark Johnstone
3:14am 15 January 2013


Hi Josh,

Marie has set up a cloudscape here and I've added you to it already:

http://cloudworks.ac.uk/cloudscape/view/2698

The cloudscape is meant to be a collection of resources (clouds) that are related to the project/topic. It is like a hub to which major nodes in the project connect.  I like Cloudworks but do not like all the cutesie terminology used to describe it.

We also have a Google Circle (whatever that is) and you're in that too.

I've also set up a forum on Google Groups - mostly because I'm more comfortable on a forum than tracking comments on numerous pages here. You can find that here:

https://groups.google.com/forum/?fromgroups&hl=en#!forum/oldsmooc-mobile-eap

I couldn't find you gmail address so you need to post a request to join.

I saw you are off line three days a week and otherwise only available for a short time PM. That's fine. Marie and I are in the same time zone (GMT +3) so we could easily set up a synchronous event some time.

Mark

Marie Arndt
4:06am 15 January 2013


Hi all,

 

Shall we form a Google+ and GoogleDocs group for our project? Alternatively I could set up a group on Edmodo or Iversity, as I've been eager to try both.

 

Marie

Mark Johnstone
5:39am 15 January 2013


The advantage of Google is that it all works with one sign on. I'm quickly learning to hate it though - the Google circle thing is so confusing and I don't like the way it handles "groups" either. So confusing. It's like one of those one man bands. I do like GDocs though and it interfaces with this cloud thing well enought.

Edmodo is good too. I used it several years ago and still have an account. It's built for primary and middle school kids so a "course" may not be the best way to use it. Alternatively, you could open your own account then we could use the "connect with other teachers" feature to create a discussion space. I haven't used that so I don't know how it works or what it does.

Mark

Yibin Zhang
12:57pm 15 January 2013


Hi,Mark.

Glad to talk to you.

Maybe it is not the Chinese students but the teachers be resistant constructivist teaching and learning paradigms. And the reason may be that the assessments in China focus more on the summutive assessment than the continuous assessment.

The competency based assessment is not so popular in China. but I think the students would be willing to share in their learning and the assessment process.

Yibin

Mark Johnstone
1:50pm 15 January 2013


Hi Yibin,

Thanks for your reply. This makes a lot of sense. It is often teachers who resist change rather than students. Teachers will claim that students won't accept this or that, while, in fact, it is they who are reluctant. This is what we have seen with technology enhanced education anyway.

Teachers often resist technlogy because they suspect that they are less digitally competent than their students, and they are unwilling to alter their role from that of knowledge-giver to knowledge co-finder.

Do you know of anyone who is promoting constructivist methodologies in China?

Marie Arndt
5:56pm 15 January 2013


Hi all,

 

I seem to be a part of two Google + circles all of a sudden, but I will be pleased to stick with you guys. What I find difficult - apart from finding my way around all the different strands in Cloudworks - is to try to think of a project that would suit us all. Somehow the best way may be to have loose collaborations and see how we can tap into each other's sphere.

The international aspect is not to be missed I believe, as it gives possibilities that are not easy find in one locality. I think we should build on that. GoogleDocs and the Google+ circle are both good ideas. I suppose we should try to keep it simple, as so much of the other stuff isn't.

I tried to get to an English Language learning page on Kitely, but failed miserably. Instead I revisited Second Life fft after a few years, when I should have been doing something more useful, like writing a conference paper.    

 

Marie

Marie Arndt
5:58pm 15 January 2013


Mark,

 

Can you please post the link to the Googledocs space you set up. Sorry.

 

Marie

Yibin Zhang
11:45am 16 January 2013


Hi, Mark,

Yes, I agree with you.

There are some researches and practices promoting constructivist methodologies in China, I suppose. Most of them are the researchers from colleges or universities. Since the teachers in China should stick to their textbooks and syllabus, it would be difficult for them to apply these methods in their classrooms.

Mark Johnstone
8:26pm 16 January 2013 (Edited 8:27pm 16 January 2013)


Hi Yibin,

The problem of connecting research to practice is very widespread and not at all confined to China. In the US, teachers are openly hostile to "theory" so the problem isn't just that researchers are working in a different environment... there are also ideological dislocations and social tensions mitigating agains any type of change. American teachers, like their colleagues in China, are also bound to texts and syllabi though the extent of those constraints varies from one school district to another - US education is organized at a very local level. Large cities often have several "Independent" school districts which are self governing.

I am not certain that this is a real constraint to constructivist teaching, although I have heard this claim often enough. It would be interesting to see how constructivist teachers work around these constraints. It could be that innovative teachers need to maintain a facade of conformity, so there could be a lot of interesting thngs happening quietly in many classrooms. 

In education, as in any other public enterprise, politics is a major force and many people feel threatened by any prospect of change.  If there is a spirit of opennes, trust, and collaboration, a lot can be done. Unfortunately, this type of environment is not very common.

Mark

Yibin Zhang
12:24pm 17 January 2013


Hi, Mark

There are some brave teachers who would experiment some new methods in their classroom.Actually, there are some guidelines of how to implement the innovative ways in the teaching in the new development scheme of MOE China published last year.

For local teachers, it is another story, since the government and the parents would pay more attention to the ratio of students who can enrol in a university through a hard exam. The parents would be reluctant to support the teacher if they know that their children would be part of a experimental project with unsettled future results. So most of them would choose to play safe.and most of  the experiments would take place in some "less important" subjects and lower grades.

Yibin

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