Portfolio Assessment in Writing Courses: attitudes of students from the Department of English, University of Dhaka

Mazid-Ul-Hasan

Abstract

Portfolio assessment has become a significant addition to evaluating writing skills as an alternative of traditional paper-pencil test. Department of English, University of Dhaka has implemented portfolio assessment in writing courses in 2015. Four groups of students have been assessed through portfolios so far. The experience of these students can facilitate the future improvement of this newly applied assessment procedure. This study aimed to examine the attitude of Dhaka University, undergraduate students towards portfolio assessment. In this study, data were collected from 30 undergraduate students, using a questionnaire consisting of 5-point Likert-type questions and open-ended questions. The findings of the study show that students think portfolio assessment is beneficial for them but proper introduction, instructions and feedback are needed. The findings also suggest that portfolio assessment should not consume the study time of the students and should test writing only rather than their knowledge on different topics.

Keywords: Portfolio Assessment, learner attitudes, writing, feedback

Introduction                                                                                        

Writing skill is considered as a major component of language learning and teaching. As a complex phenomenon, many theories have been applied in teaching and evaluating writing. Different sets of skills are involved in writing: macro skills (planning, organisation etc.) and micro skills (spelling, punctuation, word choice and so on). Moreover, writing involves processes like generating ideas, drafting, redrafting and editing and “these important dimensions are not sufficiently assessed in a one-shot attempt of traditional testing” (Nezakatgoo, 2011, p. 231). Consequently, theorists and practitioners of ELT have been looking for an alternative approach to assess writing. Since 1990s, portfolios came into light as a useful assessment tool that provides an alternative and authentic means of assessment (Nezakatgoo, 2011). Portfolio assessment has become popular day by day because it is an ongoing process which evaluates the progress of the students continuously and assists them to become more self-directed to their learning and evaluation (Crosby, 1997; Yang, 2003).

A portfolio is “a purposeful collection of student work that exhibits the student’s efforts, progress and achievements in one or more areas” (Paulson et al.,1991, p. 60). Unlike traditional paper-pencil tests, portfolio assessment is an ongoing procedure, which demonstrates the learners’ progress within a certain period. According to Harmer (2007), assessing different pieces of student works written over a period of time is fairer than “sudden death” final test. Continue reading

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Welcome to the sixteenth issue of ‘The Warwick ELT’

Dear readers, Happy New Year! This January, we would like to present an interesting article on potential of portfolio assessment at university level in Bangladesh. Mazid Ul Hasan explores the attitudes of undergraduate students who maintain portfolios in their academic writing courses at the department of English, University of Dhaka. For your ease, we have hyperlinked the article below:

Portfolio assessment in writing courses by Mazid Ul Hasan

We hope you will be able to gather some valuable insights from the study.

Kind regards,

The editors
(October-December issue)

Welcome to the Fifteenth Issue of ‘The Warwick ELT’!

We are very happy to present the fifteenth issue of The Warwick ELT e-zine which features five interesting articles from a variety of ELT contexts, each presenting invaluable insights that hopes to enrich our community of ELT practitioners.

In the first article, Katie Louise Webb, an MA ELT student at Warwick University, highlights the features of dialogic talk in post-observation conferences (POCs) using data from her experience mentoring novice teachers. In the second article, another MA ELT student from Warwick University, Cynthia Mabel Chindipha, explores the reasons for the spread of English as a medium of instruction in Higher Education Institutions and its repercussions, illustrating this with examples from the author’s own context in Zimbabwe. In the third article, S. Akilandeswari presents her personal experience teaching writing at secondary level in India, from which she derives useful guidelines to write good paragraphs. In the fourth article, Warwick University PhD student Claudia Bustos-Moraga combines a review of the literature with her own reflections on the use of L1 when teaching vocabulary drawing on her experience teaching in elementary schools in underprivileged areas in Chile, which leads her to conclude that her insufficient training, the pressure of curriculum coverage and time constraints, led her to make debatable methodological decisions. The last article, Sailakshmi Chavan shares a number of interactive and innovative activities in the context of India that can be implemented by teachers to enhance the learning ability of students at various levels.

For your ease, we have hyperlinked each article below:

  1. A Data Led Investigation of Talk in The Post-Observation Conference by Katie Louise Webb.
  2. The global spread of English as a Medium of Instruction in Higher Education by Chindipha Cynthia Mabel.
  3. The importance of writing a good paragraph by S. Akilandeswari.
  4. The use of L1 in teaching and learning vocabulary in a state-funded Chilean school by Claudia Bustos-Moraga.
  5. Interactive Innovative Techniques in ELT in India by Sailakshmi Chavan.

We hope you find these articles as inspiring as we did, and that they will awaken your interest to explore and reflect on your contexts and experiences. We sincerely welcome any comments which the content of the e-zine may inspire, in the hope that they might lead to improve our publication.

Regards,

August, September and October Issue editors

Nicole Berríos Ortega and Milena Altamirano.

A Data Led Investigation of Talk in The Post-Observation Conference

Katie Louise Webb

Abstract

Feedback from trainers and mentors plays a crucial role in the early professional development of  trainee  teachers  (Hyland  and  Lo  2006:16).  Within  the  feedback  event,  there  is  strong recognition that trainees should be given opportunities to reflect on their teaching (Chick, 2015, Copland and Mann, 2010, Brandt, 2008). Despite this, research shows that trainees are often afforded limited opportunity to ‘articulate their emerging understandings’ and reflect (Chick,

2015:298).  It has been argued that a dialogic approach to feedback, which supports reflective talk, better prepares novice teachers in their short and long-term endeavour to learn how to teach (Chick, 2015:298, Copland and Mann, 2010:175). This paper deconstructs talk from two post-observation conferences (POCs) in order to determine and highlight the features of the discourse that were dialogic. This article hopes to raise awareness of the features that promote reflective talk and may serve as a model to those wishing to adopt a dialogic approach.

Key words: feedback, mentee-mentor relationships, dialogic talk, mentoring.

  1. Introduction: The Talk in Feedback

Discourse can be described along the continuum of authoritative to dialogic. In authoritative discourse  a  trainer  takes  a  more  dominating  evaluative  position  when  delivering  feedback, whereas in dialogic discourse there is greater opportunity between the mentor and mentee to co-construct  knowledge  and  reflect  (Louw  et  al.  2014:746).  Although  the  benefits  of  both approaches are recognised, many who view learning from a sociocultural perspective support a dialogic approach in feedback (Johnson, 2009, Brandt, 2006, Mann 2004). It is believed that dialogic talk, which provides the opportunity and space for trainees to articulate and clarify their  emerging  understandings,  goes  someway  in  preparing  trainees  for  their  future  and continued professional development (Copland et al. 2009:21).

1.1 Dialogic talk

In  dialogic  talk,  meaning  is  negotiated  and  built  upon  (Alexander,  2005:8).  The  most identifiable  method  used  to  ensure  that  the  dialogue  is  in  fact  dialogic  is  the  questioning technique employed by teachers. Through the use of ‘authentic questions’, that is questions that  do  not  have  a  predetermined  answer,  teachers  are  able  to  encourage  prolonged  and sustained interaction (ibid). Yet, the ‘uptake’ of trainees’ responses are of equal importance. By following up to trainee answers, teachers are able to respond appropriately and show that they are listening (Nystrand, 1997:39), thus signalling that contributions made by trainees are valued and being ‘heard’. Furthermore, through dialogic talk trainees are encouraged to reflect on  and  externalise  their  current  understandings.  Subsequently,  trainers  are  able  to  scaffold learning  while  ‘concomitantly  bridging  the  theory–practice  gap  that  educators  have  long grappled with’ (Chick, 2015:300). Continue reading

The Global spread of English as a Medium of Instruction in Higher Education

Chindipha Cynthia Mabel

Abstract

English is currently being learned in various contexts world-wide, using diverse methodologies and materials. Each academic context may have different aims, motivations, diverse learner abilities and characteristics but what is becoming increasingly apparent as stated by Coleman (2004, p.2) is that English is progressively becoming ‘the language of higher education’ in Europe and beyond. English as a medium of instruction (EMI) as defined by Dearden (2014, p.4) is the sole use of the English Language for the instruction of varied courses/subjects in countries where the first language (L1) of the majority of the population is not English. There are a variety of reasons why this phenomenon is occurring at a massive global level. This article therefore aims to focus on this in two parts, firstly, by highlighting some of the probable reasons for the spread of English as a medium of instruction in Higher Education Institutions; (globalisation, internationalization, teaching and research materials, graduate employability and the market provided by international students). It will then lastly focus on the potential repercussions of the global rise of English as a medium of instruction. This article will in some instances relate the literature review to the writer’s own context, Zimbabwe.

Keywords: English Language; Global; EMI; HEI

Introduction:

The English Language is establishing itself as a principal mode of instruction primarily due to globalisation. When English is stated to be a global language, the implication as the word global denotes is that it is now a worldwide language used in all sectors: media, academia, business, social circles and many others. Educational systems have adopted English as a medium of instruction mainly because of the need of countries to have a ‘shared linguistic medium’ (Marsh, 2006 p.1). Coleman (2006), asserts that the growth of English in higher education institutions (HEI’s) started initially at post-graduate programme level but soon filtered to undergraduate degrees. Various scholars (Coleman 2006 & Ritzen 2004) acknowledge that the trend of teaching solely in English blossomed in the 1990s in Western Europe, Central and Eastern Europe. As it started to infiltrate HEI’s, more institutions began to offer more courses in English. In Croatia and Uzbekistan EMI is a regarded as a priority as it is being advanced, (by presidential decree in Uzbekistan) to increase international mobility. English is thus positioned and viewed as an essential element for success – a position it has gained due to its growing acceptance and prominence worldwide. For example, at present, students from various countries flock to inner circle countries (Kachru 1985), to learn English and undertake English taught degrees. The adoption of English in higher education therefore clearly advances its global influence. (Beacco & Byram as cited in Coleman 2006, p.4) aptly term this process by exemplifying it as ‘the Microsoft effect once a medium obtains a dominant market share it becomes less and less practical to opt for another medium, and the dominance is thus enhanced’.

‘Individual plurilingualism and societal multilingualism are the principles which underpin the language policies of both the European Union, Bologna Process and the Council of Europe’. (Coleman, 2006, p.2) Despite this being the ‘apparent’ policy, in reality and in practice there appears to be no linguistic diversity, instead it seems foreign language teaching in HEI has been equated to the English language and the English language only. Globally, English reigns supreme following in the path of languages such as Latin and denigrating other languages. In short, due to globalisation, English at present is a World Power. Furthering this, countries that speak English as a second language are at present advancing policies or improving policies on reforms that base their educational programmes on EMI. The global world thus appears to be asserting its needs on the curriculum. The developments and innovations resulting from globalisation, and new technological advancements, mean that the educational curriculum as stated by Marsh (2006, p.3) is responding to the knowledge and skills demanded in an increasingly ‘integrated’ world. Marsh adds that ‘integrated learning’ will result in a present-day form of educational delivery that will distribute to the learner, information and skills crucial for the global era. Englishisation is clearly key for the present global era.  Continue reading

The importance of writing a good paragraph

S. Akilandeswari

Abstract

This article is a record of the author’s personal experience in an Indian context to make students understand the nuances of writing long compositions at the Senior Secondary level (16 -17 year olds with Intermediate to Advanced i.e. B1 to C1 level). The author has tried and tested the various steps mentioned in the article. The guidelines for writing a good paragraph and how they can be used to write long prose compositions can be effectively used in similar classroom contexts.

Keywords: India, paragraph writing, transition words, vocabulary, content

Introduction

Writing is ‘probably the most difficult thing to do in language’ (Nunan, 1999:271). Writing is also the language skill which is a ‘complex, cognitive process that requires sustained intellectual effort over a considerable period of time’ (Nunan, 1999:273). Writing is more formal and in any career situation, one needs to be able to communicate effectively and this is possible only with flawless English.

Conventions in one’s native language are frequently non-transferable to a second language (Harmer, 2001) and conventions and grammar of their native language (L1) severely interfere and hamper their English (L2) writing. This is one of the reasons for Indian students being uncomfortable while writing long prose compositions. Using good language expressions, appropriate vocabulary and following a standard format appropriate to the genre – all these add to the woes. On top of these, writing skills are tested and one is expected to score marks. As a teacher of English, I have experienced students struggling with writing skills and I have tried to make it easy for my students. The guidelines and tips discussed in this article have worked well for me.  Continue reading

The Use of L1 in Teaching and Learning Vocabulary in a State-funded Chilean School

Claudia Bustos-Moraga

Abstract

The use of Spanish as L1 was not always welcomed during my training as a teacher of English; the trend was to avoid the Spanish I shared with my students, and use English exclusively. In this essay I draw on my experience teaching in elementary schools in underprivileged areas in Santiago, Chile, to outline my reflections about the use of L1 when teaching vocabulary in English as a Foreign Language. My motivation is to answer the question about how the use of L1 in a Spanish speaking context, can influence the process of teaching and learning of vocabulary. I combine the literature review with reflections about my practice, which shows that my insufficient training, the pressure of curriculum coverage and time constraints, led to a series of debatable methodological decisions. Some pedagogical implications suggest the use of cognates and accepting the oddity of conversations between non-native speaker beginners. I conclude arguing the influence of BANA (Britain, Australasia and North America) contexts in mainstream materials, the need for a judicious integration of L1 and the need for teachers to make informed decisions.

Keywords: Vocabulary, L1, EFL, Chile

  1. INTRODUCTION

Teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL) in Chile, a Spanish-speaking country, particularly in underprivileged areas is a challenge. Surrounded by other Spanish-speaking countries, we have mainly felt the need to learn English for individual reasons associated to our ideals L2-selves (Dörnyei, 2009): we would like to be speakers of English; but nationwide reality indicates otherwise. The last national English test given to year-11 students showed that nearly a 90% of students of low socioeconomic level are below the CEFR A1 level (Agencia.de.la.Calidad, 2014). In this context, when teaching English and specifically vocabulary, the ‘occasional use of L1 is inevitable’ (Ur, 2012p, p.118), sometimes vital, to solve classroom management issues. Therefore, the need for strategies on how to effectively use L1 without making it a lesson of English in Spanish is imperative.

The inclusion of L1 in the English lesson was always an issue. Whenever I used Spanish it was full of questioning because of the obligation of a 100% English lesson, stressed during trainings. Thus, I spent valuable time out of the four 45-minute periods a week, in long explanations teaching abstract words, e.g. modals, without much knowledge about further strategies. Not to mention that it was mainly -the teacher- who used English. My efforts to include L1 effectively continued by following the syllabus’s suggestion to ‘make connections with L1 identifying cognates’ (MINEDUC, 2016, p.53), particularly in reading lessons. It seemed effective, but it was the only L1 deliberate strategy I incorporated. I did not devote much time to vocabulary itself considering time constraints caused by administrative requirements to report programme coverage overall.  Continue reading